Virginia To Face Illinois In Micronpc.com Bowl

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM Tailback Thomas Jones is hoping to end his Virginia career with a victory over Illinois in the Micronpc.com bowl.
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM
Tailback Thomas Jones is hoping to end his Virginia career with a victory over Illinois in the Micronpc.com bowl.
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM

Dec. 20, 1999

Virginia looks to win its eighth game of the season against Illinois in the 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl in Miami, Fla., on Dec. 30.

The Cavaliers, winners of at least seven games the last 13 seasons, are 7-4 overall this season. They tied Clemson and Georgia Tech for second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 5-2 league mark. The Fighting Illini are also 7-4 overall this season. They tied for sixth place in the Big 10 with a 4-4 league mark.

The Series vs. Illinois
This is the second meeting between Virginia and Illinois. Making their first-ever New Year's Day bowl appearance, the Cavaliers fell to the Fighting Illini 31-21 in the 1990 Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The two teams have never met in the regular season. Illinois joins Georgia, Virginia's opponent in last year's Peach Bowl, as the only schools the Cavaliers have played more than once in a bowl game.

The Cavaliers are 2-6 all-time against the Big Ten. Virginia's two wins over Big Ten schools were a 47-0 triumph over the University of Chicago in 1939 and a 27-24 win over Purdue in the 1984 Peach Bowl. (Chicago left the Big Ten in 1940).

Virginia is 1-1 vs. Purdue, 0-3 vs. Michigan and 0-1 vs. Illinois and Ohio State. UVa is 1-4 vs. Penn State, but every game occurred prior to Penn State's entry into the Big Ten in 1993.

Eleventh Bowl Appearance for UVa
The 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl is the Cavaliers' 11th bowl appearance overall and the ninth in the last 11 years. Head coach George Welsh has led Virginia to every bowl game in school history. A brief look at the Cavaliers' bowl history is below.

Bowl                         Opponent      Score (UVa first)
1984 Peach Bowl               Purdue            27-24
1987 All American Bowl     Brigham Young        22-16
1990 Florida Citrus Bowl     Illinois           21-31
1991 Sugar Bowl              Tennessee          22-23
1991 Gator Bowl              Oklahoma           14-48
1994 Carquest Bowl         Boston College       13-31
1994 Independence Bowl     Texas Christian      20-10
1995 Peach Bowl               Georgia           34-27
1996 Carquest Bowl           Miami (Fla.)       21-31
1998 Peach Bowl               Georgia           33-35

Virginia Makes Third Appearance in this Bowl
Virginia plays Illinois of the Big 10 conference in the 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl on Dec. 30 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Fla. The game is slated to kickoff at 7:00 p.m. and will be televised by TBS. This is Virginia's third appearance in this bowl. The Cavaliers lost to Boston College 31-13 on New Year's Day following the 1993 season and fell to Miami (Fla.) 31-21 in the 1996 game when the game was known as the Carquest Bowl.

They Were Freshmen the Last Time
The Virginia roster lists 11 players who played as freshmen in the 1996 Carquest Bowl (as this game was known) in a 31-21 loss to Miami (Fla.), although none started the game.

Tailback Thomas Jones replaced an injured Tiki Barber early in the contest and was the game's leading rusher with 67 yards on 14 carries and scored from three yards out in the fourth quarter. (Jones, a likely high pick in next spring's NFL draft, outrushed two current NFL running backs in that game. Barber finished with just 14 yards before exiting with an injury, while Miami's Edgerrin James rushed for just 31 yards.) Jones also caught one pass for seven yards.

Tight end Casey Crawford caught one pass for 13 yards, while Demetrius Dotson had a 12-yard reception.

Other current Wahoos who saw action on offense in that game were center John St. Clair (who saw action at tight end) and guard Noel LaMontagne.

Defensively, end Travis Griffith led the returnees with four tackles, including one for a loss, against the Hurricanes. Linebacker Shannon Taylor was in on one tackle and also returned a kickoff 58 yards. Defensive back Antwan Harris and defensive tackle Johnny Shivers were also in on one tackle each. Harris also recovered a blocked punt and returned a kickoff 18 yards.

Defensive tackle Maurice Anderson and cornerback Dwayne Stukes played but didn't have any tackles in the game.

Beginning and Ending the '90s
Perhaps one of the most interesting factoids of the match-up for the 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl is the timing of the two games between Virginia and Illinois. The two teams played their first game of the 1990s on Jan. 1, 1990, in the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. The Fighting Illini won that game 31-21. Both squads conclude the 1990s with the Dec. 30 clash in the Micronpc.com Bowl.

