History of the Cavaliers
Wahoo: In the 1890’s, the Cavalier fans were described as “a bunch of rowdy wahoos” as a term of derision after opposing fans hear the baseball fans yelling and singing “wa-hoo-wa.” But in true “in your face” turn of play, the fans adopted the ridicule and made it their own. Students and alumni alike now refer to themselves as “Hoos.”
Last year would seem to be a return to the normal for the Cavaliers in what could be described as a disappointing 4-8 season. The team experienced one good season in 2011 with an 8-4 record, but since 2008, the team is used to low win totals (5, 3, 4, 8, & 4) since the end of the Al Groh era. Last season started out promising with home wins against Richmond and Penn State, but an 8-game losing streak doomed the team until North Carolina sealed by handing the Cavaliers their 7th loss of the season. The team split the quarterbacking duties between junior Michael Rocco and sophomore Phil Sims with the duo passing for 3200 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Sophomore Kevin Parks did most of the heavy lifting in the backfield en route to five scores while he was spelled by senior Perry Jones. Darius Jennings (sophomore) led all receivers with 48 catches, 569 yards and five touchdowns.
This is easy. Winning against Miami is always a big deal and when you get a one-point victory over the Hurricanes on national TV, then it’s a really big deal, especially when you are still fighting to become bowl eligible. The Cavaliers had to rally from 10 back and Rocco threw the game-tying touchdown pass with six seconds remaining to shock Miami.
In an equally depressing fashion, Virginia lost in the final game of the season to its in-state rival, Virginia Tech on a field goal with four second left on the clock, ending the season in disappointment with the 52nd loss to the Hokies in the 94 game series.
Quick Picks 1 History: The Cavaliers began playing football in 1888 and began playing in Scott Stadium in 1931. They joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953 and in 1958 began a 28-game losing streak (second longest in NCAA FBS history.) They ended the streak on opening day in 1961 at home against William & Mary. They have won the ACC twice (1989 and 1995) but never as the outright champion.
Quick Picks 2 Bowling: Virginia has played in only 18 bowl games in its history and has a record of 7-11 in those games. They have two streaks of four straight bowl games (1994-1996 – two games in 1994 and 2002 -2005) and they last played in 2011 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl losing to Auburn 43-24.
Quick Picks 3 Noteworthy: 2011 was a hallmark season in several ways. The team returned to a bowl game after a nearly four year absence. They upset #12 Georgia Tech 24-21. Head coach Mike London recorded the team’s first ever victory in Tallahassee by beating Florida State 14-13. But most notably, the team did something no other team has ever accomplished. They beat Florida State and Miami on the road in the same season.
Mike London is the head coach in Charlottesville. He came to the program in 2009, shortly after the dismissal of Al Groh after a 3-9 2009 campaign. London was an assistant to Groh at UVA from 2001-2004 and again in 2006-2007. He served one season as the DL coach for the Houston Texans in 2005 and as head coach for Richmond for two seasons where he where he won the I-AA national championship and three head coach of the year awards.
But in the late 1980’s, London was a detective in Richmond, Virginia where, by the mercy of some unknown reason, he was given a second chance at life when the gun of the thief he was chasing didn’t fire. The gun was pointed at his head. He took it as a sign that being a cop wasn’t the life for him and he jumped into being a football coach that took him back to his alma mater as head coach only 20 years later.
London also played professionally for the Dallas Cowboys before pursuing his career on the police force.
Players to Watch For
Junior quarterback Phil Sims played a dual role with recently departed senior Michael Rocco last season. He should be the favorite to lead the team this season. Junior running back Kevin Parks looks to improve upon last season by carrying more of the load in 2013. Eli Harold and Mike Moore both from the DE position will need to be wreckers in the pass rush game in order to help an inexperienced middle of the line and a talented, albeit untested line-backing corp. It will be interesting to see how the linebackers do this season as new defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is a proponent of a heavy blitz and the linebackers will be tested a lot this season to make plays.
Tight end: Junior Jake McGee looks to be the guy to be the first one off the bench for the Cavaliers but behind him it is pretty thin. Senior Jeremiah Mathis and sophomore Rob Burns are both converted defensive ends and beyond that, there is talk that one or two wide receivers may move over. For a school that has always prided itself on its tight end play, this is an unfamiliar position to be in.
