Week 8: Virginia

Virginia (3-5, 2-2) is coming off a 23-0 home victory over North Carolina.

Virginia Quick Facts

Location: Charlottesville, Va.
Enrollment: 20,399
Nickname: Cavaliers
School Colors: Blue & Orange
Stadium: Carl Scott Center (61,500)
Conference: ACC

Head Coach:
Al Groh
Record at UVA: 40-31 (6 seasons)
2005 Record: 7-5 (3-5)
2005 Bowl: Music City vs. Minnesota (W, 34-31)
2006 Record: 3-5 (2-2)
2006 Ranking: None

Virginia Quotables

Head Coach Al Groh
On playing N.C. State this week:
In N.C. State this week, we play a team that is the most dangerous team that we've played on a one-play at a time basis, or the most one-play explosively dangerous team that we've played in all three phases. They are a very constant threat on every special teams play. They can change the game on any one play. They have a long history of blocking punts; this year they've blocked three. In Darrell Blackman, they have a very dynamic punt return man. He returned one for a touchdown last week. So in that phase, there's concern about one—getting it protected and two—getting it covered. That could change the game in one play; that's nothing new, it's been their M.O. here for quite some time, we just haven't had to deal with it in two and a half seasons.

Offensively, this is certainly the best two-back stable of runners that we've faced, in (Andre) Brown and (Tony) Baker, who are terrific players; we certainly are familiar with them from way back when. Brown is averaging in something to excess of six yards per carry, which is phenomenal. He's a size back, but he's really a make'em-miss back. If he were a baseball pitcher, he'd be throwing a lot of curveballs and sliders. Tony Baker just comes at you fast and furious. He's got a lot of movement skills. He is tough, he is strong, he's a very, very good player. Each back in his own right is a 30-35 carries per game player, they just divide it up amongst themselves. The receiving corps, as a group, would probably be the fastest relay team that we've played against this year. Is there a Calvin Johnson in the group? Not likely, but as a group they can put four out there that could probably outrun any four that we've played against this year. The two defensive tackles, Tank (Tyler) and DeMario (Pressley), they're really good, and they've got speed off the edge like they've always had. On any one particular play, I would certainly say they're a greater threat to do something to disrupt the game as a team on any one particular play.

It's a big challenge for our team. Certainly from a focus standpoint every player on every unit on every play has got to be on his game on that play or else we're likely to have a play that could be just one of those few plays in the game that makes it very difficult to win the game. We've got a lot to deal with here, we're doing a little bit better than we've done. We've still got a lot of things we have to do better. We started to address those things yesterday and hopefully the message is getting through.

How much focus is put on N.C. State's past since you haven't played them in several years?
We try to keep as much as we can. Obviously the teams on our schedule get the majority of our attention, but we try to keep a running book on all the teams in the conference, so that they are conference opponents when we play them rather than being any different than any non-conference team. For example, Clemson. We're trying to pay very close attention to Clemson; not just as fans, but as members of the conference. I haven't even looked at the schedule to know when they're coming back on, but they will here one of these days and we want to have a working knowledge base on their style of play, so we try to do the same thing with N.C. State.

If N.C. State seems to be so explosive on both sides of the ball, they why aren't they in the top 25 and 6-1 or 7-0?
Same answers that apply to all teams. They've had difficulty with turnovers as they did last week, they've been unsettled at quarterback, and they've gotten untimely penalties.

Talk about N.C. State's ability to block punts and preparing punter Ryan Weigand:
Thursday night's game was not a game where the opponent's approach was to heavily pressure. It was probably a good game for him to break in with. But that was all very good, obviously. We tried to ramp up the pressure last night, try to make it look a lot closer to what we expect it to be on Saturday.

