High hopes for Travis Griffith's final year of Cavalier football were shattered with yesterday's announcement that the defensive end will need season-ending ankle surgery.
"The plans now are to have surgery early next week on his ankle, and that puts him out for the year," coach George Welsh said. "It's a high ankle sprain. But I think there's a tear in the ligament and there's no stability. He says he has trouble driving a car. Obviously the way it is he's not going to play football with it. This is a way to stabilize it."
The announcement also probably signaled the end of Griffith's career at Virginia.
"I don't think he would want a sixth year," Welsh said in regards to Griffith's future in football as a Cavalier. "He almost didn't come back for a fifth year. I'd take him back if he wants to come back next year."
Griffith, a native of Staunton, Va., injured his ankle in the first game of the season and was involved in only six plays in the game against Clemson. He did not play in Saturday's Homecoming match-up with Wake Forest.
With 40 tackles in the 1998 season, Griffith was the top returning tackler among Cav defensive linemen this year. He is one of the team's tri-captains, along with tailback Thomas Jones and offensive guard Noel LaMontagne. This was Griffith's second season as a starter.
The loss of Griffith comes as a huge disappointment to his teammates, who recognized his bright future in football.
"He's a good player," cornerback Dwayne Stukes said. "He had a good chance to get drafted and his career is probably over now."
"We pretty much knew he was gonna be out" at the game Saturday, defensive tackle Maurice Anderson said. "It just gives us the courage to keep fighting. I heard he was pretty down before the game.
"It hurts a lot," Anderson said. "We need everybody out there. The young guys, they've all gotta step up now. The guys played good last week. They came up and showed they were capable of doing what's asked."
Meanwhile, the Cavs received some much-needed good news on the injury front. Anderson, who strained his knee and had to leave the game against the Demon Deacons, will most likely play against Brigham Young.
"It's improved since yesterday," he said. "It's loosened up a lot better."
Even with the news of the loss of Griffith, many continue to focus on the stellar performance of Thomas Jones, who tallied 164 yards and three touchdowns Saturday. Jones, who is currently in his third season as starting tailback, not only led the ACC but also was ranked 11th nationally in rushing with 1,303 yards in 1998.
"I can't see anybody in the country being any better than him, I really can't," said Welsh of the senior tri-captain. "It would be impossible. Maybe there's a couple guys as good ... He's catching the ball, he's blocking, making spectacular runs, making people miss, running with some power. I don't know who else in the country's as good a back as him. I think he deserves as much attention as he can get."
Jones earns high marks from his teammates as well.
"He's awesome," quarterback Dan Ellis said. "He has a great combination of size, speed and quickness. When you need the job done, he's the guy you go to. He gets the job done. He's a big game player. From where I'm standing he's the best tailback I've ever seen and ever played with and I've seen a lot of good ones.
"I love watching Thomas Jones play," Ellis said. "It's the 20 or 30 times I get to be a spectator"