Virginia wants to keep work ethic running Defense tested, but offense young

September 02, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

Virginia and Maryland have different perspectives on their 1992 meetings with Clemson.

For the past nine months, the Terps pointed to a season-ending upset of Clemson as the type of effort possible under coach Mark Duffner. It came a week after an embarrassing blowout at Florida State that was the only game in its last seven that Maryland, which finished 3-8 after an 0-4 start, wasn't in position to take in the fourth quarter.

The Cavaliers were 5-0, ranked No. 10 in the nation and at home in Charlottesville last Oct. 10, when they took a 28-7 halftime lead over Clemson. But, Virginia was outscored 22-0 in the second half and lost on a last-minute field goal, starting a slide that saw the Cavaliers win only two more games.

Despite a 7-4 record, there would be no fourth-straight bowl game. Despite a record of six straight winning seasons, coach George Welsh's team received no votes in The Associated Press preseason top 25. Before the swoon affected pollsters, it got the Cavaliers thinking.

"We've talked long and hard about what happened last year," said left guard Mark Dixon, one of Virginia's top players. "After the Clemson game, people began to wonder if we were that good. We assumed we would win eight or nine games, but for some reason, we lost our work ethic in the middle of the season. We weren't mentally tough, and that's rare for a Coach Welsh team."

The Cavaliers' mental and physical state will be tested Saturday (12:10 p.m.) in the season opener against Maryland at Byrd Stadium. Virginia has a seasoned defense that is one of the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but a starting quarterback wasn't named until last week and a good chunk of the offensive line is in rehab.

Sophomore Symion Willis will start at quarterback against the Terps, but Welsh said he's not that far ahead of classmate Mike Groh and freshman Tim Sherman. The situation is no big deal for Virginia, which has had three different quarterbacks the last three seasons, all leading the ACC in efficiency.

"It's not the NFL," Welsh said. "You don't have to have a big-time quarterback to win. I can't say he [Willis] is better than the other two, but he's the best right now. If we stay healthy, we can win."

The Cavaliers have been hit by injuries on the right side of the offensive line. The top two right tackles have suffered season-ending injuries, and the right guard is questionable for the Maryland game.

Will there be enough time to find wide receiver Tyrone Davis and tight end Aaron Mundy, who had career-high days against Maryland last year? Will there be holes big enough for Jerrod Washington, who figures to be the top rusher following the departure of Terry Kirby?

All-American defensive end Chris Slade went to the New England Patriots, but seven starters and 12 other lettermen are back on defense. The leader is linebacker P. J. Killian, who had 13 tackles in last year's opener, a 28-15 win over Maryland.

NOTES: Andrew Dausch, a junior from Gilman School who ran midfield on the Cavaliers' lacrosse team, is a reserve at wide receiver. He's had nine catches each of the last two years. . . . The quarterback situation was more muddled in the spring, but in July, Welsh suspended B. J. Hawkins, a transfer from Notre Dame in 1991, for violating team rules.

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