How encouraging is it, even after a shaky start, that you find yourself essentially only one game out of first place in the division?
It's one of the things that's a great benefit of how the conference is lined up right now. Teams that look at the makeup of their team go into a season and when the team looks at itself, it can reasonably say that they have a good chance to be better at the end of the season than they are at the first of the season. It's how they performed, you can work your way through the first part of the season and continue to improve and other things within the conference help position you such, that you got a chance to be in the race at the end of the season. That's why a couple years ago when asked, we said the way the conference had become aligned with two divisions, the whole emphasis is on winning your division. Regardless of what precedes it, if you can win your division, you're in the final game. And if you're in the final game, whether you're 5-6 or 6-5 or 7-4 or whatever it is, if you're in the championship game and you win one more game, then you're in the playoffs. It certainly adds a lot to it and keeps things interesting for teams and for fans. If the goal is to win your conference every year, just chase that divisional lead and you've got a chance to stay in the hunt. It certainly should be motivating for teams.

N.C. State is 2-2 in the conference with big wins over Florida State and Boston College and losses to Wake Forest and Maryland last week. Obviously they have some mistakes thrown in there that have hurt them, but are they a good example of how conference teams are just beating up on each other?
I'm sure they would feel that way. If you have wins over those two teams (Boston College and Florida State), one that is traditionally strong and one of most talented teams in the conference and a team that sits on top of its division, it certainly shows at their best what they can be. At their best, they've proven against the best the conference has to offer right now, they're hard to beat.

You've played a lot of true freshmen, particularly in 2002 This is probably your youngest team across the board. Have you had to balance trying to win this year with laying a foundation for the future? What challenges does that present?
We've had seasons where we've played nine or 10 freshmen and we were actually a more veteran team than we are now. We're really only playing Fontel (Mines), Deyon (Williams), Jason (Snelling), (Marcus) Hamilton, on a rotating basis (Tony) Franklin, four or five seniors to any high level of minutes and two of those spots with Williams back from his injury and Franklin, they actually rotate into their positions. So even though we're using very few true freshmen this year, it's, if not our youngest team in that context, it's our most inexperienced team.

One of the things we tried to make sure that we do is to make sure the freshman class gets the message about some of the really important things of what it takes to win and how to be prepared and what the future holds, that they're tuned into everything as if they were getting ready for the games. The hope is that they're learning by being around it because they will be in it to a high degree next year. We've tried to keep them very much included almost as if they were playing knowing some of them are of the ability level that they will be in the action early next year, they could be playing next year. There are a couple of them at some of the positions where we're asking some guys to do iron man duty. We could be playing some of these players to help us out in that circumstance but we just took an approach here to, certainly not to undersell what we could this year, but to certainly make an investment in the long term and to have the discipline to avoid a season where some of these players might have 65-70 plays as opposed to a year in the future where they might have 400-500 plays. Now if the makeup of the team was that those 65-70 plays might put us over the edge, could have made us a dominant team and give us an even stronger run at the title, then we might have done that.

You were in on the recruiting of N.C. State tailback Tony Baker until the very end. What about Andre Brown?
We were involved very aggressively recruiting Andre and then he ended up spending the next year at Hargrave and going on down to State. Like I said earlier, we are well acquainted with those two players from way back when.

As a coach, how do you address issues such as dropped passes and mistakes similar to that?
I don't think you can look the other way. There were a number of items from the game last week, if we're going to play better, that we can't continue to have. We have to catch the ball more efficiently; we left, I would say through a number of circumstances, at least four touchdowns on the field last week. Either from a protection standpoint as well from a catch the ball area, we had far too many penalties last week. Those are two things in particular if you go back and look at any team in the closely matched games at this time of year the way that games turn out, those two things explain things as much as who is superior in running or defending the run. You have to be able to take advantage of your opportunities when you have them. Scores are hard to come by, when you create some looks that give you a good shot to get in the end zone, if you don't get it there, those looks aren't something that come back in a game. When the ball is going in the wrong direction through your own efforts and not the other teams, those are things that are hard to overcome. We have to get those viruses out of our system this week, or else if we're still afflicted with them on Saturday we are in trouble.

What is your feeling about the option play and how much would you consider using it?
We ran it two or three times the week before, we ran it last week. You know its there. It's three things: it's the right circumstance, what defenses we think we might get, as it is with a lot of plays, what is the feeling at the moment, what is the sense of the right circumstance.

What do you remember about the 51-37 2002 game against N.C. State?
I remember that those two quarterbacks (Matt Schaub and Philip Rivers) have confirmed why that game, actually the score was 37-37 with 45 seconds left, they both have pretty much gone on to show why nobody could cool them off that particular day. That was one where there was this sense that developed that you couldn't miss too many chances in that one because that was probably the way it was going to go.

