College Football: Can Cavs keep momentum going forward?

Story by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

You hate to think that getting the doors blown off by the perennial league doormat was something that had to happen to get you where you are today. But when you’re Virginia, and you’ve run the table since losing 31-3 at Duke a month ago and are now sitting in first place in the ACC Coastal, you have to think, you know, maybe, just maybe …

“It was probably a more sense of players lacking confidence in themselves. I mean, there were some players who had never been in games before and no matter what any of us did for the first time, we were waiting for the first success. We are all reinforced by the first success. And when it comes, we feel a little bit better about the next time we attempt it,” UVa. coach Al Groh said of his Cavaliers (5-3, 3-1 ACC), who had been outscored by an average of 42-7 by its first three I-A opponents before its current four-game winning streak against two ranked teams that has seen the ‘Hoos outpacing opponents by a roughly 27-13 clip.

It’s not just pop psychology that has Virginia winning football games. Quarterback Marc Verica has been a calming presence at quarterback following the highly divisive departure of opening-day starter Peter Lalich from the UVa. program before a 45-10 loss at UConn. that preceded the Duke debacle. A change in approach by offensive coordinator Mike Groh, who scrapped his spread experiment in favor of a more George Welsh-Tom O’Brien system balancing the run and pass, has also been key not only to the offense but also in putting the defense in better field positions.

The oddsmakers are finally starting to give UVa. some respect, installing the Cavs as two and a half point favorites heading into their Saturday showdown with Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC), which might be on the prowl for a bit of revenge after losing the Orange Bowl finale to Virginia by a 48-0 count in November 2007.

“We are a different team,” UM coach Randy Shannon said. “Some of the older guys, you may talk to them and they will say yeah, they remember it, but most of the guys were in high school trying to win state championships and playoff games. Revenge sometimes can hurt you, because it is all built-up inside of you. You have to make sure you go into the game with a fresh mind. Most people make mistakes when

they are tired or mad. You are going to say something wrong or you are going to make a mistake in those situations. So we won’t be tired and we won’t be upset. We are going to be positive,” Shannon said.

The Hurricanes have won three straight since dropping a 41-39 decision at home against Florida State on Oct. 4, beating Central Florida 20-14, Duke 49-31 and Wake Forest 16-10 last week.

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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