Cavs Prepare For No. 11 Clemson In Homecoming Contest

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM Through the first three games of the season, quarterback Dan Ellis stands fifth in the nation in passing efficiency.
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM
Through the first three games of the season, quarterback Dan Ellis stands fifth in the nation in passing efficiency.
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM

Sept. 18, 2000

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Virginia (2-1, 1-0) vs. Clemson (3-0, 1-0)

Sept. 16, 2000
3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Carl Smith Center, home of David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium
Charlottesville, Va.

Virginia hosts 11th-ranked Clemson Saturday afternoon (Sept. 23) at 3:30 p.m. in its annual Homecoming game. The Cavaliers have won their last two contests, including a 26-10 win at Duke last Saturday, and are 2-1 overall this season.

Clemson travels to Charlottesville ranked 11th in both The Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls. The Tigers are off to an impressive start with three consecutive victories over The Citadel, Missouri and Wake Forest. Clemson is averaging 51.7 points per game and is winning by an average of 46.3 points per game so far this season.

The Cavaliers ended Clemson's 29-game series winning streak in 1990 with a 20-7 win over the ninth-ranked Tigers in Charlottesville. The Tigers still hold a commanding 33-5-1 record in the all-time series, but Virginia's fortunes have been much better in the last 10 years. Since 1990 Virginia is 5-4-1 against Clemson.

Television: The game is being televised regionally on ABC. Sean Grande calls the play-by-play, while David Norrie adds the color commentary. Chip Tarkenton is the sideline reporter.

Radio: All UVa games are heard on the Virginia Sports Network originating at WINA/WWWV in Charlottesville. Mac McDonald calls the play by play. Frank Quayle, the 1968 ACC Football Player of the Year, provides the color commentary, while Quayle's former teammate and quarterback Gene Arnette provides sideline analysis.

The game is also being broadcast nationally by the Westwood One radio network with Chuck Cooperstein calling the play-by-play. Jim Wacker is the color analyst.

The Series vs. the Tigers

After one of the longest droughts in college football history, the Cavaliers have turned things around a bit against Clemson. The Tigers won the first 29 meetings in the series before Virginia snapped the losing streak with a 20-7 win in Charlottesville in 1990.

Since 1990, however, Virginia is 5-4-1, but Clemson still holds a commanding 33-5-1 record in the series.

Clemson handed the Cavaliers a 33-14 loss last season to end UVa's two-game winning streak in the series. The Cavaliers will now try to prevent the Tigers from winning consecutive games for the first time since 1992-93.

One of the characteristics of Virginia's wins over Clemson is its ability to hold the Tiger offense in check. Three of UVa's last four wins in the series have come in games where the Tigers failed to score more than seven points.

Curiously, UVa has never scored more than 22 points in a win over Clemson, but has scored more than that in five losses.

Virginia has won all four meetings when holding the Tigers to fewer than 10 points, while Clemson's 18 points in 1998 are the most points the Tigers have ever scored in a loss to UVa.

Virginia's victory over Clemson in 1997 was head coach George Welsh's 66th ACC win, tying him with former Clemson head coach Frank Howard for the most conference wins in league history.

A Change in Philosophy Alters the Trends

Until last season, Virginia's ability to contain the Tiger running game had been an important factor in its five victories in the 1990s, but that changed when Tommy Bowden took over the coaching reigns for Clemson and went to a more wide open offense.

The change in Clemson's offensive philosophy paid immediate dividends in its 33-14 win over Virginia last season.

Clemson rushed for just 104 yards last year, marking the first time since 1977 that the Tigers rushed for fewer than 200 yards in a win over UVa. The 104 yards also represent Clemson's lowest output in a win over UVa.

The Tigers offset the lack of a ground game with a potent passing attack, something they hadn't featured vs. the Cavaliers in recent years. Quarterback Brandon Streeter completed 24 of 32 passes for a Clemson-record 343 yards.