Virginia Doesn't Find Florida So Sunny
The state of Florida is nicknamed the "Sunshine State" but it has been anything but sunny for the Cavaliers on the gridiron. Virginia has played nine games in the state of Florida and has lost each time.

Interestingly, until this year's Micronpc.com Bowl against Illinois, every opponent Virginia has faced in Florida has been ranked in The Associated Press poll at game time.

The Cavaliers' first game within the state was a 55-10 loss to the 19th-ranked Florida Gators on Oct. 3, 1959. Virginia returned to Florida to play Illinois, led by Jeff George, in the 1990 Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The Cavaliers fell that afternoon to the 11th-ranked Illini 31-21. The Cavaliers' Florida woes continued against Oklahoma in the 1991 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. The 20th-ranked Sooners defeated UVa 48-14. Top-ranked Florida State handed UVa a 40-14 loss on Oct. 16, 1993. The Cavaliers returned to Florida for the 1994 Carquest Bowl (a precursor to this bowl) and lost to 15th-ranked Boston College 31-13 at Miami's Pro Player Stadium.

Virginia opened the 1994 campaign with a 41-17 loss to third-ranked Florida State. The losses continued in Tallahassee as the Cavaliers lost to #3 FSU 31-24 in 1996. They closed that season with a 31-21 loss to #19 Miami (Fla.) in the Carquest Bowl. Virginia's most recent trip to Florida ended with a 45-14 loss to #6 Florida State.

A Homecoming for Three South Floridians
The 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl will be a homecoming of sorts for several Cavaliers from the south Florida area. Todd Braverman, Johnny Shivers and Earl Sims all hail from the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area.

Braverman has been Virginia's primary place-kicker the last two seasons. He is seventh in school history with 20 field goals. He attended Pine Crest High School in Ft. Lauderdale.

Shivers, a senior defensive tackle, attended Hallandale High School in Ft. Lauderdale. He made a career-high 40 tackles this season, including two sacks.

Earl Sims, a junior linebacker hails from Miami Killian High School in Miami. He played in the season opener against North Carolina and had one tackle, but was injured prior to the next game and has not played since and will likely be given an extra year of eligibility as a result.

ACC's Longest Scoring Streak
Virginia has scored in an ACC and school-record 187 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 94 consecutive home games, 82 consecutive road games and 11 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. A list of the longest streaks in the nation is below.

      School         Consec. Games
   1.   Brigham Young      311*
   2.   Texas              226
   3.   Washington         215
   4.   Virginia           187
        Michigan           187
      *-NCAA record

Topping 300 Points Again
Virginia 324 points this season, an average of 29.5 points per game, marking the 10th time in the last 11 seasons the Cavaliers have scored at least 300 points. Prior to 1989 Virginia had scored more than 300 points in a season just three times in 99 seasons of play. UVa scored at least 300 points every season from 1989-96, but fell short with 277 points in 1997, before getting back on track with 325 points last season.

Cavaliers Extend ACC History
The Cavaliers won seven games this season, the 13th consecutive season that Virginia has won at least seven games. Virginia is the only team in ACC history to compile as many as 10 consecutive seasons of 7+ wins. Virginia joins Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska as the only schools in the nation that have won at least seven games each of the last 13 years.

This season also marks the Cavaliers' 13th consecutive winning season, the longest current streak by an ACC team. (Florida State is not included as the Seminoles have not been members of the ACC for 10 seasons.) UVa's streak of consecutive winning seasons is tied for the eighth-longest current streak in the nation.

Welsh Seventh Among Active Wins Leaders
Head coach George Welsh, tabbed last season by The Sporting News as the nation's best coach, is ranked seventh in wins among active Division I-A coaches.

Welsh has won 183 games in a 27-year career at Navy (1973-81) and Virginia (1982-present), 27th in NCAA Division I-A history. He is the winningest coach in the history of both schools. 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 183-125-4 (.593).

The dean of ACC coaches, Welsh is the only coach in league history to win at least 100 games. He has a 128-79-3 record in 18 seasons at Virginia. His 80 wins in ACC games is also a record. A look at the winningest active coaches is below. (Wins are prior to 1999 bowl games.)

