Matt Schaub, the ACC's leading passer a year ago, returned to the lineup last week for the first time in almost a month to lead the Cavaliers back in the fourth quarter over Wake Forest, 27-24. Like the Tar Heels, UVA features one of the youngest teams in the nation. UVA head coach Al Groh was an assistant coach under Bill Dooley from 1973-77.
The Cavs have won 12 of the last 16 contests against Carolina and one of the keys to their success has been an ability to keep the Tar Heel offense in check. Since 1979, UNC has scored more than 27 points just twice (1997, 2001).
For the second week in a row, the Tar Heels will face a top caliber quarterback. Matt Schaub (6-5, 240, Sr.) completed 30 of 45 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns versus the Demon Deacons, putting aside any questions about his current health. He has thrown a touchdown pass in 15 of his last 16 appearances. Schaub, touted as a Heisman Trophy Candidate by the Virginia athletic department, injured his shoulder in the very first series of the season opener versus Duke. Marques Hagans (5-10, 207, So.) and Anthony Martinez (6-3, 249, Fr.) have proved themselves as more than adequate backups should Schaub suffer another injury.
Virginia gained 229 yards on the ground last year versus Carolina, a feat they have not topped since, although they have rushed for over 200 yards twice since. Wali Lundy (6-1, 212, So.) leads the ACC and is ranked 26th nationally in rushing with an average of 95.2 yards per game. He is coming off his a career-high 137 yards last week against the Deacons. It was his second 100-yard game in a row and sixth overall. Alvin Pearman (5-10, 198, Jr.) missed the final four games of 2002 with a knee injury and had surgery in the off-season. However, he appears to be good as new. In his first action back against the Blue Devils, Pearman gained 68 yards at a 5.2 yards per carry clip. He led the Cavaliers with 91yars at South Carolina that included a 34-yard breakaway touchdown run in the second quarter. Fullback Kase Luzar (6-2, 236, Sr.) is a excellent blocker that will also see action at tight end.
Billy McMullen, the second-most prolific receiver in ACC history with 210 receptions, has graduated and moved on to the NFL. Making the transition even more difficult this year, Michael McGrew (6-2, 200, Sr.) broke his leg in training camp and will miss the entire season. Art Thomas (6-2, 205, Sr.), a converted cornerback, is the new leader with nine catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Sawyer (6-2, 209, Sr.) and Ottowa Anderson (6-0, 186. Jr.) have eight receptions apiece. Anderson is averaging a team-best 17.1 yards per reception, while Sawyer is averaging 9.2 yards.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise to Groh and his staff last year was the performance of an offensive line that included two freshmen and two sophomore starters. D'Brickshaw Ferguson (6-5, 265, So.), a Freshman All-America, and Brad Butler (6-8, 274, So.) bring that experience to this years offensive front. Elton Brown (6-6, 333, Jr.) returns at the right guard spot, while Brian Barthelmes (6-7, 286, So.) mans the left guard spot. Centers' Zac Yarbrough (6-4, 275, Jr.) and Kevin Bailey (6-6, 293, Sr.) are both returning from off-season surgeries.
Heath Miller 6-5, 254, So.), the current ACC Lineman of the Week, exploded onto the scene with an outstanding freshman season a year ago when he earned Freshman All-America honors. He set an ACC record for a tight end with nine touchdown receptions, the best of any tight end in the nation. Last week versus Wake, Miller made a spectacular touchdown grab in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 21-21. He recorded a game-high 94 yards on seven catches. He had a 15-yard reception on the final drive of the game which set up the game winning field goal.
Six of the top seven linemen from last fall return, including all three starters. Chris Canty (6-7, 280, Jr.) is a rising star who is healthy this season after missing three games last season. He is tied with fellow end Brennan Schmidt (6-3, 269, So.) for the team lead in sacks. Nose tackle Andrew Hoffman (6-5, 285, Jr.) is averaging 6.3 tackles per game.
Reigning NCAA Defensive Rookie of the Year Darryl Blackstock (6-4, 230, So.) burst onto the national scene last year and led the nation's freshman defenders with 10 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Joining him are returning veterans Raymond Mann (6-1, 233, Jr.) and Rich Bedesem (6-52, 2332, Jr.). Ahmad Brooks (6-4, 249 Fr.) has moved ahead of Bryan White (6-2, 227, Jr.).
In the Cavs' 59-16 win over Western Michigan, they returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Captain Almondo "Muffin" Curry (5-8, 175, Sr.), Ronald Curry's cousin, is almost always the smallest player on the field. However, don't let his lack of size fool you, as he is almost always around the ball to make things happen. He led ACC cornerbacks in sacks the last two season. Safety Jermaine Hardy (5-11, 208, Jr.) had been primarily a reserve corner and nickel back, and according to Groh, he is getting progressively better with each game he plays. Jamaine Winborne (5-10, 202, Sr.) and Jay Dorsey (6-2, 191, Jr.) round out the starting secondary.
Kicker Connor Hughes (6-0, 178, So.) was named the ACC's Specialist of the Week, as he went 4-for-4 on field goals, including a 38-yard game winning field goal to cap the comeback win over Wake. Punter Tom Hagan (6-2, 176, So.) has a 39.6 average and dropped at least one punt inside the opponents' 20-yard line in 11 games last season. Pearman and Marquis Weeks (5-11, 210, Jr.) handle the return duties.