Prior to last season, Virginia had held the Clemson passing attack to just two touchdown passes (vs. 13 interceptions) and 136.7 yards per game from 1990-98.

Nonetheless, Virginia will still need to contain the Tiger ground game. In UVa's last four victories (1994-95-97-98) Clemson has averaged 110.3 yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry, while scoring one rushing touchdown.

Virginia is 5-7 all-time against Clemson when the Tigers fail to rush for at least 200 yards, but six of the losses occurred prior to 1978 in the midst of UVa's 29-game losing streak to Clemson.

Cavaliers Play ACC Home Opener

UVa begins the home portion of its ACC schedule against the nationally-ranked Clemson Tigers. Virginia has won its last 13 ACC home openers (the longest current streak in the league) and has a 20-26 all-time record in ACC home openers, including a 15-3 record under head coach George Welsh.

It's Homecoming

Clemson is the Cavaliers' opponent this season in their annual Homecoming game. Virginia has won nine consecutive (and 10 of the last 11) Homecoming games, but overall these games haven't been too festive for the returning Wahoo alums. The Cavaliers are 36-37-2 (.493) overall in Homecoming games. Virginia lost the first 29 games in the series with Clemson, with three of the losses coming on Homecoming (1957, ‘80, ‘88).

The last two times Clemson has played in UVa's Homecoming game, the Tigers have eked out narrow three-point victories. In 1980 the Tigers scored 17 fourth quarter points to post a 27-24 win. Clemson blocked a punt for a touchdown with 3:05 to play to tie the score at 24. Obed Ariri's 52-yard field goal with six seconds left to play was the game-winner for the visitors.

In the 1988 game Rodney Williams passed 14 yards to Chip Davis with 1:52 left in the game for the winning touchdown in a game that featured outstanding defensive efforts by both sides in a 10-7 decision.

UVa in Elite Company

Virginia is one of only four Division I-A programs in the country which has posted at least 13 consecutive seasons of seven or more wins.

UVa joins Florida State as the only other Atlantic Coast Conference team to accomplish that feat. The other two schools are Nebraska from the Big 12 and Big Ten power Michigan.

Rebounding After a Season-Opening Loss

Virginia lost its season opener to Brigham Young 38-35 on Sept. 2, but has rebounded with two consecutive victories over Richmond and Duke.

The beginning to this season is similar to the one the Cavaliers had in 1997 when they fell at home to Auburn in the opener, but came back to beat Richmond the next week and finished with three wins in their last four games to go 7-4 that season.

Interestingly, the Cavaliers lost their season opener in both 1994 and 1995 and turned in two of the best seasons in school history—winning nine games and a bowl game both years.

Since 1983, Virginia's first winning season under George Welsh, the Cavaliers have dropped the opener seven times. They have rebounded in those seasons to go a combined 61-16-3 the rest of the way. Virginia has also gone to a bowl game following six of those seasons, winning four times.

Limiting the Mistakes on Offense

Virginia has done a good job offensively of limiting its mistakes this season. So far the Cavaliers have had just one pass intercepted and not lost any fumbles. Additionally, quarterback Dan Ellis has only been sacked only six times.

Virginia is one of five teams (Air Force, Arizona State, Clemson, Wisconsin) that lead the nation with just one turnover.

Overall the Cavaliers are tied for 15th in the country in turnover margin, averaging 1.33 more turnovers gained per game.

Coaches talk about how important it is to not have any turnovers and in Virginia's case the lack of turnovers is key.

Since George Welsh took over the head coaching duties at UVa in 1982, his teams have not committed a turnover in 33 games and have a record of 27-5-1.

The Cavaliers haven't committed a turnover in the last two games, the first time since 1997 (Wake Forest, Clemson) that they've gone two games without a turnover.

Virginia's last three-game stretch without committing a turnover occurred in 1984 (West Virginia, N.C. State, North Carolina).

First-Time Starters Dotting Line-Up So Far

Virginia's starting line-up in the season opener against Brigham Young featured five first-time starters as well as a periodic starter who switched sides of the ball.

