After two tough games on the road, the Virginia football team comes home with the hope of defending a 15-game winning streak against Wake Forest tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Under the lights at Scott Stadium, the Cavaliers (1-1, 1-1 ACC) will celebrate Homecoming as they attempt to extend one of the nation's longest winning streaks. Virginia has not lost to the Demon Deacons (1-0, 0-0) since 1981, the longest current winning streak by one ACC team over another.
Despite such favoring statistics, the Cavaliers face many challenges this weekend against Wake Forest.
Not only will Virginia have to shake off the sting from last weekend's 33-14 loss to Clemson, the team will have to do it without the aid of many key players.
"We've got to bounce back and use what we've learned from last week," middle linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle said.
Topping the list of troubles that Virginia must overcome is the hurdle of a strong and confident Wake team. Wake's opener, a 34-15 shellacking of Army, has shown they can make good use of their new, power running attack led by ACC-leading rusher Morgan Kane. The Ottawa, Ontario native racked up a career-high 211 yards en route to the Deacs' authoritative victory.
The Cavaliers have been preparing for the contest, however, adjusting Kofi Bawuah, Antonio Mayfield and Ljubomir Stamenich at the defensive end spots to stop Wake Forest's penetration.
Kane "looked awfully good, it's different to see Wake like that," Cav coach George Welsh said. "They have a power running attack coupled with the option. I think we can tell what their offense is centered around."
Though they do claim a valuable asset against Virginia with Kane, the Deacons will have to be prepared to match up with both Isabelle and defensive tackle Maurice Anderson.
Isabelle, after playing second string in the Virginia defense during the last two seasons, led the Cavaliers with a career-high 14 tackles against Clemson, and currently ranks second among Cav defenders with 17 tackles on the season.
"Isabelle is going to be a good linebacker; he is getting there," Welsh said. "I see toughness, I see intensity. He's a good athlete and he understands football."
Not only will Virginia look to Isabelle to stop the Wake Forest running game, but Anderson will be expected to fill his role as the key to the entire Cavalier defense.
Aside from his turf toe injury, Anderson should have no problem stepping up to the challenge. He led Virginia in tackles for the first time in his career with 10 stops against North Carolina. Anderson also sacked Tar Heel quarterback Ronald Curry in the game's final play - thwarting any attempt by North Carolina to win at the buzzer.
Anderson also will be one of the anchors of a defensive unit stocked with younger, less-experienced players. While many of those newcomers saw significant action for the first time at Clemson, they earned invaluable experience during the 19-point loss.
The young defenders "grew up a lot at Clemson," defensive back Tim Spruill said. "A lot of things they saw in that game will help them this season and for the rest of their careers."
Just as the Cavaliers must deal with many obstacles plaguing tomorrow's game, the Deacons come to town facing the long tradition of excellence in Virginia football.
"They're still the same kind of Virginia team year in and year out," Wake Forest coach Jim Caldwell said. "We'll have to be able to slow them down. We're not going to be able to stop Virginia completely - no one has."