Virginia Excited To Face Auburn In Atlanta

Virginia will be Auburn's opponent in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve in Atlanta.

With the Sugar Bowl deciding to take Virginia Tech as an at-large selection that sets up the first match up between the Auburn Tigers (7-5) and Virginia Cavaliers (8-4) since 1998 when the two square off in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on New Year's Eve. In Coach Mike London's second season at the helm UVA made significant strides after winning just four games his first year on the job after moving over from Richmond.

"What an awesome privilege and honor it is to play in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Bowl," London said. "We had a great year and it's a great opportunity for a young team to play in the ACC. I'm very humbled that we have an opportunity to go play in Atlanta. I would like to also say what an outstanding opportunity to play the defending national champions. Coach (Gene) Chizik is last year's national coach of the year. There are so many things you can say about the Auburn program.

Starting off the year with wins over William and Mary (40-3) and Indiana (34-31), the Hoos dropped back to back decisions to North Carolina (28-17) and Southern Miss (30-24) before bouncing back with wins over Idaho and Georgia Tech (24-21). A loss at home to North Carolina State on Oct. 22 would be the last for a while for Virginia however as they bounced back from the 28-14 loss to defeat Miami, Maryland, Duke and Florida State to set up a showdown with Virginia Tech for the division title. However the Hokies won easily 38-0 to finish the regular season for the Cavaliers. London said the good thing about bowl games is the opportunity to finish out the season strong and that is the goal for his team.

"Obviously you want to finish strong against your in-state rival, but the good thing about sports is when you have the opportunity to play another game you get a short memory," London said. "You can create new memories by the opportunities that are presented. You have the opportunity to end your season on a high note. Just to end your season in a high-profile, nationally televised game against a great team it makes your season very rewarding."

Averaging 23.2 points per game and allowing 22.2 on defense, Virginia is led on offense by the running of Perry Jones and back up Kevin Parks. A speedster, the 5-8, 185 Jones has 883 yards on 176 carries this season with five touchdowns while the 5-8, 195 Parks has 661 yards on the ground with a team-high eight touchdowns. Overall the Cavaliers average 165.3 yards rushing per game and have 17 scores on the ground.

Through the air sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco (6-3, 225) completed 60.3 percent of his passes in the regular season for 2,359 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has also thrown 11 interceptions with Virginia having 15 as a team along with 15 team passing touchdowns.

Michael Rocco

Rocco's favorite target is 6-1, 200 senior Kris Burd. With 60 catches for 810 yards and a touchdown, he has 26 percent of the catches for the team this season and 29 percent of all yards.

In addition to his work in the backfield Jones is also an excellent receiver with 41 catches for 416 yards and three touchdowns. He shares the team lead in receiving touchdowns with Tim Smith. The 6-0, 185 redshirt sophomore has 33 catches for 565 yards to go with three receiving scores.

Leading the offense is the first offensive line to start every game of the season for a Virginia team since 2004. Junior tackle Oday Aboushi (6-6, 310) and guard Austin Pasztor (6-7, 305) along with center Anthony Mihota (6-4, 285) anchor the group along with a pair of sophomores on the right side. Massive tackle Morgan Moses (6-6, 335) and guard Luke Buwanko (6-6, 295) round out the starting five up front on offense.

Defensively Virginia is allowing 343.2 total yards per game this season and leading the way is the busy Steve Greer. The 6-2, 225 middle linebacker has 103 total stops in 12 games with two sacks and six tackles for a loss. Joining him in the tackling parade is outside linebacker Laroy Reynolds. The 6-2, 230 junior has 81 tackles with seven going for losses this season.

Virginia has 12 interceptions this year with nine of them coming from a trio of defenders. A 5-11, 180 safety, Rodney McLeod has four picks to lead the way while adding 55 tackles. 6-0, 185 senior Chase Minnifield, the son of former NFL standout Franke Minnifield, has three interceptions and 50 tackles while freshman Demetrius Nicholson (5-11, 165) has a pair of picks and 56 total tackles.

In the kicking game senior Robert Randolph had a very good year with 15-22 field goals and making all 29 extra-point attempts. Punter Jimmy Howell (6-6, 240, Sr.) averages 39.4 yards per punt this season with 19 downed inside the 20-yard line. The Cavaliers averaged 5.8 yards on 26 punt returns and 21.7 yards on 49 kickoff returns in 2011.

Auburn and Virginia have played just twice all-time with the Tigers winning on the road in 1997 and the Cavaliers winning in Jordan-Hare Stadium to open the 1998 season.

"When you have an opportunity to play on a national stage against a national team with such recognition and football prominence it can only help your program," London said. "That's what we're looking to do is continue to raise the profile of our program. You only do that by playing teams that are seen out there nationally. Auburn certainly is a team that has national recognition and a national brand. To have an opportunity to play them is something that is truly outstanding."

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