The offense featured four players making their first career start—tailback Arlen Harris, left tackle Jermese Jones, center Dustin Keith and wide receiver Billy McMullen.

Defensive tackle George Stanley was the only player making his first start for the defense. However, Ahmad Hawkins started his first game at cornerback after switching from wide receiver where he is a three-time letterman and periodic starter.

Injuries to several starters against BYU forced some changes to the starting line-up for the Richmond game. Tailback Antwoine Womack made his first career start in place of the injured Arlen Harris (knee), while cornerback Rashad Roberson made his first start in place of Tim Spruill (toe).

UVa maintained the same starting 22 for the Duke game that was used for the Richmond game.

The starting line-up also features several players who have started no more than 10 games in their career, including linebacker Angelo Crowell (4), safety Shernard Newby (5), fullback Patrick Washington (9 at FB, 1 at TE), and guard Jared Woodson (7).

Linebacker Byron Thweatt is by far the team leader in starts. He has started all 38 games in his career and is bidding to become one of the few four-year starters at linebacker in school history.

Ellis Moves Up UVa Passing Charts, Fifth Nationally

Quarterback Dan Ellis used a torrid late-season run last season to finish eighth in the country in passing efficiency.

He hasn't seemed to let the offseason slow him down. In fact, he's gotten better than he was at the end of last season.

Through the first three games of the season Ellis stands fifth in the nation in passing efficiency.

He has completed 64.2 percent of his attempts (which would be a school record if it stands) for 848 yards and five touchdowns.

Ellis has made the opposition pay so far this season for concentrating on stopping the run.

Two weeks ago against Richmond he completed 19 of 28 attempts for 299 yards and a score.

Duke put good pressure on Ellis last Saturday but he was undeterred by the Blue Devils with 20 completions in 30 attempts for 333 yards and three touchdowns.

Ellis has moved very quickly up several of Virginia's all-time passing charts during the early part of the season. He has thrown a touchdown in his last five regular season games and now has 26 for his career, fifth in school history. He has also thrown for 3181 yards, seventh in school history. His place on the career yards passing and career touchdown passes lists is shown below.

Five Cavaliers Return as Graduate Students

Five members of Virginia's 2000 football team are expected to participate this fall as graduate students. The group includes: offensive tackle Brad Barnes, wide receiver Kevin Coffey, center Dustin Keith, linebacker Byron Thweatt and fullback Patrick Washington.

Barnes and Keith received their undergraduate degrees in sociology, while Coffey and Thweatt earned their degrees in history and Washington in economics.

The UVa program has had approximately 70 players participate as graduate students over the past 11 seasons.

Womack Joins 1,000-Yard Club

Junior tailback Antwoine Womack didn't seem to be affected by a year away from the game based on his performance in the season opener against Brigham Young.

In his first game since 1998, Womack erupted for a career-high 160 yards on just 15 carries. He scored twice, including a 67-yard jaunt early in the fourth quarter.

The game was the fifth 100-yard game of his career as he topped the 1000-yard mark for his career.

Womack is the 33rd player in school history to rush for at least 1000 yards.

The last two games haven't been as fruitful for Womack as Richmond and Duke have stacked the line to hold the ground game in check.

Against Richmond Womack was held to just 25 yards rushing, while Duke held him to 68 yards.

Thweatt is Rare Four-Year Starter

All-America candidate linebacker Byron Thweatt looks like he's put last season's injury plagued campaign behind him.

Hampered with an injured shoulder in 1999 that limited his effectiveness, Thweatt's value to the team became evident when he wasn't able to take a break.

Currently 11th in school history with 304 tackles, he has a good shot at completing his career in the top five now that he's back in good health.

It is also interesting to note that he is just the fifth linebacker in school history to be a four-year starter since freshman eligibility was restored in 1972. The short list currently includes Bryan Hollomon, Charles McDaniel, Jamie Sharper and Russ Swan.

