With all this talk about ACC expansion and scheduling, do you have an idea which teams you will play every year?
Groh: I'm pretty certain that [Virginia Tech] will be one of our designated games. I think in many cases, particularly in our circumstance- a team that's been in the conference for a while, who are our other designated games is probably strictly up to us because other teams have some games they want to keep going too. I would imagine that two of the teams the conference would consider giving us as designated games to go along with Virginia Tech would be Maryland and North Carolina. Those are two long-standing border rivals of Virginia.
How did it look to you in the second half that QB Matt Schaub didn't have quite as much zip on the ball?
Groh: I figure he might have gotten a little arm weary. For whatever all of this means, I can't tell you that I necessarily could explain it to you, but with knees and shoulders, the medical people like to talk in terms of first, second, and third degree- third being the most serious. When the injury occurred, I was told that it was a third degree separation. I know that it was severe enough that the option of surgery had to be considered. Obviously that wasn't deemed to be necessary, but that wouldn't have been considered if it was a separation of the slightest degree. That being said, I think, perhaps, that he didn't have as much steam as he normally would. Although I thought he had a lot on a few balls. He threw a lot of balls during the course of the game. Technically he was only out for two games, but he really hadn't played in full speed action since last December. I don't really count 11 plays as being a game. So this is the first time that he was really going at that speed, and trying to have a pretty up-tempo practice is not quite the same. Get the looks, make the decisions, get the ball there, so all things considered for his first outing with his own teammates and against players who have been in games for a month, he was the only one who hadn't been. I thought he kept up the speed pretty well.
Were you surprised by how quick he recovered?
Groh: I didn't have any timetable because I don't have enough experience with this injury with quarterbacks. I've seen it in other positions, but I don't have enough experience with what a quarterback can come back and throw. We didn't have any real injury experience with Matt [Schaub]. He's never really missed anything since he's been here. Whether it was a fast heal or a slow heal, we didn't really have any background on that. Like I said in the beginning, I was just going to wait and see and let nature show us when he was ready.
Have you asked him how his arm feels?
Groh: Yeah, I talked to him yesterday. He said he felt good, and his soreness he attributed to normal day after the game soreness. Although the contact that he took, virtually was quite limited and none of it was of the full shock variety. I think more of it was diving for openings and that kind of stuff. He wasn't sacked in the game, so he didn't take any of those hits.
It doesn't seem that the offensive line is as dominating as you'd like. How would you assess its performance?
Groh: Okay. I don't think we've been dominating, but the numbers speak for themselves- they've been pretty decent. I answer your question considering the fact that we've still got three sophomores in the lineup, and the other day we had a freshman [Ron Darden] come in the lineup, so four of the five were freshman or sophomores. There's still some strength development or game experience development to come from them. Overall, to have this done at this stage with that group, it certainly has been very helpful to us in the games that we've won, I'll say that. If we had been able to do anything else, it probably would have been more difficult.
You mentioned that OT Brad Butler is a pretty severe critic of himself. Do players sometimes take that too far?
Groh: We've talked about it. He's not the only one that way. Sometimes those players who hold themselves to the highest standard and have the most ambition, that's a very positive thing to say about the player. But the player has to make sure that it works for him in the positive. There are some of those guys that care the most that can be so severe on themselves that they don't allow themselves to have the amount of confidence that they've really earned. I want to make sure that he understands what he's accomplished in the short amount of games that he's started- five to be exact. That's not a very long career. He's got a lot more football in front of him. Considering [he has] 35 regular season starts available to him in his career and he's made four of them. Whether he's dominating yet or not, he's certainly got a pretty good amount of time to get to that level.
Do you worry that your team might become overconfident?
Groh: I think anybody who's been around this team for the last year-and-a-half is pretty clear about the fact that we're not invincible. All those games have certainly proved that. I think what this team clearly has earned is to have a sense of itself. These guys have really shown that they can take a punch. They can take a pretty good punch. They don't go down on their knee, they don't blink, and they come back. That's a very important thing for a team to understand. I think we also understand that we are capable of getting hit. We don't block all the punches, and we do have some flaws on our team- as lots of teams do- but one of those flaws isn't the inability to take a punch and come back fighting. They'll do that.