1. Joe Paterno, Penn State (34 years)   316 wins
2. Bobby Bowden, Fla. State   (34)      303
3. LaVell Edwards, BYU        (28)      251
4. Lou Holtz, So. Carolina    (28)      216
5. Don Nehlen, West Va.       (29)      195
6. John Cooper, Ohio State    (23)      184
7. George Welsh, UVa          (27)      183

Cavaliers Faced Six Bowl Teams
Virginia played six games this fall against teams that are participating in bowl games, including both combatants for the national title-Florida State and Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers went 3-3 in those games. They are among a group of 10 schools that played six bowl bound teams this season.

UVa joins Clemson and Miami (Fla.) as the only schools in the country to play both Florida State and Virginia Tech.

The Division I-A bowl teams that faced six schools participating in bowl games this season are listed below with the record in those games. South Carolina, which lost all 11 games this season, led the nation with nine games against teams playing in bowls this season.

   School       overall record   vs. Bowl teams (record)
    Florida State     11-0               6-0
    Alabama           10-2               5-1
    Michigan           9-2               4-2
    Michigan State     9-2               4-2
    Washington         7-4               4-2
    Virginia           7-4               3-3
    Penn State         9-3               3-3
    Miami (Fla.)       8-4               2-4
    Clemson            6-5               1-5
    Kentucky           6-5               1-5

Turnovers Important to Outcome
Virginia was involved in several games this season that were influenced greatly by turnovers-both for and against UVa. The Cavaliers also had a tendency to compound their turnovers with a double whammy-turnovers in the red zone and an inability to prevent scores after turnovers.

Dan Ellis threw three interceptions in the opener against North Carolina, two coming inside the red zone (including one returned 89 yards for a touchdown).

Against Clemson, Thomas Jones lost a fumble inside the Clemson 10-yard line as UVa was attempting to cut into a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter.

After having just two turnovers in the next three games, mistakes proved to be the Cavaliers' undoing in the overtime loss to Duke in early October. An Arlen Harris punt return for a touchdown early in the game was brought back due to a penalty. On Duke's next possession, Dwayne Stukes intercepted a pass to give UVa the ball on Duke's 44-yard line. Following a first down, Ellis had a pass intercepted in the end zone to end the drive. Punter Donnie Scott was unable to handle a bad snap in his end zone and tried to pass. The pass was incomplete, giving Duke possession on the 11-yard line. The Blue Devils scored a touchdown four plays later. Tim Spruill blocked a Duke punt to give the Cavaliers the ball at the Duke 35-yard line. But Jones lost a fumble at the 12-yard line to kill another drive. Duke drove down field to kick a game-tying field goal. Virginia's final possession of the game ended as Ellis threw his second interception of the day in the second overtime.

In UVa's game against N.C. State, the Wolfpack turned the ball over on three of their first four second half possessions. Virginia turned the miscues into 22 points (in a 30-point quarter). The 30 points helped erase a 19-10 halftime deficit as Virginia rolled to a 47-26 win.

Virginia used a Yubrenal Isabelle interception to great advantage in the upset win over Georgia Tech to start the current three-game winning streak. Isabelle returned the interception to the Tech 40-yard line to set up UVa's final drive of the first half. Seven plays later quarterback David Rivers found Kevin Coffey in the end zone for a 12-yard scoring strike that brought UVa to within three points at 24-21 with nine seconds to go in the half. That touchdown proved crucial as the Cavaliers held on to complete the comeback 45-38.

Of UVa's 19 turnovers, 12 were turned into points by the opposition (nine touchdowns, three field goals). On the other side, Virginia forced 23 turnovers this season (15 interceptions, eight fumbles) and blocked one punt. From these mistakes the Cavaliers scored just 11 touchdowns.

Hot Down the Stretch
For the first time in more than a decade, the Cavaliers found themselves with a 3-3 record at midseason. Following consecutive losses at home to Virginia Tech and Duke, the Cavaliers bowl hopes looked dim. But after being riddled by injuries to players on both sides of the ball, the Cavaliers got healthy and began to turn things around. First the Cavaliers stormed back against N.C. State to post a 47-26 win over the Wolfpack in Raleigh.

Top-ranked Florida State dealt the Wahoos a 35-10 setback in Charlottesville to drop the men in orange and blue back to .500.

November began with the Cavaliers posting a rousing 45-38 win over seventh-ranked Georgia Tech in Charlottesville. They remained at home and downed Buffalo 50-21, before closing out the season with a thrilling 34-30 win over Maryland on the road. The three wins marked UVa's most successful November since 1991.

Virginia hasn't ended a season with four straight wins since winning the last five in 1988, a non-bowl season.