The list of players who have been four-year starters at Virginia for George Welsh include WRs Demetrius “Pete” Allen and Tyrone Davis, Ps Will Brice and Jeff Walker, OG Roy Brown, DT Ron Carey, OT Jim Dombrowski, DEs Mike Frederick and Chris Slade, Ss Tyrone Lewis and Keith McMeans, LBs McDaniel, Sharper and Swan, and C Tim Morris.

Thweatt Named to Butkus Award List

Linebacker Byron Thweatt is among 70 players named to the initial list of candidates for the 2000 Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation's outstanding linebacker by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando (Fla.).

This marks the third year in a row Thweatt has been named to the list.

The list will be trimmed to 10 semifinalists on Oct. 19 and the three finalists will be announced on Nov. 9. The winner of the Butkus Award will be announced on Dec. 8.

He has been listed as one of the top outside linebackers in the country this season and his play this season will go a long way in determining the Cavaliers' success. He is rated as the #5 outside linebacker in the nation by Lindy's , #10 by Rivals.com and #14 by The Sporting News.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that Rivals.com listed him as the 27th-best defensive player in the nation regardless of position.

Thweatt has been in on 304 tackles in his career, second among active ACC players and 11th in school history. He is only the fifth linebacker in school history to be a four-year starter.

Ward Sees First Action, Adds Name to Rookie List

Tailback Jonathan Ward rushed for 33 yards against Duke last Saturday in his collegiate debut and became the eighth true freshman to play for UVa this season.

Linebacker Rich Bedesem (saw first action from scrimmage vs. Richmond), defensive tackle Andrew Hoffman, defensive end Raymond Mann and cornerback Art Thomas all saw action in the opener vs. Brigham Young. Cornerback Almondo Curry, wide receiver Michael McGrew and safety Jamaine Winborne saw their first action the next week against Richmond.

The eight true freshmen to play this season represent Virginia's largest group since 1983 when 10 rookies played.

ACC's Longest Scoring Streak

Virginia has scored in an ACC and school-record 191 consecutive games. The last time Virginia was held scoreless was a 55-0 loss to Clemson to open the 1984 season. During the streak, UVa has scored in 96 consecutive home games, 83 consecutive road games and 12 straight neutral site contests.

Virginia's streak is also the longest current streak by an ACC school (including Florida State) and tied for the fourth longest in the nation.

Tailback Trio Replaces Jones

Thomas Jones finished his career last season as UVa's all-time leading rusher. Not surprisingly, his loss figured to leave a rather large void in the offense this season.

However, as expected throughout the preseason it looks as if a committee at least three—Arlen Harris, Antwoine Womack, Tyree Foreman—will serve as his replacement. A knee injury to Harris has placed true freshman Jonathan Ward into the mix as well.

If their performance in the season opener against Brigham Young is an indicator, this trio looks ready to pick up where Jones left off. Against the Cougars they combined for 37 carries, 263 yards (7.1 avg.) and four touchdowns. Just as important to know is that these three only had one carry for a loss (of just one yard).

Harris gained the starting nod for the opener and rushed for a career-high 79 yards on 18 carries. He scored the first touchdown of his career on a 28-yard bolt up the middle for UVa's first score. He also caught a 17-yard pass from Dan Ellis late in the game.

Womack was the game's leading rusher with a career-high 160 yards on just 15 carries. Womack scored two touchdowns, including one on a 67-yard gallop, against BYU for the first multi-touchdown performance of his career.

Foreman rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown on just four carries to complete the triumvirate's performance.

Harris injured his knee vs. BYU and underwent arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 8 and is expected to be out for several more weeks.

Ward, a high school All-American from Poway, Calif., saw his first action last Saturday against Duke with 33 yards on just seven carries.

Virginia's ground game has been held in check the last two games as Richmond and Duke put eight or nine men in the box and dared UVa to pass. Both held the Cavaliers to fewer than 125 yards rushing, but fell victim to a passing attack that has averaged 316 yards in that span.

