Cavs Look to Rebound

Injuries and disappointment have plagued the first half of Virginia's season. A lack of both has made for a dream start by Florida State.


The Seminoles (5-0) say they are wary about their trip to Charlottesville Saturday night to tangle with an ill-omened Virginia team despite the bad fortunes of the Cavaliers (3-2) thus far.

"You're probably looking at a desperate team," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "I expect their best shot."

Virginia is stumbling home after consecutive road defeats at Maryland and Boston College, the latter of which was pocked with controversy. Tackle Brad Butler, who has made 31 consecutive starts, will not play Saturday – Virginia coach Al Groh suspended the senior this week after watching film of his after-the-whistle shot at the knees of BC's Mathias Kiwanuka.

The Cavs will also be without all-American tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who is battling a knee sprain. Cornerback Chris Cook (broken leg) and linebacker Jermaine Dias (ankle) will also be held out.

All-ACC linebacker Ahmad Brooks (ankle) played last week for the first time this season and is still working into game shape.

Virginia will try to avoid losing three straight for the first time since 2001 in the face of this adversity.

"Thing have been rough on them this season," FSU tailback Lorenzo Booker said. "But beating us will make that all go away. They'll be able to hold their heads high again."

The situation almost resembles 1995, when the Cavs became the first ACC team to hand FSU defeat. Virginia had lost tight games at Michigan and Texas prior to dethroning the Seminoles by a score of 33-28.

Virginia coach Al Groh hesitated to identify the contest as a statement game.

"I think you make statements with your final record," Groh said. "If we go out and win it and then lose the following week, it would be a pretty hollow statement. It's where you finish in the league standings that will make the statement."

The Cavs still have and outside shot at playing for the conference title – Virginia finishes the season with contests against the four teams it trails in the Coastal Division.

FSU, meanwhile, has a firm grasp on the Atlantic Division. Its 3-0 ACC record is one-game better than 2-1 teams Boston College and Maryland.

"This might be their Super Bowl or their ACC Championship game," FSU linebacker Ernie Sims said. "We have an idea about how they are going to respond. They are going to look at us like the top dog right now – which we are – and they're going to be hungry to knock us off.

"We're in a place right now where everyone is going to be shooting at us."

RALLYING AROUND BUTLER

Two journalists named Butler's hit "the dirtiest play in college football history" in columns during the past week. Judge for yourself – cut and paste the link.

filebox.vt.edu/users/nvp1986/CheapShotUVa_Kiwi.wmv

Virginia players have rallied around Butler, pointing to his squeaky-clean track record and the fact that BC took several shots at the knees of UVA's linebackers in the game.

"I was upset when I heard that Brad was suspended because he had done such an awesome job of containing [Kiwanuka] the whole game," center Jordy Lipsey told the Daily Progress. "I don't think there was anything wrong with what Brad did. He was playing hard and he was hyped up because he was doing a good job against the best defensive end in the country."

Call it football being football, wrote Mac McDonald, the voice of the Cavs.

"The game was intense," Groh said in his weekly Cavalier Conference. "All day there were people blocking downfield, being aggressive. It was a competitive game. I think Brad made a bad decision and was over exuberant. I don't want to use the word suspension. I would rather just say it is not appropriate that Brad play in this game."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"They're kind of back to that old Florida State, NASCAR offense, 'Gentlemen, start your engines. They run four of them down the field as fast as they can run, he throws it up, and one of them makes a play." - Groh

Groh Q and A

(by UVA SID)

Is this the most dangerous, hardest to defend offense that you see?

Certainly, this is one of the more challenging offensive sets, of the ones that we've faced, just from a match-up standpoint, that we've faced, I would say, during our time here, especially when they're in a four wide receiver set. And, that spreads it out and isolates Booker and Washington, and they're dynamic players, as their careers would attest. I mean, they're really dynamic players. And, so now they get them the kind of space coming out of the backfield, that you'd have to do an awful lot of work to get them into, just by handing them the ball. You know, you have to block a lot of guys and run past a lot of guys to get to the same place. They just go out there, boom, they get them the ball, and now they're one-on-one with a linebacker. It's good.