Cavaliers Fare Well in Shootouts
Virginia hasn't been known recently as a team that has done well in wild offensive games or "shootouts". Witness two 41-38 losses to Georgia Tech this decade alone. But this season has been different, with four of UVa's games coming in shootouts. We don't have a precise definition of shootout, but it's typically a high-scoring contest with lots of offense as the teams move up and down the field with ease. The type of game fans love and coaches hate.

Virginia gained its first win in a shootout against Brigham Young in Provo, Utah. The Cougars are used to high-scoring affairs, but not so for the Cavaliers. Oddly, Virginia got just enough big plays from its defense to post a 45-40 win. Virginia intercepted quarterback Kevin Feterik three times, turning two into first half touchdowns, while the other ended BYU's chance for a comeback win. The defense also scored a touchdown of its own on a fumble return by Tim Spruill.

In Virginia's 3-1 record down the stretch all three wins were of the shootout variety. The season turned following a 47-26 come-from-behind win over N.C. State that saw Virginia erase a halftime deficit with a 30-point third quarter.

Nationally-ranked Georgia Tech was UVa's next victim. Led by back-up quarterback David Rivers, the Cavailers rallied from an early 17-0 deficit and took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter and holding on for a 45-38 win.

The regular season ended with another thrilling game, this time against Maryland in College Park, Md. Virginia jumped to an early 17-0 lead in what looked like a sure victory. But the homestanding Terrapins rebounded to knot the score at 17 at halftime. The second half saw the lead seesaw back and forth before Dan Ellis marched the Cavaliers 76 yards in the final minute with no timeouts remaining and hitting Billy McMullen with the winning touchdown pass to clinch a 34-30 win.

Injuries Take Their Toll
Due to injuries and preseason disciplinary actions, Virginia's starting line-up looked much different for the season opener against North Carolina than what was expected coming into the season. Five players made the first start of their careers against the Tar Heels, but four Cavaliers went down with injuries in that game to quickly add to the list of first-time starters.

The defense was especially hard hit throughout the year as the Cavaliers lost 27 "man starts" due to a variety of factors (injury, illness, personal). The offense was not able to remain unscathed either, losing 17 games by expected starters due to injuries.

As a result of the injuries, Virginia's true freshmen ended up starting 12 games this season, including nine games by safety Jerton Evans. Further adding to the team's inexperience in the starting line-up were the 13 starts by red-shirt freshmen, led by the 11 games started by safety Chris Williams. All told 19 different players started on defense, 17 on offense and three in the kicking game.

A listing of Virginia's ever-changing starting line-up and games missed by the expected starters from the preseason is outlined below.

Starts Missed Due to injury:
   Casey Crawford    8
   Josh Lawson   4
   Dan Ellis   1
   Ahmad Hawkins   4
   Travis Griffith   9
   Monsanto Pope   6
   Yubrenal Isabelle   2
   Antwan Harris   5
   Dwayne Stukes   5

Game: 1st-Timers: Injuries to starters: No. Carolina OT B. Barnes DE T. Griffith QB D. Ellis S An. Harris LB Y. Isabelle WR A. Hawkins DE L. Stamenich DT M. Pope S C. Williams CB D. Stukes FB P. Washington Clemson WR D. Dotson DE T. Griffith CB J. Lauzon S S. Newby Wake Forest S J. Evans DB An. Harris Brig. Young none none Va. Tech LB W. Clark DNP-Isabelle Duke none WR D. Dotson N.C. State none OT J. Lawson Fla. State OT N. LaMontagne QB D. Ellis G J. Woodson Ga. Tech QB D. Rivers Buffalo WR T. Mason PK T. Braverman DT C. McWeeny Maryland LB A. Crowell DNP-Isabelle PK D. Greene

Jones Takes Just Nine Games to Set Record
As his career at Virginia was coming to a close in 1996, Virginia's all-time leading rusher, Tiki Barber, mentioned that Thomas Jones (then a true freshman) would be the one to break his records. Barber was very prescient regarding the performance of the player who was his understudy three years ago as Jones has erased Barber's name from the top spot on virtually every school rushing record.

Jones finished his career (since bowl stats don't count) as UVa's all-time leading rusher with 3998 yards, while his 1798 yards this season are also tops in school history. Jones became UVa's all-time leading rusher following a 71-yard burst at home against Florida State on Oct. 30.

Barber's single-season mark of 1397 yards fell the next week against Georgia Tech midway through the third quarter as Jones broke loose for a 37-yard gain to set up UVa's game-tying field goal a short time later. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Jones' quest to break the single-season rushing mark is that he took just nine games to break the record that Barber accumulated in 12 games in 1995.