Womack is UVa's leading ground gainer with 253 yards. He is second in the ACC in rushing, averaging 84.3 ypg.

Overall Virginia is second in the ACC in rushing with an average of 165.3 ypg. The Cavaliers are also averaging 4.2 yards per carry and join Clemson (5.4) as the only ACC teams to average more than four yards per carry.

Welsh Seventh Among Active Wins Leaders

Head coach George Welsh, tabbed by The Sporting News as the nation's best coach two years ago, is seventh in wins among active Division I-A coaches.

In his 28th season as a collegiate head coach, Welsh has won 185 games at Navy (1973-81) and Virginia (1982-present), and is tied with John Heisman (of trophy fame) and former Pitt and Tennessee coach Johnny Majors for 23rd in NCAA Division I-A history.

Welsh is the winningest coach in the history of both UVa and Navy. Arizona's Dick Toomey (Arizona, Hawaii) is the only other coach to be the winningest coach at two different schools.

Welsh's overall career record is 185-127-4 (.592).

The dean of ACC coaches, Welsh is the only coach in league history to win at least 100 games. He has a 130-81-3 record in 19 seasons at Virginia. His 81 wins in ACC games is also a record.

Abrams' Efforts Rate UVa Fifth in Nation

Mike Abrams assumed the punting duties this season, replacing the graduated Donnie Scott. The junior from Aiken, S.C., lettered last season as a reserve tight end and special teams player, but had never punted in a game before this season.

His lack of experience was cause for some concern, but he wasted little time in assuaging head coach George Welsh's fears.

In his first punting assignment against Brigham Young in the season opener, Abrams averaged an excellent 46.2 yards on four punts and buried one inside the BYU 20-yard line. In fact, his average is the best in school history for a punter starting his first game.

His best effort of the afternoon was a 70-yard boomer that, unfortunately had a little too much energy and bounced into the end zone for a touchback.

The 70-yarder, on the third punt of his career, was the 10th 70+-yard punt in school history. It also marked the longest UVa punt since Will Brice also had a 70-yarder in 1994.

His ability to minimize returns (two for 14 yards) has helped him rank fifth in the country in net punting (and 13th overall in punting average).

So far this young season Abrams is averaging 44.7 yards on 13 boots. He has hit four over 50 yards (including the 70-yarder) and buried two inside the 20-yard line.

Virginia's Secondary is Very Young

Of prime concern to defensive coordinator Rick Lantz this season is the shape of the secondary. With just one returning starter—sophomore safety Jerton Evans—things look dicey at first glance for Virginia's last line of defense.

In the opener vs. Brigham Young, the corners were manned by seniors Ahmad Hawkins and Tim Spruill.

No stranger to defensive backs, Hawkins switched from wide receiver to cornerback in the spring. His knowledge of playing wide receiver certainly gives him some insight into the mind of receivers.

Spruill was a starter two years ago and started six games last season in what proved to be an up-and-down campaign. Still he's the team's most experienced defensive back and his leadership will be needed to bring stability to the secondary.

Spruill suffered a toe injury against BYU, forcing sophomore Rashad Roberson into the starting line-up for the last two games.

Evans, a freshman All-American last fall, started the final 10 games of the season and led the team with four interceptions. Despite being just a second-year player, he is the most experienced safety on the roster.

Sophomore Shernard Newby started at the other safety spot vs. BYU. He played in every game last season as a redshirt freshman and started twice.

Among the reserves only junior safety Devon Simmons had any collegiate experience prior to this season. He was a key reserve two years ago, but did not play last season for personal reasons.

Red-shirt freshman Ryan Sawyer and true freshman Jamaine Winborne should also see duty at safety in an effort to build some depth.

True freshmen Almondo Curry and Art Thomas are listed among the top back-ups at cornerback, along with whoever doesn't start among Roberson and Spruill.