Chris Long has said that he earlier this season he needed to start practicing smarter. What are your thoughts on his development and this type of mindset?
I think that it is certainly a phase that you hope players move into as they mature as a player. That is a very good sign of his maturity and the results are there to show his maturity. If you have seen him in practice or had a conversation with Chris, you would see that he is wired pretty hot. He is a total effort player in all phases of things: training, practice, games. When he first started practicing here it was like a dog chasing cars. It was all effort, but he has learned how to direct and focus that effort toward things that will result in performance. I think that is what he was referring to. He has a plan now for everything, 'this is what I have to get better at today', 'these are the things I have to look for in the game.'

This game has important standings implications for both teams, does that make the game more competitive?
I would certainly think so. Although our focus on this one isn't long term, it is specifically on how are we going to beat these guys collectively. And for each of our players how is he going to beat the guy across from him. To look much further than that would probably be self-defeating.

N.C. State's leading receiver in TE Anthony Hill, how does the Wolfpack's emphasis on tight end production mirror what is done at Virginia?
A lot of teams in this league make good use of the tight end, but I don't recall here recently, besides ourselves, where the tight end is the leading receiver. He's the leading receiver in terms of catches, a very adept pass receiver. When you look at his numbers, 6-5, 273, you don't expect to see the type of athletic ability that you do but he is a very athletic player. And he has caught his share of vertical passes. He had one last week, one the week before, one against Wake Forest down in the corner. They use him in a very diversified way and once he gets into the secondary he is a very difficult matchup from a size standpoint for guys with safety size to knock him off the ball.

Jameel Sewell looks as though he has gained a certain level of comfort in the last couple games, how would you assess his progress?
He does look more comfortable. We have talked about other players of this nature, another player from his school has been this way, Jeffrey [Fitzgerald]. Certain players demonstrate a capacity to take their experiences and really move along quickly with them and other players take more time. It sometimes appears to be the more athletically gifted player, that is just the start, those athletic gifts have to be there just to put them on the starting line. But where they progress from there really applies to the intangibles. It really applies to anything. You can point too fairly intelligent young people in their first grade class and they are both going to end up being equally sharp but at one particular point one child learns to read faster than the other. And the same thing happens with football players. Some guys just get it faster than others. Thus the term 'quick study.'

With the offensive line's continued development, does the whole unit only progress as fast as the slowest progressing player?
Well, there is no doubt with that group that one guy can hold the whole deal back. More than saying it that way, I would say that to progress to a certain point, they all need to move along together, or they need to get to a certain point where you can expect a particular level of performance on an ongoing basis and until you can say each one of them has gotten to that point you are going to still have this stop-start-sputter-go fast routine. And we still experience that whether it's in the games or whether its in practice. We had the circumstance last week where we had the ball two times in plus territory where we had two penalties and the best we could get out of it was a field goal. Both came with the personnel you are talking about.

Is this one of those year's that makes you love coaching, the chance to mold players for the future?
For its challenges, or its other emotions that it brings, it is one of those years. This project will go on for a while. I think because of the talent base that is on the team particularly with the young classes, you can see the picture when it is done and the chance to do that. It is certainly stimulating in that respect.

Virginia Scouting Report

Jameel Sewell, QB -- Sewell has completed 81-of-139 passes for 803 yards and five touchdowns on the season. He's thrown three interceptions, but he is now doing a better job of managing the game and finding his open receivers. The light appears to be coming on for him, and his emergence gives UVA fans a hope for the future. With just two senior starters on offense, Sewell's play could signal the start of something special in Charlottesville. NC State fans are hoping his play will drop off this weekend against the Wolfpack.

Kevin Snelling, RB -- Snelling is really starting to pick it up after a slow start to the season. A bullish tailback who can wear down defenses, in the last four weeks, he has rushed for 407 yards, three touchdowns and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

Snelling ranks fifth in the ACC with an average of 76.4 yards per game and has accounted for 63.8 percent of Virginia's total this season.

