It's out of the frying pan and into the proverbial fire for the Cavaliers this week as they attempt to move past the loss to No. 1 Florida State and prepare to meet No. 7 Georgia Tech. And for Cav Coach George Welsh, who worries about even the lowliest opponent, the thought of the Ramblin' Wreck's No. 1-ranked offense has him breaking out in cold sweats.
Georgia Tech "is difficult because they throw the ball so much better than most teams that run the option," Welsh said. Yellow Jacket quarterback Joe "Hamilton has developed into a pretty good pocket passer ... But, they're still talented without Hamilton. They have a good supporting cast."
These supporting players include wideout Dez White, who leads the ACC in yards-per-catch and burned the Cavs in last year's contest for a school-record 243 yards, and running back Sean Gregory, who is second in the league in yards-per-carry. These two compliment principal-Heisman Trophy candidate Hamilton who, by way of an effective option offense, is both the team's leading rusher and the league's best signal caller.
Hamilton recently set both the school record for career touchdown passes with 53 and for total touchdowns with 71. He has surmounted an incredible 182.08 quarterback rating and 67 percent completion percentage while throwing only five interceptions.
Stopping this multi-faceted and multi-talented offense is the first of Welsh's many concerns heading into Saturday.
"Conventional wisdom is to hit [Hamilton] and make him pitch it," he said. "But they've had some pretty big plays off the pitch, too."
Virginia defensive back Dwayne Stukes knows better than anybody how dangerous the Tech offense can be. The fourth-year corner was the focus of much of the Cavalier fans' wrath after being burned by White for two huge plays in the Ramblin' Wreck's come-from-behind victory over the Cavs last season.
"This is a really big obstacle," Stukes said. "My stepfather keeps reminding me that Dez White's coming to town. It's an opportunity to show the country how good we are."
As if defensive concerns were not enough for the Cavs, Welsh also must contend with a Virginia special teams that has struggled in recent weeks. Special teams' play on both sides of the ball was suspect against the Seminoles, with numerous botched punts and a fumbled punt return late in the game.
"We're doing some strange things in the kicking game that we've never done before, and most of them have been bad," Welsh said. "We've spent more time in practice on the kicking game than we ever have."
Much of the criticism surrounding these miscues has focused on Cav punter Donnie Scott. Although Welsh called the honorable mention All-ACC punter one of the best in the country coming into the season, the fourth year has not lived up to high expectations.
Scott "had four bad punts Saturday, that's too many," Welsh said. "He's not as consistent as he was last year. He's not getting great snaps. He got out of rhythm somewhere and has never gotten it back."
Yet, despite the back-to-back onslaught of powerful ACC opponents, the Virginia squad is taking encouragement from their strong first-half showing against FSU.
"If we put together the type of game that we did in the first half against Florida State, we'll be in a better situation," Cav cornerback Antwan Harris said. "We need to have a good week of practice and watch some film and just try to stop their receivers"