Offensive Line Replaces Two All-Americans

Last season consensus All-American tailback Thomas Jones had the luxury of running behind one of the best offensive lines in school history. But this season, Arlen Harris, Antwoine Womack, Tyree Foreman and Dan Ellis will not have the benefit of All-Americans Noel LaMontagne and John St. Clair, who graduated and moved on to the NFL.

Nonetheless, the line is a strength for this year's offense once again. Right tackle Brad Barnes headlines the returnees. Named the team's most improved player last season, he is considered among the top tackles in the ACC.

Left tackle Jermese Jones, the team's biggest player, missed last season due to injury, but he has unlimited potential. He made the first start of his career against Brigham Young and if he can remain healthy, his presence will be a boost for the line.

Fifth-year player Dustin Keith has moved into the center spot vacated by St. Clair. He spent the last two years at tackle, but was moved to center in the spring (after spending a brief amount of time at defensive tackle).

Evan Routzahn returns to the right guard spot next to Barnes. An underrated performer, Routzahn is a powerful blocker who rarely comes out of the game.

Junior Jared Woodson, a local product from Western Albemarle High School, has experience at both guard (four starts last season) and center. He has started at left guard in all three games this season, but could also see some time at center during the season.

Despite being hampered by back problems, Lawson serves as a back-up to Jones at tackle and Woodson at guard, but he has been a starter at left tackle the two previous years.

The remaining reserves are a very inexperienced group. Only sophomore Mike Mullins (seven games) had ever appeared in a game prior to this season. The rest of the back-ups are red-shirt freshmen—T Kevin Bailey, G Ben Carber, C Jay Green and T Micah Kimball.

Thweatt's Career Highs Lead Defensive Efforts

All-America candidate Byron Thweatt seems to have put last season's disappointments behind him. Plagued last year by a shoulder injury that limited his effectiveness and caused him to play basically with one arm, Thweatt has returned with a vengeance.

He has led the team in tackles in each game this season and with 42 tackles in just three games (14.0 tpg), he looks like he could be in for a career year.

Thweatt began the year by tying his career high with 13 tackles against Brigham Young. It was his first 10-tackle effort since late in the 1998 season.

Thweatt topped the BYU performance against Richmond by recording a another career-high with 14 tackles, including 10 solo stops.

His career high for tackles lasted just a week once again as he led the team in tackles with 15 in last Saturday's win over Duke.

His 29 tackles in his last two games are the most by a Cavalier since Wali Rainer had 32 tackles combined in the last two games of the 1998 regular season.

Receiving Corps is Deep and Experienced

The strongest unit on the offense this season is likely the receiving corps led by senior Kevin Coffey, sophomore Billy McMullen and tight end Billy Baber.

Coffey and McMullen tied for the team lead with 28 receptions last year, while McMullen's 483 yards paced the team. In fact, McMullen set a school record for most receptions by a freshman. Coffey hauled in seven scoring tosses, while McMullen had six.

McMullen is the team's leading receiver once again with 15 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Coffey has caught just seven passes (for 90 yards and a TD), but has extended his streak to 26 consecutive games with a reception.

Joining them are senior Demetrius Dotson, sophomores James Johnson and Tavon Mason and true freshman Michael McGrew.

Dotson was putting together a fine season last year until he injured his knee in the season's sixth game and missed the rest of the season. While healthy he caught 11 passes and averaged nearly 20 yards per catch.

In what might be the best performance of his career, the Staten Island, N.Y., native gained a career-high 99 yards on four receptions. Two of his receptions were magnificent diving grabs, including a 42-yarder and a 35-yarder. He scored the first touchdown of his career on a eight-yard play late in the first half against Duke.

Johnson showed promise as a true freshman two years ago, playing in 10 regular season games, but he missed last season and was red-shirted. He caught two passes in his return vs. BYU. He electrified the crowd by out-leaping a Richmond defender to snatch a pass and scoot 50 yards for the first touchdown of his career. He also returned a punt 61 yards, but the return was nullified by a penalty.