In his career, Snelling has rushed for 1087 yards to become the 35th Cavalier to rush for at least 1000 yards in his career; he ranks 35th on UVa's all-time list.

Kevin Ogletree, WR -- This has been a breakout season for Ogletree. After starter Deyon Williams was sidelined prior to the season with an injury, Ogletree had to step up and he's done that.

Ogletree is Virginia's leading receiver with 36 receptions for 425 yards and four touchdowns. He ranks second in the ACC in receptions (4.50/g) and fourth in yards with an average of 53.1 ypg.

Chris Long, DE -- Long entered this year with high expecations, as he was the lone returning starter from last year's defensive line and tabbed a preseason first-team All-American by Street & Smith's. He hasn't disappointed.

Through eight games, he has tallied 40 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, four quarterback pressures and a forced fumble. He is being double-teamed on every play, but his relentless motor and outstanding athleticism allows him to still make plays.

Jeffrey Fitzgerald, DE -- Perhaps the biggest surprise on UVA's roster has been Fitzgerald.

A redshirt freshman from Richmond, Fitzgerald has totaled 44 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, six quarterback pressures, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a forced fumble.

Marcus Hamilton, DB -- A playmaker at cornerback, Hamilton is one of the league's best as he has already recorded four picks this season.

Hamilton now has 14 career interceptions and ranks third in the nation among active players. He is also tied for 15th in ACC history in interceptions and tied for fourth in UVa history.

Virginia Game Notes

Slowing State's Ground Game Leads to Wins
The Cavaliers' ability to contain the N.C. State rushing attack has been one of the factors enabling them to win six of the last nine games against the Wolfpack.

Virginia has won all nine meetings against the Wolfpack going back to World War II when holding them to fewer than 100 yards rushing. The only time in the modern day history of the series (since 1937), N.C. State won when rushing for fewer than 100 yards occurred in 1944 when the Wolfpack gained just 10 yards and won one of the oddest games in college football history. In fact, that game is the only time in series history State rushed for fewer than 125 yards and still won.

Conversely, the Wolfpack have won 17 of the 18 games since 1937 when they have rushed for at least 200 yards. The only time N.C. State rushed for at least 200 yards and failed to win occurred in 1998 as Ray Robinson gained 202 of State's 211 yards in a 23-13 loss to the Cavaliers.

Turnovers Make a Difference for UVa
Coaches often cite turnovers as one of the keys to a team's success in any particular game. And the rivalry between Virginia and N.C. State is a good example of this coaching philosophy.

Since 1983, the Cavaliers are 10-2 vs. the Wolfpack when committing fewer turnovers. (The losses occurred in 1997 and 2001.) N.C. State, on the other hand, is just 3-3 (.500) when it commits fewer turnovers.

There have been three games since 1983 (‘85, ‘90, ‘03) where the teams had equal turnovers; UVa's won only the 1990 game. Virginia has not committed a turnover four times since 1983 (‘84, ‘96, ‘98, ‘00), while State has had at least one turnover every year since 1963 (39 games).

In fact, Virginia has committed only eight turnovers in the last nine meetings, while the Wolfpack has turned the ball over 20 times in that span.

Cavalier passers have thrown just eight interceptions in the last 15 games, while N.C. State has thrown 20. Virginia has intercepted at least one pass in 21 of the last 24 meetings (all but ‘85, ‘93 and ‘03).

Grinding Out the Yards
Virginia has had at least one 100-yard rusher in eight of the last 12 games against N.C. State and have gained at least 200 yards rushing in 10 of the last 14 games against the Wolfpack. When outrushing the Wolfpack, Virginia is 15-6 since 1944.

Meanwhile the team with the most rushing yards has won the last nine meetings and 41 of 48 games since 1944. At one point the team with the most rushing yards won 18 consecutive games between 1963-82. In their last six wins over N.C. State going back to 1995, the Cavaliers have averaged 231.8 yards rushing per game.

On the other hand, the Wolfpack has gained more than 200 yards only twice since 1981 (1997, ‘98). The 1993 game, a 34-29 N.C. State victory, saw a first in Virginia history. It was the first time the Cavaliers had two 100-yard rushers (Kevin Brooks, Jerrod Washington), a quarterback throw for 200 yards (Symmion Willis) and a 100-yard receiver (Patrick Jeffers) in the same game.

