Virginia football hopes its win over Syracuse last weekend is just the beginning. The Cavaliers are hitting the road this week to Chapel Hill looking to snap its 12 game winning streak away from Scott Stadium. Here are the top headlines as the 'Hoos prepare for North Carolina.
Movement at Linebacker
Zach Bradshaw will not be available for the Cavs on Saturday since he was ejected last week against Syracuse due to a targeting call. In his place Eric Gallon is expected to start for the 'Hoos in Bradshaw's absence.
"He's [Gallon] an athletic young man that can run," said UVA Head Coach Mike London. "We'll need his skill set this particular game, too, because they do some of that read play, some of that elements of the option, and he's the next man up."
Familiar Face Returns to the Depth Chart
A new name was put on the depth chart this season. For the first time Doni Dowling is listed in the two deep. The wide receiver is returning from a pair of knee injuries, and London told reporter the plan is to keep Dowling in the lineup this year, and not to red-shirt the wide out.
"Doni played for us in this game, and he'll continue to play more as he gets opportunities, as he gets chances," said London. "He's a very physical player, and I love Doni Dowling. I just love his mentality and just the way it is. All he wants to do is help. All he wants to do is help his team win, and he's all in. We will continue to increase his role."
Thorpe Returns to UNC
This game against the Tar Heels might be the oldest rivalry in the south, but it will also be a reunion for T.J. Thorpe. Thorpe transferred to Virginia from UNC during the offseason, and will face his former team for the first time.
“I forget we were playing ’em, honestly,” Thorpe said to reporters on Monday. “I thought it was N.C. State this year, not UNC.” UVA quarterback Matt Johns quickly pointed out "he's lying."
Thorpe was quickly to say there will be no revenge plot or story for Saturday's game.
“It was no bad blood between me and the coaches, or anything like that," he said. "There’s no revenge that I feel like I need to have. It just wasn’t a good fit, and I think everything worked out for the best. This offense now that I’m in was the offense that Carolina was running before they had the coaching change, and I seemed to get into this offense and pick up everything fine. So I think everything worked out for the best.”
Every game this year, the Cavaliers have been slow coming out of the gate. Against UNC the Wahoos are trying to turn up a gear from kickoff.
"The end of the third quarter and the whole of the fourth quarter [against Syracuse], I felt like I got that rhythm back," said Matt Johns. "So I just need to carry that into this weekend."
"I think it's about stepping up," added Thorpe,"taking the initiative to really own what we're doing and take the extra focus...Instead of a false start or holding or a missed assignment, we are where we are meant to be."
UVA center Jackson Matteo picked up a rare honor this week. Matteo became one of the few lineman to receive the offensive player of the week honor from the coaching staff.
Jack English made his first college start against the Orange due to all the injuries this season. London was very impressed by the lineman.
"English was playing well enough because one of the issues we were concerned about was we had to move Eric Smith over if Jack was having problems with their pass rusher," said London. "But Jack was doing the job, did a nice job, so we just kept everybody where they were and then tried to operate as efficiently as possible."
With UVA's numbers on the offensive lineman decreasing, London is switching a few things up so he does not have to burn a red-shirt.
"A svelte Rob Burns was wearing No. 69," announced London on Monday. "He's a tight end that was in our offense, but that's part of an emergency move, as well. That's kind of where we are with trying to get -- make sure we cover our bases. Rob has been in the game as a tight end, knows the blocking schemes, knows the protections, but we -- as an emergency move, extra precaution, that's what we've had to do, because the other next move would be to take a redshirt off of a younger player, and at this point I don't want to do that."
Medical Report Card
Michael Mooney is still on crutches, so the left tackle is not expected to feature for Virginia for a little while. London says doctors continue to evaluate Mooney. A decision on his future will be made on a later date, but one thing is for sure, "not in the immediate future"
UVA running back Albert Reid got his "lights knocked out" of him against Syracuse. Reid did not return against the Orange, and the 'Hoos still have no word if he will be cleared to play against UNC.
"He was a little loopy when I got out there on the field initially," said London. "You're always worried about when guys are down like that. You're concerned about players' safety and health, and well-being. But after a few seconds laying down, he got back up, he wanted to run off, but there was no running off the field. He had to have people help him off.
"Yesterday [Sunday] at our walk-through practice, he was upbeat," added London. "We're hoping, anticipating that he gets cleared, but again, that's the doctor's call."
Facing a Dynamic QB
Once again the 'Hoos are faced with a quarterback that can run, Marquise Williams.
"Marquise is a guy that you see, you look at his stats, his rushing stats, he's got five rushing TDs, he's a guy that will run the option, he'll pull the ball on the read play, and he does present a threat that you have to make -- be aware and alerted for," said London. "He's a very dynamic player for them, and we'll have to know where he's at at all times because everything starts from him."