On Thursday, Nov. 2, 1995, Virginia upset second-ranked Florida
State 33-28, but that wasn't the most shocking news of the week.
The truly shocking news broke the next day when a photo editor
rushed breathlessly into the newsroom of the school paper, The
Cavalier Daily. Stop the presses! Exclusive! He had it right
there on film: Coach George Welsh was...smiling!
It wasn't much of a reaction, really, considering that the upset
of the Seminoles was one of the biggest victories in school
history. Eyes wide, mere millimeters of teeth unveiled beneath
his sharp nose--there was some question whether it was even a
smile. Maybe he was just startled by the photographer's flash.
Maybe someone stomped on his foot during the postgame
celebration. Still, the paper decided to play the picture big
for its readers, who are still getting used to their beloved
Cavaliers' new status as media darlings. Well, get used to it,
folks. Virginia, led by the winningest coach in its history,
will inspire even more grins this year.
Before Welsh arrived from Navy in 1982, Virginia, with two
winning seasons in 29 years, typically gave student journalists
experience covering the loser's locker room. Then, just as he
had done in Annapolis--where in nine seasons he became the
Midshipmen's alltime wins leader (55-46-1)--Welsh imposed his
will on Charlottesville. He instilled a gritty work ethic and,
most of all, composure. Step by step he led the Cavaliers to
their first bowl game, their first conference championship and,
in 1990, a stint as the No. 1 team in the nation. Just like
that, Virginia football had tradition.
With 13 returning starters from a 9-4 team (the four losses were
by a total of 14 points), the Cavaliers are not only primed to
defend the ACC title they shared with Florida State last fall
but also have their sights set on a Top 10 finish.
The defense features one of the strongest linebacking corps in
the ACC, anchored by seniors James Farrior and Jamie Sharper,
but the secondary is young. At quarterback Virginia has to
settle on either senior Tim Sherman, the backup last year, or
promising sophomore Aaron Brooks. Either way, the quarterback's
primary job is to get the ball to senior running back Tiki
Barber, a Heisman Trophy candidate who holds school records for
single- season rushing (1,397) and all-purpose yardage (1,906).
Naturally, Welsh is concerned, though he has plenty of talent to
work with. Even if fortune has been smiling on Scott Stadium
during his era, don't bet on him showing off his dimples again
any time soon.