What did Wake Forest do to stay competitive in that football game last weekend?

Well, they ran the ball very well on them, as Wake Forest often does with their scheme, as they seem to do every year better than anybody against Florida State. They've given Florida State a lot of difficulties with their offensive scheme. It's quite a bit different than what you face on an ongoing basis. They certainly challenged us significantly when we played against them. Florida State was starting to pull away with the game. They had an opportunity at the half to go up by 20. I think they had the ball around the 13-yard line. They got a penalty, and they got thrown out of field goal rage. So, instead of having an opportunity to go up by really multiple scores, eventually the margin closed down, and then they kind of sent them up the field, threw it deep, and all of a sudden the margin stretched out again.

Given the injuries that you've had with this team, is it a challenge to convince your guys, this week, that you can play with a Florida State and beat them?

Well, I think in a lot of circumstances, that as much as what's said, the players take their reading off the demeanor of the coaches, and particularly the head coach. So, I'm excited about the opportunity and the challenge. I'm ready to take on another battle. So, I hope that they'll get that reading.

The past few games, it seems like Wali Lundy has gotten a few carries in the first half, and not many after that. Has that been the case?

Well, we're just trying to find the hot player. In most of these last couple games, when Michael Johnson has come in, he's seemed to have given us a little bit of a spark, so we've given him the principle amount of carries as the game has gone on.

It seems like there's one or two games a year where you can really make a statement about your program.

No, I've said this before; I think you make statements by your final record. We had a couple evidences over the last few years of teams that beat Miami or Florida State, so everybody claimed it was a statement, whether it was the press or the players or whatever. And, then they lost the next week, and it was a pretty hollow statement. I mean, what did the statement accomplish. I think it's where you finish in your league standings that determines what kind of statement you make.

Have you been surprised that you've been able to run the ball as well as you have, considering the problems you've had on the offensive line?

I'm surprised with the numbers, because when I look at the overall running game, it still doesn't have the rhythm and precision, and in synch the way it's supposed to look. We're gaining some yards-those numbers last week, whatever it was, 155 against the second ranked rush defense going into the game-on paper, they look like pretty good numbers. But, with my own eyes, the running game didn't look the way I'd like it to look.

I know you love talking about injuries, but has this team suffered an inordinate amount of injuries?

It's not that I don't like talking about injuries. It's one, I don't like making excuses, and two, I think when you harp on the fact that a certain player's not in the game, you're doing a disservice to the kid that you put in who's giving you everything that he has, when all you keep talking about is that you wish that the other guy was there. I think that's a disservice to your players. And, eventually, every team has got to face something, and you might as well buck up and do it. Do we have a few more players missing from our lineup than would be to our advantage? Yes. Is that a way to put a positive spin on the answer?

Being home for a night game, does that give you a little extra push?

Yeah, it should. We're certainly expecting it to be a more positive environment for us than it was down there last year. So, that's a good trade-off. We hope we can make a compete trade. Anybody who was at that game last year as a spectator should have a pretty accurate standard of measure about, you know, what a really dynamic night atmosphere is. We had that up here two years ago when we had a Saturday night game, so we're hoping that we can re-capture that.

Is there any added pressure on your team with all the hoopla for the celebration of the 1995 Virginia team?

No, that was a different era; that was a different team. None whatsoever. I'm glad that we're honoring them. They deserve to be honored. And, they deserve to be honored, not because they won that game [against Florida State], I think that should be made very definite. They deserve not to be honored because they won that game. They deserve to be honored because they won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. That's the statement that they really made-that they were the ACC Champions. And, so, that type of legacy is terrific to have. We're glad that they're coming back. We want to emulate what they did. But, that was a different team in a different era. I don't think it's going to have any impact on our performance in this game.

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