Williams Scores First TD of the Season
After missing almost all of training camp and the first third of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot, wide receiver Deyon Williams made his first big contribution against East Carolina two weeks ago. He returned late last month in limited action vs. Duke, catching one pass for four yards.

In the East Carolina game he scored the Cavaliers' first touchdown by pulling in a 22-yard scoring toss from fellow wide receiver Emmanuel Byers. For the game he caught three passes for a team-leading 38 yards.

His touchdown is the 10th of his career as he becomes the 14th Cavalier with at least 10 touchdown receptions in his career. Williams also has 94 career receptions (15th all-time at UVa) and needs six catches to become the 14th Cavalier to catch 100.

Tight End U.
Under head coach Al Groh, Virginia is becoming known as "Tight End U." Heath Miller won the Mackey Trophy as the nation's top tight end in 2004 and was a first-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile Patrick Estes was a seventh round choice by the San Francisco 49ers. This year's roster features three talented tight ends who all provide an extra dimension to the offense.

Junior Jonathan Stupar started eight games last season and finished fifth among ACC TEs with 24 receptions for 319 yards. Seventeen of his 24 catches (.708) resulted in either a first down or touchdown, the team's best percentage. His classmate Tom Santi started seven games and finished with 19 receptions for 358 yards. His 18.8-yard average was the third-best in the ACC and tops among tight ends. He had a huge performance in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, his hometown, with five receptions for 128 yards. John Phillips played in every game as a true freshman in 2005, primarily as a blocker, but he caught two passes, including one for a touchdown.

Santi has been the team's leading receiver twice this season, Pittsburgh and Western Michigan. Against Western Michigan he tied his career high with seven receptions for 78 yards. In the opener at Pitt he also caught seven balls for 31 yards. He scored his first touchdown reception on a 12-yard pass from Jameel Sewell against Duke last month. Santi leads ACC tight ends (and is tied for 14th nationally) with 24 catches and is second (by a yard) among tight ends with 219 yards.

The sure-handed Stupar has caught five passes for 53 yards this season, while Phillips had his first reception (a 21-yarder) vs. Duke.

In Groh 's six years at Vi rginia, tight ends have combined for 300 receptions for 3549 yards and 30 touchdowns, more than any other team in the ACC in that time.

Cook Makes Big Plays in Secondary
Sophomore cornerback Chris Cook came along quickly as a true freshman last season and worked his way into the starting line-up in the fifth game against Boston College. His first start in that game, while memorable, isn't one he'd like to repeat. He broke his leg in the game and missed the rest of the season.

He saw a little action in the secondary in the Pittsburgh game and Al Groh said he wanted to get the Lynchburg, Va., native into the game more the following week against Wyoming. Groh was true to his word as Cook started for the first time since the BC game. Cook responded with a game-high 12 tackles, five more than his career total coming into the game. His tackle statistics vs. the Cowboys are the most by a UVa cornerback since Ronde Barber made 15 stops against Florida State in 1994.

In the shutout of North Carolina last Thursday, Cook led the team with nine tackles. He also intercepted a pass that led to a touchdown and caused a fumble. For his all around excellent effort he was named the team's Defensive Player of the Week by head coach Al Groh.

Cook is averaging 5.5 tackles per game, tied for second on the team, and is second among ACC cornerbacks in tackling. In seven starts this fall, he is averaging 6.1 tackles per game.

Defense Gives Up Fewer Than It Seems
Virginia is allowing the opposition an average of 18.8 points per game which ranks 38th in the nation. However, it is necessary to look a little closer at this figure as circumstances make it more deceptive.

The opponents have scored 19 touchdowns this season but four have been interception returns against the offense and other as a result of a special teams miscue that set up a 1-yard scoring drive. But for these scores, the defense would be allowing an average of 14.4 points per game.