Jones also reached the 1000-yard mark this season in just seven games, joining John Papit (1949) as the only players to get to 1000 yards in just seven games.

Jones Ends Career Where it Began
Thomas Jones saw the most extensive action of his freshman year in 1996 at the Carquest Bowl against Miami (Fla.). Tiki Barber, the ACC Player of the Year that season, suffered a back injury midway through the first quarter, opening a door of opportunity for Jones. Barber tried to return in the second half, but wasn't able to go more than a series.

Jones provided a glimpse of the future by leading all ballcarriers in that game (including current NFL rookie star Edgerrin James) with 14 carries for 67 yards and one touchdown.

Barber, who concluded his career as UVa's all-time leading rusher, predicted Jones would break his records and he did. Jones set a school record with 1798 yards this season and finished his career with a school record 3998 yards rushing.

Jones Finishes Third in Rushing and All-Purpose
All-American tailback Thomas Jones put together the best all-around season in school history this fall, finishing third in the nation in both rushing and all-purpose yards. He averaged a school record 163.5 yards per game en route to churning out an ACC record 1798 yards on the ground.

Jones just missed UVa and ACC records for highest all-purpose per game average with 186.7 ypg, but he did set the school and conference record for most all-purpose yards in a season with 2054. It took Jones just nine games to break UVa's all-time single-season rushing mark and 10 games to set UVa's single-season all-purpose yardage record.

Jones is the first Cavalier to finish in the top 10 in rushing since Barry Word finished sixth in 1985. It is also the second-highest finish ever for a Virginia runner. Bill Dudley (1941) and Johnny Papit (1949) finished second in the nation in rushing.

Crunch Time Brought out the Best in Jones
With the season at the midway point, the Cavaliers found themselves with a 3-3 record and their bowl hopes in jeopardy. But a hot finish saw the Cavaliers win four of their last five games and become bowl eligible.

One of the key factors in Virginia's charge to a bowl bid was the play of tailback Thomas Jones. A consensus All-American this season, Jones showed his value by averaging 182.0 yards rushing per game coming down the stretch. He started his rampage by rumbling for a career-high 221 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Cavaliers to an important road win over N.C. State on Oct. 16. The Cavaliers fell the next week to top-ranked Florida State, but it wasn't for a lack of performance on Jones' part. He tore through the Seminole defense for 164 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry (and sat out the last six minutes) against a defense that allowed just 86.0 yards on the ground coming in. His 164 yards vs. Florida State were the most the Seminoles had allowed since UVa's Tiki Barber rushed for 193 yards in 1995, a span of 50 games.

A second consecutive game against a top-10 team, this time vs. #7 Georgia Tech, wasn't enough to slow Jones, who rushed for 213 yards on a school-record 39 carries as the Cavaliers upset the Yellow Jackets.

In his final home game, Jones tied his career high by running for 221 yards against Buffalo. Fittingly, he burst up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown dash on his final carry at home as the Cavaliers gained their sixth win to become bowl eligible.

The 200-yard performance against Buffalo was his third in four games. What makes this so remarkable is prior to Jones the ACC record for CAREER 200-yard games was three and the season record two. Jones had four 200-yard games this season and six for his career.

Virginia got its seventh win of the season with a dramatic 34-30 win over Maryland on Nov. 20. Jones rushed for 91 yards, but his presence was enough to draw the defense's attention and allow Dan Ellis to throw for 276 yards and four touchdowns. A look at Jones in the season's final five games is below.

Opp.            Att.  Yds.  Avg.   TD
N.C. State      38    221   5.8    3
#1 Fla. State   26    164   6.3    1
#7 Ga. Tech     39    213   5.5    2
Buffalo         32    221   6.9    1
Maryland        28     91   3.3    0
last 5         163    910   5.6    7
avg. last 5   32.6   182.0  5.6   1.4

Ellis Tosses 10 TDs in Last Two, Finishes Eighth
Quarterback Dan Ellis suffered a concussion just before halftime against Florida State on Oct. 30. He missed the next game against Georgia Tech as David Rivers led the Cavaliers to a big win over the #7 Yellow Jackets. But Ellis didn't show any ill effects of his injury when he returned to action against Buffalo after a week's layoff. Virginia head coach George Welsh has a rule that a player doesn't lose his starting position due to an injury and the rule proved beneficial to both Ellis and the Cavaliers. The visitors from New York seemed to concentrate on stopping tailback Thomas Jones and dared Ellis to beat them with his passing. Ellis completed his first nine passes and clearly made the Bulls pay for their defensive strategy. For the game he completed 16 of 19 passes (84.2 percent) for a whopping 363 yards and six touchdowns. His six touchdowns tied the ACC record set first by Duke's Steve Slayden in 1987 (and tied later in the afternoon by Florida State's Chris Weinke). The 363 yards eclipsed his previous career high by 130 yards and is the second-highest total in school history, while his 84.2 percent completion percentage is fourth-best in school history.

