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Virginia welcomes No. 12 Georgia Tech

Squad sets sights on upset against Yellow Jackets

Bolstered by its bye week, the Virginia football team faces the dangerous triple-option offense and Al Groh-led defense of No. 12 Georgia Tech during its homecoming matchup at Scott Stadium Saturday. The undefeated Yellow Jackets (6-0, 3-0 ACC) sit atop of the ACC Coastal standings and pose the toughest test to date for a Cavalier squad plagued by inconsistent and underwhelming play but eager to make a statement in its ACC home opener.

The bye week came at the perfect time for the beleaguered Cavaliers (3-2, 0-1 ACC). The break provided extra time to address the myriad miscues evident during their last game, when Virginia barely sneaked past a plucky Idaho team which entered Scott Stadium as double-digit underdogs.

"Most of what we wanted to do was take care of ourselves first," coach Mike London said. "That's what you do most of the time in your bye week is take care of those things that you had to deal with offensively, defensively and special teams-wise. There's no doubt it [also] gives you an opportunity to have a couple practices, film sessions, walk-throughs on your upcoming opponent."

Virginia is reaching the midway point of the season, which naturally comes with plaguing injuries. The week off also allowed the Cavaliers get some much-needed rest before battling a tough opponent.

"We got a lot accomplished during the week as far as defensively preparing for this very different style of offense, but coach also gave us enough time to rest and recover because there were some nicks and bruises amongst the team," junior defensive end Bill Schautz said. "I feel we're 100 percent going into this work week."

Despite a dominant start which has already matched last season's win total, Georgia Tech comes off a very close contest against Maryland during which it stifled a potential fourth-quarter Terrapin comeback. The game marked the first time the Yellow Jackets failed to score 35 points this season.

Georgia Tech boasts the second-best offense in the country with 3,321 total yards and is led by junior quarterback Tevin Washington. On the road this season, Washington has amassed four touchdowns with no interceptions, and the dual-threat signal caller already has 16 total touchdowns to his name. He anchors the team's triple option offense, which averages 535.5 yards, and has rushed for the second-most yards in the country behind the backfield tandem of junior tailback Orwin Smith and sophomore quarterback David Sims, who have combined for 11 rushing scores.

In stark contrast to the Yellow Jackets' strong and stable attack, the Cavaliers remain embroiled in an ongoing quarterback controversy, as junior Michael Rocco and freshman David Watford compete for the starting position. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Watford was designated to enter the game on the fourth offensive possession against Idaho, and the freshman has taken full advantage of his opportunities at the end of Virginia's last two games by leading the team to several scoring drives. London said the competition has benefited both players.

"What's happening is that [the quarterback competition is] creating a situation where both of those guys are starting to raise their level here a little bit," London said. "As we go along, we'll see ... I think it's going to make us a better team, because we need better play and we'll get better play. Right now Michael [Rocco] has put himself into the position to be the guy, but David [Watford] is breathing down his neck. And it's through execution and it's through the performance that these guys are going to have on the practice field last week, this week and in the game that's going to dictate [who plays]."

Rocco led Virginia to a rapid 14-0 lead against Idaho before the team began alternating between him and Watford, and the junior has proved solid in the pocket with a 63.1 completion percentage and 1,032 yards passing. His seven interceptions on the season and mental miscues like wasting a field goal chance before halftime against the Vandals have kept the fight for the starting job open, however.

Virginia's offensive lineup may be uncertain, but the team can be sure of one thing about Saturday's game - the Cavaliers will be facing something familiar when they square off against Georgia Tech's 3-4 defense. The unit, ranked 53rd nationally in points against, is orchestrated by defensive coordinator and former Virginia head coach Al Groh. Virginia's homecoming game also marks Groh's first return to Scott Stadium since he was fired after the 2009 season. Groh amassed a 59-53 record during his nine years as the coach of the Cavaliers and recruited many of the upperclassmen currently on Virginia's roster. Many of Groh's recruits shook his hand after last year's 33-21 loss in Atlanta and plan to show him a similar display of gratitude after the game.

"A lot of players have great respect for coach Groh, so we all like to show our respect for him and say hello," senior guard Austin Pasztor said.

That doesn't mean that the Cavaliers are taking the matchup against their old mentor lightly, however.

"[Groh] brought me here, he's a good guy [and] I'll be excited to see him after the game," Schautz said. "But as of right now he's my enemy for this week."

The Virginia offense may also benefit from Groh's return to his alma mater. Groh implemented a 3-4 defensive scheme during his years at Virginia, and many of his former players hope they can use that familiarity to their full advantage.

"Luckily for us we have a lot of offensive guys who were here when Groh was here and they know what that defense is like," Schautz said. "They've played against it for two years, most of them. They know what's going to come, they know for the most part what his schemes are. It's a very in-depth defense. I know coach Groh comes from an NFL background ... but if any team is prepared for this 3-4 defense, we are, because we have a bunch of players who have played against it."

The Cavaliers will need all the help they can get on both sides of the ball if they hope to pull off the upset against a Yellow Jacket team shaping up to be a bona fide BCS bowl contender. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. Saturday.


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