Winning football records at the University of Virginia have been so few and far between that some people think this year's 7-1-1 mark has been accomplished with mirrors.
Coach George Welsh did little to dispel those stories until his weekly press conference today, when he was asked how his team had been able to set itself up for what could be its first bowl appearance.
"We have more experience on defense, and that's important because you see so many offenses each week," said Welsh, whose team plays at North Carolina Saturday. "And we're faster. We have faster backs, faster wideouts, and when you have (tailback Barry) Word in there, you have that extra step that makes the difference sometimes. And we've got a quarterback who can do whatever you ask him to do.
"I feel like I've got more good weapons, more good athletes, than I've ever had as a head coach."
Word, a junior running back who alternates with starter Howard Petty, scored twice in Virginia's 45-0 victory over North Carolina State last Saturday. Word, Petty and fullback Steve Morse each have at least two 100-yard rushing games this season. Sophomore quarterback Don Majkowski ran for two touchdowns against the Wolfpack and completed nine of 16 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown.
Although Welsh now freely says he has a good team, something he wouldn't do in 1983 (a 6-5 season) or this year until a 20-20 tie with Georgia Tech, he does not accept the inevitability of a bowl bid.
"I don't see how anybody can say that," he said. "It's not sure till it's sure. I told the team we were in a good position for a bowl, but . . .
"I brought it out in the open (in regular team meetings) Sunday night. We talked about it, and then we said we wouldn't talk about it any more. We were just going to talk about North Carolina."
Representatives from the Peach, Citrus, Hall of Fame, and Cherry (Pontiac, Mich.) bowls have watched Virginia play several times.
The Cavaliers must defeat North Carolina (4-5) to have a chance at winning their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship. Virginia is 3-0-1 in the ACC; Maryland is 4-0. A Virginia victory Saturday would set up a showdown for the title between the Terrapins and the Cavaliers here Nov. 24.
Welsh said the game with Carolina, which last Saturday beat Georgia Tech, 24-17, concerns him.
"I'm always concerned about a letdown," he said. "There's not a dominant team in college football today. It's the team that plays with reckless abandon that wins football games. It's mental now. You reach a point where you don't get any better physically. You have to want to hit and keep hitting."