Defensive tackle: Junior-to-be Chris Brathwaite was poised to become a started along a thin defensive line this season after posting 41 tackles (10 for loss) and 3.5 sacks last season. But he found himself academically ineligible and is no longer enrolled at school. His departure leaves a huge gap along the defensive line. The Cavaliers run a base 4-3 defense and should have solid production at the end positions with sophomores Eli Harold and Mike Moore rushing the edges, but with no real experience in the middle, the position is wide open. There is a trio of underclassmen that are waiting to show what they got. Keep an eye on them to see if David Dean, Marco Jones, or Andre Miles-Redmond can get into the mix.
Safety: Despite nine scholarshipped athletes at the position last season, this was probably the biggest disappointment all season long. Juniors Anthony Harris and Brandon Phelps were lost on every aspect of the game and have left room aplenty for the five underclassmen to step up and make a name for themselves in 2013.
News and Noteworthy
Top four games of all time: 1990 marked the first time 30 tries, the Cavaliers beat a top ten Clemson Tigers team 20-7. In 1995, UVA handed Florida State its first ever conference loss in the ACC after 29 straight wins in four seasons by beating the Seminoles 33-28. Virginia notched its biggest ever comeback by rallying back from being down 29-7 to rival Virginia Tech to beat the Hokies 36-32 in the 1998 season finale. In 2011, the Cavaliers beat Florida State 14-13 for the first time ever in Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
By the Numbers
9: Coach of the Year award winners in the ACC
8: ACC players of the year award winners in the ACC
25: First-team All-Americans
7: College Football Hall of Fame inductees
3: NFL Hall of Fame Inductees
21: Current NFL players
While the Cavaliers get to play host to non-conference opponents in BYU and Oregon this season, the games to watch for will be:
November 2 as the host Clemson: Clemson has been top of the ACC for several seasons now and will be one of the marquee games in conference for Virginia this season. But the Tigers are in the Atlantic division so it won’t be as key of a game as Virginia Tech.
November 30 as the host Virginia Tech: You just can’t talk about key games here and not include your rival. The Commonwealth Cup came down to a field goal last season as the Hokies took it by a score of 17-14. But when you are completely dominated historically by your rival as Virginia is to Virginia Tech (by a record of 52-37-5), you tend to get a little more up for this game that you do for other games. And since it may come down to this game to decide the participant in the end of season conference championship game, keep an eye on this game.
It’s often said that the game of football is won in the trenches. UVA should have decent talent along the offensive line and because of that, should allow for the offensive skill positions to do some good things, but the defensive line is a huge question for me heading into 2013 and if they can’t get any pressure on opposing offenses, they will be trying to keep up with some of these high-tempo offenses they will face this season. BYU has stated they intend to increase their tempo to a level of an Oregon and while achieving that level of success will be very unlikely, it will be hard for Virginia to keep pace with back-to-back opponents at such a high speed, even if both opponents are coming from the other side of the country.
I think five wins will be a good starting point for this team and there might be some wiggle room in there to pick up a sixth and get bowl eligible. Mike London will need to develop some new talent early in the season if they are to have anymore success than that so don’t expect more than six wins from this team and consider it a blessing if they get that many. The Cavaliers appear poised to continue to improve in the future, but that isn’t this season.
Best Case Scenario: The Cavaliers catch BYU unprepared and open the season 2-1 heading to face a Pittsburgh team with its own issues. A win there and against the Keydets of VMI and the Cavaliers could see themselves on the bright side of 4-1 heading into the meat of their conference season. With four of seven remaining conference games at home, the Cavaliers clean up five of the games and finish the season 9-3.
Worst Case Scenario: The Cavaliers struggle from the first game with so many new players in key positions and BYU and Oregon run all over them. VMI and Ball State should be a good chance to recalibrate and assess things and wins should come easily. But with eight conference games the Cavaliers scrape wins from Duke and North Carolina only to lose the season finale to their rival, finishing an unremarkable 4-8.
And Finally . . .
I like this match up for both schools (by both I’m referring to BYU as the second school.) It’s a solid non-conference game to start off the season that is winnable for both teams. I like that they are happy enough with each other that before they ever take the field they added two more games to the series in 2019 and 2020. I think the Cavaliers will compete this season but the lack of experience and play-makers at key positions, especially on defense, make this team exploitable and it will cost them some games that could go the either way if they can find the right piece early. I think this will be a good “rebuild” year for Virginia and Mike London and they could be primed to take a huge step forward in 2014. I just don’t see it this year.