Ellis was one of several heroes in Virginia's dramatic 34-30 win over Maryland in the season finale. Against a defense geared to stop Jones for the second week in a row, Ellis made the Terrapins pay dearly for their strategy. He completed 21 of 34 passes (61.8 percent) for 276 yards and four touchdowns in guiding the Cavaliers to a come-from-behind victory.

Fashioning a flair for the dramatic in his first season as the starter, Ellis unveiled his version of "The Drive" in leading Virginia to the win. Down 30-27, the Cavaliers began their final drive on their own 24-yard line with 1:12 remaining and no timeouts. Ellis coolly directed Virginia down the field, taking everything the defense gave him. He completed his first three passes to move UVa to midfield, while spiking the ball twice to stop the clock. He hit Billy McMullen with a 15-yard completion to put UVa on Maryland's 33. A Jones draw play gained 13 yards, putting the ball in range for a field goal. On first down, Ellis spiked the ball to stop the clock and call a play. On second down, Ellis dropped back and lofted a ball toward the 6-4 McMullen in the corner of the end zone. McMullen used a height advantage to outjump the Maryland defender and come down with one foot barely inbounds for the winning score with 26 seconds on the clock to complete the comeback.

His torrid finish enabled Ellis to finish eighth nationally in passing efficiency. He completed 60.5 percent of his passes (third in school history) for 2050 yards and 20 touchdowns. His 20 touchdowns are tied for third in school history, while his 2050 yards are ninth.

McMullen Among Top Rookie Receivers
Wide receiver Billy McMullen showed flashes of brilliance this season, particularly late in the season, and is one of the top true freshman receivers in the nation. He led the team with 483 receiving yards and a 17.2-yards per catch average this season, while sharing the team lead for receptions (28) with Kevin Coffey. His six touchdown grabs trailed Coffey by one.

McMullen is the first freshman receiver in school history to lead the team in receptions and receiving yards and broke Herman Moore's record for most catches by a rookie. He became more of a focal point of the passing game lately, particularly as Coffey's production declined.

McMullen first strutted his stuff in a big win over N.C. State in Raleigh in October. He led the team with 109 yards receiving (a career high), while his four receptions tied Ahmad Hawkins for team honors. He came up big again vs. #7 Georgia Tech despite catching just two passes. He hauled in a 39-yard pass from David Rivers in the second quarter to help set up Virginia's second touchdown that cut the Yellow Jackets' lead from 17-0 to 24-14. McMullen and Rivers teamed up again early in the fourth quarter on a 42-yard scoring play that proved to be the game-winner. Faced with second-and-23 on the Tech 42, Rivers hit McMullen in stride with a perfect toss to put the Cavaliers in the lead for good. He hauled in two touchdown passes from Dan Ellis against Buffalo among his three receptions. Using his 6-4 frame to great advantage against the Bulls, both were of the "alley-oop" variety made famous by Shawn and Herman Moore in the early 1990s.

McMullen's heroics reached their peak in the finale against Maryland as he paced the team with six catches for 78 yards and saved his best for last. :He made an amazing grab of an Ellis toss that looked to be overthrown on UVa's final drive of the game. Three plays later he again used a superior height advantage to outjump a defender and haul in the winning touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining.

Jones Shows Up Every Day
Despite leading the ACC in rushing for the second year in a row, tailback Thomas Jones inexplicably failed to get the attention he deserves. He finished third in the nation in both rushing and all-purpose yards, setting Virginia and ACC records in both areas. He also led the nation with four 200-yard games and led ACC running backs with 22 receptions for 239 yards.

In his third year as the starting tailback, perhaps it's important to also note his durability. A testament to his offseason work ethic, Jones has not missed a game in his career, while starting the last 34 at tailback. He made the 31st consecutive start of his career against Florida State to add to his list of school records- most consecutive starts by a tailback. Terry Kirby got the starting nod 30 straight games from 1990-92 and held the previous record.

Just as amazing as his streak of consecutive starts is the fact that Jones has never missed so much as a practice during his career at Virginia.

