The Virginia Cavaliers (4-6, 2-4 ACC) continue their push towards bowl eligibility Thursday night when they host the North Carolina Tarheels (6-4, 3-3 ACC) at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After six consecutive losses – including four in the ACC – the Cavaliers have won two straight and can become bowl eligible with wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Virginia defeated North Carolina State 33-6 two weeks ago then used a last-second touchdown to edge out Miami (FL) 41-40 last weekend. With six seconds remaining, quarterback Michael Rocco found tight end Jake McGee in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
North Carolina – specifically the defense – is reeling after a 68-50 defeat at the hands of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the highest-scoring game in ACC history. Luckily for the Tar Heels, their offense was able to keep up for the majority of the game, or the outcome might have looked even worse.
Even with an extra week to prepare, the Tar Heels had no answer for Paul Johnson’s spread-flexbone as the Yellow Jackets racked up 380 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. The teams combined for 118 points and 1,085 yards while only punting a combined five times.
Virginia is led by quarterback Michael Rocco, running back Kevin Parks and wide receiver Darius Jennings. While Rocco may have pedestrian numbers – 1585 yards, 12:8 TD to INT ratio – he has looked poised and accurate during the Wahoos 2-game resurgence.
In his first start since September, Rocco threw for 300 yards and four touchdown passes while completing almost 80 percent of his passes. He had a school-record 18 straight completions before finishing 29 of 37in the victory over Miami.
Sophomore Kevin Parks is Virginia’s leading rusher with 660 yards on 140 carries (4.7 average) and five touchdowns. Senior Perry Jones gets the majority of the other touches and has responded with 395 yards on 114 carries (3.5 average) and 2 touchdowns. Jones is more of a threat in the passing game as he is 2nd on the team in receptions (41) and 4th on the team in yards (341).
Sophomore Darius Jennings is the Cavaliers most-explosive receiver with 521 yards on 42 catches (12.4 average) and 4 touchdowns. E.J. Scott has added 27 receptions, 377 yards and 3 touchdowns. The aforementioned McGee has 320 yards and four touchdowns on 24 receptions.
All signs – home field advantage, UVA 2-game winning streak, North Carolina’s defense – point towards a Virginia home victory. But don’t be surprised if we get the good Tar Heels team tomorrow night. They know the schedule is shrinking –and with no bowl in their future— the opportunity to gain momentum and establish themselves for next season is getting smaller by the minute. They also have a chip on their shoulders after that embarrassing performance against Georgia Tech.