Virginia, off to its best start since 1968, will hold off judgment on how good it is until after Saturday's meeting with nationally ranked Navy in Annapolis.
"If we can beat Navy, I would say our program has turned the corner," said UVA Coach Dick Bestwick. "Navy is nationally ranked 16th UPI, 20th by AP and always has a fine team. We're improved in lot of areas but I don't know if we've improved enough to beat Navy."
The one department in which Virginia has definitely improved is the win column. The Cavaliers, 4-2, finished 2-9, 1-9-1 and 2-9 the past three years under Bestick. This season, they have found a running attack and some defense and have suddenly become an item.
"They're definitely not the Virginia we're used to," said Navy Coach George Welsh. "They have gotten bigger, stronger and, I suppose, quicker. They've dominated people. Offensively, they'll be the best team we've faced."
Thanks to the superb running tandem of Greg Taylor and Tommy Vigorito, Virginia is ranked 10th in rushing among the NCAA Division I-A schools, one notch ahead of Navy.
Taylor, the quickest of the two backs, has rushed for 679 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He has four 100-yard games. His running mate has 660 yards and has scored five times. Taylor and Vigorito, averaging 113.2 and 110.0 yards rushing, respectively, are the only players on the same Division I-A team to average 100 yards or better per game.
"They do everything," said Bestwick. "Both block for the other and they run inside and outside. Plus, our offensive line is a bit bigger."
Virginia has recorded victories over Richmond (31-0), VMI (19-0), Duke (30-12) and, last week mauled James Madison, 69-9. The Cavalier losses were to N.C. State, 31-27, and Clemson, 17-7.
"They were in both games," said Welsh, referring to the two losses. "The only team to contain their running game was Clemson."
Virginia can throw the ball, too. Tod Kirtley, a former All-Met from Robinson High in Fairfax County, has completed 48 of 91 attempts for 500 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore has been intercepted five times.
"We remember what Navy did to us last year (32-0 in Charlottsville)," said Kirtley. "They've got a good defensive team but we don't intend to get shut out this year."
Tight end Mike Newhall and split end Ted Marchibroda, the latter out of Fairfax's Stuart High, are the leading receivers with 10 and eight catches, respectively. Neither is a long ball threat.