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Slashing the bandwagon's tires

I'm not going to add myself to the rapidly growing bandwagon that has seen fit to pronounce doom upon the Virginia football team a mere two weeks into the season. I'm also not going to attempt to amuse you with a pithy, parenthetically bloated opus that seeks to find humor with whatever shortcomings these Cavaliers might have.

Because I think that today, when the Wake Forest squad runs onto the field, they will encounter an extremely angry group of Virginia Cavaliers. And then God help Jim Caldwell, Jammie Deese and the rest because no one else will be able to.

If there's one thing I've learned during my three-plus years as a student here, it's that Cavalier fans - especially students - are extremely fickle. I may have succumbed to the cynicism bug a time or 10 myself over the years, but in the tidal wave of predictions of 5-6 records and "Clemson is the better team" proclamations that have followed the Death Valley debacle, most Cavalier fans have forgotten a few very important things.

First and foremost, Clemson's win was a fluke. Sure, the Tigers have won a slew of awards after last week's victory. And they've been the recipient of standing ovations, even in class. Well, good for them, I say.

That still doesn't erase the fact the Tigers have no real running game and an undersized, inexperienced offensive line. Just wait and see how many props tackle Damonte McKenzie's professor gives him after Clemson plays Virginia Tech today.

Now maybe the Tigers could have beaten the Cavs even with Dwayne Stukes, Antwan Harris, Ahmad Hawkins and Travis Griffith able to play. But the score would have been much closer.

Instead, Clemson welcomed a defense full of young, untested athletes into Death Valley. The Tigers jumped out to a huge lead, and our inexperienced defense just couldn't come back. But they're young and they'll learn.

All of the Cavs currently on the injured list have at least a 50-50 chance to return this season. Harris and Hawkins could suit up today. Stukes and Griffith might be back by next week. Pope tore a knee ligament and still could return in time for the Florida State game.

In the meantime, young defenders like Kofi Bawuah, Chris Williams, Shenard Newby and Jerton Evans are getting some invaluable experience. Williams and Newby already have shown tremendous potential, and could provide the Cavs with a starting safety tandem for the next four years. Bawuah played most of the game against Clemson, and likely will start today. When the injured defensive starters come back, who knows? Maybe the defense will be deeper than it was when they went on the shelf.

Either way, the Cavs still don't need Wale Elegbe.

Most importantly, it's only Week Three. The season is still young. Many people placed blame for the Clemson loss across the shoulders of quarterback Dan Ellis. Now Ellis hasn't exactly sparkled in his first two starts, but he hasn't looked any worse than Aaron Brooks did in his first two starts in 1997.

But the coaching staff has to find a steady role for Ellis in the offense. Whatever they do, they should cut that rollout play. Ellis is not the reincarnation of Brooks - the coaches should stop drawing up plays that pretend he is.

Lastly, never underestimate the motivation of sheer, unadulterated rage. Last week's loss was the most embarrassing of the last four years. And that includes three losses after being ahead by 21, and some pretty good tail-kickings at the hands of Florida State.

Will the Cavaliers rebound to defeat a big dog like Brigham Young? It could happen. Virginia Tech? That's always a close game. Georgia Tech? There's no "D" in Atlanta. Florida State?

Let's not go nuts.

But this is a highly competitive group of young men. They want to succeed. And after last week's debacle, the Cavs will want to turn things around against the Demon Deacons.