Mason, one of the team's fastest players, caught 12 passes last fall as a primary back-up. He caught one pass vs. Richmond and had an end around for a touchdown called back because of a penalty.

The tight end position is also strong with Baber, a senior, and junior Chris Luzar returning.

Baber has been a spot starter throughout his career behind the oft-injured Casey Crawford. He caught 17 passes, including four for touchdowns, the most by a UVa tight end since 1994 and has 40 career receptions.

Luzar has been hampered by an injury throughout much of the preseason practice period. A very tall target (6-7) who caught eight passes in 1999, he teams with Baber to give the Cavaliers a talented duo of tight ends.

Returnees Playing Major Roles

The Virginia program welcomed six players back this season who did not play last year for a variety of reasons.

Their return has bolstered the roster already as all six played have played key roles in the season's first two games.

Jermese Jones, who missed last season due to an injury, made the first start of his career at left tackle as the Virginia rushing attack ground out 270 rushing yards and allowed just one quarterback sack in the opener against Brigham Young.

Tailback Antwoine Womack returned from last year's leave of absence and was one of the beneficiaries of a solid offensive line. He rushed for a career-high 160 yards and two touchdowns in the same game.

Wide receiver James Johnson sat out last season due to injury but returned to catch two passes for 16 yards vs. BYU. He caught two more passes for 67 yards last week against Richmond and scored the first touchdown of his career on a 50-yard pass play from Dan Ellis.

John Duckett, Donny Green and Devon Simmons did not play last season due to personal reasons, but all three are significant contributors in reserve roles this season.

Duckett moved to fullback after playing linebacker in his first two years. He is a reserve to starter Patrick Washington, while also being a solid contributor on special teams.

Green, a two-year starter at linebacker but now a reserve, has been in on 23 tackles in the last two games, while Simmons has made seven tackles as a special teams standout and reserve safety.

Ellis When Playing the Whole Game

As has been mentioned elsewhere, Dan Ellis ended last season with a hot hand and has picked up where he left off this season.

It's worth a look at how he has done in complete games during his current hot streak which began with a big road win over N.C. State last October.

He played just the first half the next week against Florida State after suffering a concussion just before halftime. The injury also caused him to miss the Georgia Tech game.

Lanky McMullen is Big Target

Billy McMullen was a forgotten man in the season-opening loss to Brigham Young, catching just one 26-yard pass.

It didn't take quarterback Dan Ellis long to remember one of his favorite receivers from a year ago, though. At 6-4, McMullen frequently uses his height advantage to out-jump smaller defensive backs.

In the win over Richmond two weeks ago, McMullen was the team's leading receiver with six catches for 73 yards, with three of his grabs resulting in first downs as he was matched up against defenders who were 4-6 inches shorter than he is.

McMullen's height advantage worked in his favor again last Saturday against Duke. Going up against much smaller cornerbacks, McMullen led the Cavaliers in receiving for the second week in a row.

With the Blue Devils geared to stopping the run, Ellis and company made the defense pay for its strategy. Ellis threw for 333 yards and three scores, with McMullen being the biggest beneficiary. He turned in a career-game with eight receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

McMullen's 189 yards receiving is the third-highest total in school history, while his eight catches are tied for 11th most in school history and are the most since Germane Crowell hauled in nine passes vs. Virginia Tech in 1997.

The sophomore from Richmond, Va., is second in the ACC in receptions (5.0/g) and receiving yards (96.0/g).

Rankings Mark Recent Games

Saturday's game against Clemson marks the 13th time in the last 15 meetings that at least one team has been ranked in The Associated Press poll at game time.

This is the first time since 1997 that Virginia hasn't been ranked for this game, and the first time since 1992 that Clemson has been ranked.

Since the first meeting in 1955, at least one team has been ranked 18 times entering the game.

A look at the previous 17 games in the series when one or both teams were ranked is below.