Experienced Line Opens Holes for Jones
Head coach George Welsh has always emphasized the need to have a strong running game and this year has been no different. Virginia features who we believe is the nation's top running back in Thomas Jones. Jones rushed for 1798 yards this season (163.5/g), third in the country.

Leading the way for Jones is a battle-tested line that features three returning starters and another player who started five games last year. The line is headlined by two first-team All-Americans-guard Noel LaMontagne and center John St. Clair. A senior tri-captain, LaMontagne is the most experienced lineman with 31 career starts under his belt. Showing outstanding versatility, he replaced an injured Josh Lawson in the starting line-up at left tackle for the final four games of the season. A two-time first-team All-ACC pick, he is the first UVa guard named to the first-team two years in a row since Roy Brown in 1988-89.

Joining LaMontagne on the left side of the line is Josh Lawson, a first-team All-Freshman by The Sporting News last season. However, Lawson was injured late in the season and missed two of the last four games. Jared Woodson moved into LaMontagne's guard spot, while LaMontagne moved down the line replacing Lawson for the final four games. St. Clair is the first All-American at center in school history. One of the top (and most underrated) centers in the country, he is quietly molding himself into one of the top center prospects available in the upcoming NFL draft. He also received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top blocker in the ACC.

Sophomore Evan Routzahn, a starter in five games at left guard last season, has moved to right guard and is considered a very promising player by Welsh. He is joined by junior Brad Barnes, the right tackle. Barnes saw limited action in his first two years, but has worked hard to forge his way into the line-up and is considered by Welsh the most improved player on the offensive line. Barnes was selected the ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his play in UVa's win over N.C. State.

Primary back-ups along the line include George Seals at center and Dustin Keith at tackle. Keith has also seen action at center.

Anderson Quietly Turns in Fabulous Year
As the oldest member of the defensive front, Maurice Anderson has used the wisdom that comes with age and experience to his advantage this season. He turned in the best season of his career in 1999 despite a series of nagging injuries that might have sidelined other players. Throughout most of his career he has had to play behind more heralded linemen including Antonio Dingle, Patrick Kerney and Todd White, but this season he is showed what he can do. Anderson began the year in fine fashion by leading Virginia in tackles for the first time in his career with 10 stops vs. North Carolina. He turned in his second double-digit outing of the year against Duke with 10 tackles and established a career high with 13 stops in the finale against Maryland. Adept at plugging the middle of the line, Anderson made at least seven tackles in six games this season. With three games of at least 10 tackles, he is the first UVa defensive tackle to have as many as three double-digit performances since Stuart Anderson in 1980. Anderson is also the first UVa defensive tackle to lead the team in tackles in a game since White in 1994 and is the first Cavalier defensive tackle to lead twice in a season since at least 1989. Anderson finished third on the team with 74 tackles, far surpassing his previous career high of 31 in 1997. The 74 tackles are the most by a UVa defensive tackle since White had 77 in 1995 and third most by a defensive tackle in school history.

Isabelle Reaches Double Digits Four Times
Junior linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle has gotten better with each game as he fills the rather large shoes of current NFL starter Wali Rainer in the Cavalier defense. Isabelle, who saw limited action in his first two seasons behind Rainer, led the Cavaliers with 14 tackles against Clemson early in the season. The 14 tackles is a career high, topping the eight he had against Florida State as a freshman two years ago. He paced the team against with 10 tackles against Wake Forest as Virginia held Morgan Kane, the nation's leading rusher coming into the game, to just 65 yards. Putting up Rainer-like numbers, Isabelle's 14 stops vs Brigham Young led the team for the third week in a row.

He did not play against Virginia Tech due to the death of his mother, Deberah, but returned vs. Duke to lead the team once again with 10 tackles. A bout with mononucleosis sidelined him for the finale against Maryland, but he is expected to play in the Micronpc.com Bowl vs. Illinois. A very smart player who is still learning on the job, Isabelle led the team in tackling and tied for 14th in the ACC, averaging 8.7 stops per game. His 78 tackles were second overall on the squad. A look at his game-by-game stats are below.

