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Concussion knocks Ellis out of starting spot

With the scent of last year's comeback win by the Ramblin' Wreck still lingering, the Virginia football team looks to gain revenge on Georgia Tech tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. at Scott Stadium. If the Cavs want to pull off the upset, however, they'll have to do it without Dan Ellis starting at quarterback.

Virginia Coach George Welsh confirmed that David Rivers would start at quarterback, with Ellis possibly seeing time as backup assuming he could practice today.

"I'm gonna start Rivers," Welsh said. "I think at this stage of the game the team is used to Rivers. I gotta do what's best for the team. If we can get [Ellis] some work [today], we can use him Saturday. He would be the number two quarterback. But if something happens to David Rivers, I'd be reluctant to put anyone in but Dan. But if he can't go he can't go."

Ellis suffered a concussion in last weeks' 35-10 loss to the Seminoles, when he was hit hard on each of the last two plays of the first half.

So after seeing only one half of significant playing time this season, Rivers will make his first career start. Despite the daunting challenge of playing the nation's No. 7 team, he faces a Yellow Jacket defense that has showed some signs of weakness throughout the season, allowing an average of 382 yards per game.

With the inexperienced Rivers in, running back Thomas Jones, who leads the NCAA in rushing with 159.1 yards per game, could shoulder even more of the offensive load. In last week's game against the Seminoles, Jones broke former Cav running back Tiki Barber's all-time team rushing record. Jones set a single-game carry record of 38 against the Wolfpack, a mark that could fall with Ellis out.

Meanwhile the high-powered offense of Georgia Tech (6-1, 4-1 ACC), led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender Joe Hamilton, faces a renewed and healthier Cavalier defense benefiting from the return of key starters over the past few weeks.

Cornerbacks Dwayne Stukes and Antwan Harris returned to full-time action against N.C. State Oct. 19, while defensive lineman Monsanto Pope saw limited time last week versus Florida State. Safety Jerton Evans, who injured his knee and ankle against FSU, also is expected to suit up tomorrow.

The main concern on the mind of Cavalier defensive coordinator Rick Lantz is how to stop Hamilton and his explosive Yellow Jacket offense. Hamilton's ability to pass the ball with great efficiency and turn a potential sack into a long run will pose a difficult problem for the Cav defense.

In addition to Hamilton, Tech's speedy wide receiver Kelly Cambell, who is leading the ACC in receiving yardage, will create another dilemma. Georgia Tech also has Dez White, who scorched Virginia for two touchdowns in the final eight minutes of last year's game. White beat Stukes on both of those scores.

"I expect to get beat once in a blue moon, but twice in one game for long plays - that was really tough for me to handle," Stukes said. "I'm a real big competitor - I really hate to lose, so a pride factor came into play."

But the keystone of the Yellow Jacket offense is Hamilton, who will look to improve his chances for the Heisman against Virginia.

(Sports Editor John Moorehouse contributed to this story.)


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