After a season filled with injuries and mental errors by its young players, Virginia comes off its bye week rested and relatively healthy. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, the final stretch of their season begins with a tough opponent--No. 1 Florida State.
Virginia (4-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) needs to win two of its final four games in order to be eligible for a bowl. After Florida State's visit Saturday, the Cavaliers host Georgia Tech on Nov. 6 and Buffalo on Nov. 13 before ending their season at Maryland on Nov. 20.
Helping the Cavaliers this week is the probable return of sophomore defensive lineman Monsanto Pope, who has been out since injuring a knee in the first quarter of Virginia's opening game against North Carolina.
Virginia Coach George Welsh said yesterday that Pope, who started five games and had 28 tackles as a redshirt freshman in 1998, will practice this week and should play Saturday.
Pope had been projected to play at both tackle and end this season. He will likely play more at end this weekend as senior starting tackles Maurice Anderson and Johnny Shivers have registered 46 and 28 tackles, respectively. The defensive line has put good pressure on opposing quarterbacks at times, with 12 sacks this season, but has struggled in each of the Cavaliers' losses.
Pope "is going to make a heck of a difference," Shivers said. "He's strong, fast and he's been here.
"He's got the right mind-set. He's one of those guys who's big time."
Nothing New for FSU
Welsh said he does not expect to alter his defensive scheme against Florida State to deal with star wide receiver Peter Warrick. In Virginia's 33-28 upset of the Seminoles in 1995, Florida State's first loss in ACC play, Welsh installed a 3-5 defensive scheme for the game. But with a young team this season, Welsh said making any change that radical would be counterproductive.
The only wideout Welsh remembered double-covering was N.C. State's Torry Holt in 1998. Warrick has 47 receptions for 629 yards in the six games he has played. He caught 11 passes for 121 yards in the Seminoles' 17-14 victory over Clemson on Saturday, but he also dropped several balls in his first action since returning from a two-week suspension.
"He looked rusty," Virginia cornerback Dwayne Stukes said. "I don't think he's going to be rusty this week."
Aches and Pains
In addition to Pope, reserve quarterback-long snapper David Rivers (hip) and defensive end Boo Battle (ankle) are probable. Wide receiver Demetrius Dotson, out with a sprained knee, may not return this season. Starting left tackle Josh Lawson (ankle sprain) is doubtful for Saturday, and will be replaced by either shifting right tackle Brad Barnes or left guard Noel LaMontagne, both starters, or freshman Mike Mullins.