              Solo   Ast.   TTL   other
N. Carolina    2      1      3    PBU
Clemson        9*     5*    14*    FR
W. Forest      7*     3     10*
BYU            7*     7*    14*   hurry
Va. Tech       DNP
Duke           5      5     10*   QBS, hurry, PBU
N.C. State     4      3      7*   FR, int.
Fla. State     4      2      6    FC
Ga. Tech       4      2      6    int.
Buffalo        5      3      8*
Maryland       DNP
* led team

Taylor Returns with a Vengeance
Linebacker Shannon Taylor sat out last season for personal reasons. But the lay-off didn't seem to be a setback based on his performance this season as he was named second-team All-ACC. He was recruited as a quarterback, but moved to linebacker shortly after his arrival in Charlottesville and has alternated between linebacker and defensive end during his career. He lettered as a linebacker in 1996 and at defensive end in 1997. A gifted athlete who excels at getting to the quarterback, he led the team with six sacks this season. He was one of the few defensive bright spots against Clemson. He tied his career high at the time with seven tackles (since broken) against the Tigers, including two stops behind the line of scrimmage. His career high for tackles didn't last long, however because he followed that with a 10-tackle performance against Wake Forest. He had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including his second sack of the season.

The big plays for Taylor continued against Brigham Young as he turned in eight tackles, including two more tackles behind the line. That marked the third game in a row Taylor had two tackles for loss.

He tied his career high with three tackles for loss against top-ranked Florida State. That is also the team high this season. Taylor led the team with six quarterback sacks and 15 tackles for lost yardage. He also led the team with 81 tackles, while finishing second in tackling behind Yubrenal Isabelle with an average of 7.4 stops per game.

Kiddie Corps Get Pickoffs
Virginia intercepted 15 passes this season, with more than half (eight) by freshmen safeties.

The safety tandem of Shernard Newby and Chris Williams (both red-shirt freshmen) teamed to intercept passes in the same game twice-North Carolina and Wake Forest. The North Carolina game was the first college game for both.

True freshman Jerton Evans intercepted a pass against Clemson in the second game of his brief college career and came back with two crucial interceptions against Brigham Young to help lead UVa to the win. Evans' first interception vs. the Cougars came in the first quarter and set up UVa's third touchdown in a 21-point first quarter, while his second pick came in the end zone with 1:37 to play in the game that ended BYU's hopes for a comeback win. Evans intercepted Florida State's Chris Weinke late in the first quarter for his fourth interception of the season, which ties the school record for most interceptions by a true freshman. Kevin Cook had four in 1986. Evans is just the second true freshman to lead the team in interceptions. Carl Smith (no relation to the former football player who gave the donation to expand UVa's football stadium) tied for the team lead with two in 1991.

Greene Sends Kickoffs to the End Zone
For the second year in a row, David Greene is handling the kick-off duties for the Cavaliers, while Todd Braverman is the kicker for field goals and extra points. Greene possesses the stronger leg, which makes him the ideal kick-off man. Last season in his first action, he did all the kicking off. In 59 kickoffs he had 14 touchbacks, while typically placing the ball deep.

Showing off added strength and a year's experience, Greene has boomed 40 of 63 kickoffs this season into the endzone, resulting in 26 touchbacks. The opponents are averaging 21.6 yards per return against UVa's kickoff coverage team.

Braverman Boots 50-Yard Winner
Place-kickers live a strange existence, always walking on the cusp between hero and goat. Over the last two seasons Todd Braverman can surely attest to the fine line kickers walk.

Last season he booted a 30-yard field goal with 49 seconds remaining to defeat Clemson 20-18 in the season's third week. But from that point on, the up-and-down nature of kickers seemed to be mostly down for him. He missed a field goal that could have sent the Georgia Tech game into overtime, but to be fair it was from 54-yards out and didn't miss by much. He then missed an extra point and a 48-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the Peach Bowl loss to Georgia. The field goal, if good, would have won it for Virginia, but instead the ball drifted wide right. (Braverman shouldn't be blamed for either loss as Virginia held 21-point leads in both contests.)

The uncertainty of his position continued into this preseason and he wasn't announced as the kicker for this season until the week of the North Carolina game. But things swung upward for Braverman when he was named the starter. He wasted little time justifying Welsh's decision and erasing the memories of last season in the opener against North Carolina with two field goals against the Tar Heels. Called on to be the hero, Braverman answered the call with a 50-yard boot with 27.4 seconds remaining to give Virginia a 20-17 victory. The kick didn't clear the crossbar by much, but it was enough to make Braverman the sixth kicker in school history to make a 50-yarder. His 50-yard victory kick vs. the Tar Heels is the longest game-winning field goal in school history.

He made 33 of34 extra points and eight of 11 field goal attempts this season, while finishing second on the team in scoring with 57 points. He had a streak of 70 consecutive successful PATs end against Buffalo. Building a different streak, Braverman has made his last four field goal attempts and five of his last six.