CHARLOTTESVILLE, AUG. 10 -- The quiet cool with which Shawn Moore has guided Virginia's football team the last two years has put the Cavaliers on the verge of national power status. So if the fifth-year senior quarterback seems reluctant to partake in the hype of Heisman Trophy candidacy, it's merely to remind his teammates of just how long a road they've traveled.

Virginia, winner of 10 games and a share of the ACC championship last season after not making a bowl appearance in three of the previous four years, kicked off its 1990 campaign today with its annual media function.

Several players talked straight-faced about an undefeated season -- perhaps the loftiest goal imaginable for Coach George Welsh in 1982 when he inherited a program that could boast of only two winning seasons since the Truman administration.

Moore graciously relinquished the limelight in years past while reporters noted the arrivals of Jesse Jackson's son, Yusef, and consensus national high school player of the year Terry Kirby. But today he was forced to center stage to discuss a topic not spoken firsthand here in nearly 50 years -- the Heisman.

"I never thought that I'd be classified as that caliber of player," said Moore, the only Division I-A quarterback last season to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 500. "But you shouldn't get a big head about it. I'll always be the same Shawn, the same happy-go-lucky, affectionate person that I am."

Herman Moore, the Cavaliers' 6-foot-5, big-play wide receiver, was not alone in trying to restrain laughter upon hearing the quarterback's remarks.

The two are almost inseparable where football is concerned, and were grouped together today to answer the numerous queries that already are becoming cliche's. They're not related, although both have been questioned about it so often they've long since taken to calling each other cousins.

The Moores are on the cover of one national publication, and both are being touted for numerous honors. The Virginia athletic department began promoting Shawn Moore for the Heisman soon after a 31-21 loss to Illinois in the Florida Citrus Bowl New Year's Day.

His credentials are impressive. He set an ACC record for touchdown production last season with 27, passing for 18 and rushing for nine. He's equally likely to launch a 50-yard pass or scramble for 20, and the Cavaliers have won 15 of his last 17 starts.

A mass exodus to the NFL by many of the nation's top would-be seniors pushed Moore's name up the Heisman list. The school sent out full-color posters and brochures of him last month and is bracing for a media crunch not seen here since the days of basketball star Ralph Sampson.

"Imagine this," President George Bush remarked here at the education summit here last fall. "You have the President, the governors and the cabinet all here, and still the big man on campus: Shawn Moore."

The normally reserved Welsh, who two years ago refused to answer questions about his quarterback when Moore struggled in his first season as a starter, has been downright loquacious.

"Shawn's the right kind of guy," said Welsh, who as a Navy quarterback finished third in the 1955 Heisman voting. "He's well-liked on the team and he's handled it well. . . . The decisions we make aren't going to take him into consideration except to utilize his talents to the best."

Moore's Heisman prospects depend largely on the success of his veteran team, which more often than not has floundered under the national spotlight. The Cavaliers lost twice on national television last season -- in the Kickoff Classic to Notre Dame and five weeks later to Clemson, a game Moore missed with a shoulder injury.

National television may call on Virginia just once this season, when the Cavaliers play host to Clemson Sept. 8. Should Virginia beat the Tigers for the first time in 30 tries, 11-0 would seem realistic.

The last two Heisman winners -- Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders and Houston's Andre Ware -- seemingly solved Moore's problem of competing for the award in relative obscurity. But Welsh is quick to point out that Moore might not have the opportunity to rack up gaudy statistics like Ware did.

"We don't have that kind of offense where we're going to throw the ball 50-60 times a game," Welsh said. "We're just not going to do that. We like to have a balanced offense."

But Moore, who has a pyschology degree and already has eclipsed Don Majkowski and Scott Secules for a number of school records, dodges questions about the award as gracefully as he brushes off would-be defenders.

"Shawn's very level-headed," said Herman Moore, who caught 36 passes last year for 848 yards and 10 touchdowns. "He's done a great job dealing with everything that's been said."