In two losses this season, Virginia has given up nondefensive points that spelled the difference in the outcome. Western Michigan returned an interception for a score and used another pickoff to set up a 21-yard touchdown drive on the way to a 17-10 victory. Offensively the Broncos were p retty much shut down, gaining only 179 yards of off e n s e . The loss to Maryland it was much the same. The Terrapins rallied from a 20-0 halftime deficit to win 28-26. The Terps returned one interception for a touchdown, recovered a fumbled punt on the 1-yard line to set up a second TD and scored a third TD when a shanked punt gave them possession on the 31-yard line. So for just 32 yards of offense, they scored 21 points.

Virginia Depth Chart


Pos No Name Ht Wt Yr

WR 20 Kevin Ogletree 6-2 189 So.

81 Deyon Williams 6-3 196 Sr.

LT 76 Zak Stair 6-6 298 So.

75 Eugene Monroe 6-6 315 So.

LG 71 Branden Albert 6-7 315 So.

79 Gordie Sammis 6-4 289 Sr.

C 63 Jordy Lipsey 6-3 280 Jr.

77 Ian-Yates Cunningham 6-3 290 Jr.

RG 77 Ian-Yates Cunningham 6-3 290 Jr.

78 Marshal Ausberry 6-5 314 Jr.

RT 61 Will Barker 6-7 306 Fr.

76 Zak Stair 6-6 298 So.

TE 86 Tom Santi 6-5 250 Jr.

88 Jonathan Stupar 6-3 254 Jr.

85 John Phillips 6-6 257 So.

QB 10 Jameel Sewell 6-3 219 Fr.

11 Christian Olsen (capt.) 6-3 222 Sr.

13 Kevin McCabe 6-2 217 Jr.

TB 38 Jason Snelling 5-11 232 Sr.

5 Mikell Simpson 6-1 197 Fr.

37 Cedric Peerman 5-10 205 So.

FB 25 Josh Zidenberg 6-0 213 Jr.

33 Cain Ringstaff 5-9 210 Fr.

WR 84 Fontel Mines 6-4 220 Sr.

80 Maurice Covington 6-4 215 So.


Pos No Name Ht Wt Yr

DE 95 Jeffrey Fitzgerald 6-3 279 Fr.

93 Alex Field 6-7 288 So.

60 Kevin Crawford 6-3 284 Fr.

NT 94 Allen Billyk 6-4 287 Jr.

98 Nate Collins 6-2 281 Fr.

92 Keenan Carter 6-2 308 Jr.

DE 91 Chris Long (capt.) 6-4 284 Jr.

90 Jason Fuller 6-5 258 Fr.

OLB 51 Clint Sintim 6-3 256 So.

41 Aaron Clark 6-5 254 So.

ILB 54 Jon Copper 6-0 232 So.

31 Rashawn Jackson 6-1 254 Fr.

ILB 58 Antonio Appleby 6-4 248 So.

49 Darren Childs 6-1 238 Fr.

OLB 57 Jermaine Dias 6-1 237 Jr.

52 Marvin Richardson 6-3 243 Jr.

CB 3 Marcus Hamilton (capt.) 5-11 198 Sr.

28 Mike Brown 5-9 180 So.

4 Vic Hall 5-9 184 Fr.

S 22 Byron Glaspy 5-11 203 So.

23 Tony Franklin 5-10 184 Sr.

CB 26 Chris Cook 6-2 204 So.

39 Chris Gorham 6-0 193 Jr.

S 30 Nate Lyles 6-0 203 Jr.

27 Jamaal Jackson 6-3 212 Jr.


PK 9 Chris Gould 6-1 204 Jr.

8 Noah Greenbaum 5-10 189 Sr.

KO 9 Chris Gould 6-1 204 Jr.

P 16 Ryan Weigand 6-2 181 Jr.

or 9 Chris Gould 6-1 204 Jr.

H 14 John Phillips 6-2 188 Jr.

LS 46 Tyrus Gardner 6-1 239 Jr.

88 Jonathan Stupar 6-3 254 Jr.

KOR 37 Cedric Peerman 5-10 205 So.

23 Tony Franklin 5-10 184 Sr.

2 Michael Johnson 5-9 191 Sr.

PR 28 Mike Brown 5-9 180 So.

19 Emmanuel Byers 5-9 192 Jr.

2 Michael Johnson 5-9 191 Sr.

Virginia media relations contributed to this report.

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