You've said every team has its own identity. And even though you won all those close games last year, this year's team hasn't had a close game until this past week. Is there a sense that maybe this year's team can build a similar identity?
Groh: I said during the summer that a team really becomes established when they to the same thing four or five years in a row. If you win nine or 10 games four or five years in a row, then you're established at a certain level of college football. Speaking outside the context of wins and losses, if you establish that you're one of the teams that plays well in these kinds of games and can win them, when you do it over a timeframe, then that stays with you. Now we have 20-some players (i.e. the incoming players) who were never in the locker room before in one of those games. The players who were there last year are gone and another group's coming in. After you have three or four classes that have all been through it, then everybody in your program's been through it and it tends to stay with you a little bit longer. To some degree, at least part of your program has to be re-established every year until everybody's been through it a few times.
When you took this job, did you envision that you would have such a high percentage of "your own" recruits playing so quickly?
Groh: I guess the answer to that is yes, but in a different way. What we saw is that what we really needed was a quick infusion of talent. We just needed more athletic ability, we needed more speed, we needed more size. Having obtained that- players with those skills- the acquisition of those skills weren't going to help the team until they got in the game, so that's why we try to get them in the game in a hurry whenever possible.
Wali Lundy had 58 catches last season. He hasn't been thrown to as much this year. Is that a change in philosophy?
Groh: No, in the first couple of games, nobody had very many catches. Back in the beginning, we probably couldn't have given the ball to an individual player 27 times for 137 yards. His all-purpose yardage might have been up around the same number, but it might have come with 15 carries and 9 catches. We can get 10 and 12 yards with the tailback now by running the inside lead play. So some of those catches have become runs now.
Have you seen flashes of the receiver in Lundy who was an all-state WR in high school?
Groh: Very much so. The two catches that he made weren't just that he happened to be on the scene. You can see clearly that he recognized the situation and he very quickly switched into a receiver mentality. He positioned himself against the defender and relative to the sticks [first down markers], gave a kind of body language to the quarterback that connotes that connection between the two of them. He took on being a receiver in that circumstance.
Wali Lundy has had a pretty nice stretch since the end of last season, with the exception of one game. Can you talk about where he is now?
Groh: That game counts against him, but he might as well not have played because we found out quickly really he wasn't capable of being Wali [Lundy], but his game is right on schedule in terms of its development. He's got better awareness of the plays and the anticipation of the cuts. He's got a lot more strength and durability than what he had last year. Twenty-seven carries, 2 catches [against Wake Forest] probably would have been a lot for Wali last year, just from the durability standpoint because he wouldn't have had that year's time worth of strength and endurance training.
NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers and Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub both got a lot of press attention last year, but Darian Durant put up big numbers before he got hurt last year. Is he as scary as any quarterback you've faced?
Groh: I love my quarterback, and I'm a tremendous fan of Phillip Rivers and I think Darian Durant is as good a quarterback as there is in the league.
Do you share anything with your team to let them know you're playing a team that's really against the wall right now?
Groh: Our mentality, as is proven on a week-to-week basis, is that we feel that we're pretty much up against the wall every week. I can't remember a game that we've played that we didn't really feel that way since we've been here.
Can Marques Hagans play wide receiver and still be a back-up quarterback. Groh: It's difficult to do for two reasons. One, he's just learning how to play the receiver position; it's not as if he's a veteran receiver. The same can be said about quarterback in that there's so many different things to learn there.
Why didn't you rank your team in the top 25 this week?
Groh: I think as a 3-1 team under the circumstances, we've got a lot more to prove. After the top 7 or 8 teams, I think there are about 30 teams that could make up the next 10. How many 3-1, 4-1 teams are there? What makes one team's credentials better than another? There are some teams that have a loss and because of who they lost to, they probably have better credentials than some teams that don't have a loss, but the criteria being you don't have a loss, you get voted in higher. Who's to say that anyone's much better than Georgia? Georgia lost to a team [LSU] that's in the top 5 or 6 at their place in the last minute by two or three points. So that's essentially the same team. They just happened to play them instead of Montana State. If we're any good at the end, we'll be where we're supposed to.