CHARLOTTESVILLE, SEPT. 17 -- A ranking among the nation's top 10 football teams and serious talk of an undefeated season were perhaps the loftiest goals imaginable for Virginia Coach George Welsh in 1982, when he inherited a program that had only two winning seasons in the previous 29 years.
So it came as little surprise today at his weekly news conference that Welsh, whose only professed goal annually has been a winning season, dismissed Virginia's No. 10 ranking, refusing to give even token significance to the Cavaliers' first top 10 appearance in 38 years.
High individual expectations also have returned here after a 50-year hiatus. Quarterback Shawn Moore, the school's first legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate since Bill Dudley finished fifth in the 1941 voting, threw for four touchdowns Saturday against Navy, rushed for two and seemingly joined Brigham Young quarterback Ty Detmer at the top of the Heisman leader board.
"Why are we making such a big deal about it?" Welsh said. "The Heisman watch -- get that out of the newspapers, that would make me happy."
Moore's performance earned him the ACC offensive back of the week award, tying the conference mark for touchdown "responsibility" in a game, held by Kelvin Bryant (North Carolina) and Steve Slayden (Duke).
Welsh insisted throughout the preseason that his balanced offense would not afford Moore the chance to rack up the megastats of Barry Sanders and Andre Ware, the last two Heisman winners. But just three weeks into the season, with Virginia (3-0, 1-0 ACC) averaging 45 points and 532 yards a game, the opportunities have been staggering.
"I'm not going to get caught up in rankings . . . to embarrass somebody and run up the score to get Shawn Moore more statistics for the Heisman Trophy," Welsh said. "That's not the way the game should be played. It should be played to win the game first. That's all, and anything other than that, if it comes, fine, if it doesn't, fine. . . . It's not meant to be played for polls, for any awards or anything else."
But games are played for conference championships, and Virginia's matchup at Duke (1-1, 0-0) Saturday has become something of a title bout to determine the hotly disputed 1989 ACC championship. The teams tied for the title last season at 6-1, with Virginia claiming superiority by virtue of a 49-28 victory here over the Blue Devils.
"When I was at home, a guy walked by with a 'Duke: 1989 ACC Champions' T-shirt on," said Virginia cornerback Tony Covington, who lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. "That really kills me. I just asked the guy, 'Are you aware that Virginia beat Duke pretty badly?' "