Kris Wright (@thesabre) is the Editor and General Manager of TheSabre.com, an independent website that covers University of Virginia athletics. Wright previously covered UVa for The Cavalier Daily and The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.
1. What’s the first thing Virginia fans think of when it comes to Auburn football?
Probably ‘War Eagle’ or the 19-0 shutout in your house back in the late 1990’s. Beyond that, everyone – not just Virginia fans – thinks of Cam Newton first when you mention Auburn football. The guy is on TV more than “Leave It To Beaver” reruns (hat tip to former UVa hoops coach Pete Gillen for that line).
2. How is the fan base taking this game? Are they just happy to be going to a bowl? Expect to win?
It’s a healthy mix of both. It’s been four years since Cavalier fans enjoyed a spot in the postseason so there is definitely a sense of happiness to be in a bowl game. The fact that the Chick-fil-A Bowl unexpectedly ended up with Virginia after two ACC teams received BCS games adds to the excitement for the fans too. With that said, however, fans want to win this game and they believe UVa can get it done after watching the team grab road wins at Miami and Florida State this season. Both of those games were in the prime time spot light on national TV too so once fans get a taste of winning games like that, there’s always hunger for more.
3. Name two Cavaliers (Hoos?) that Auburn fans should be worried about.
I’ll go with Perry Jones on offense and Chase Minnifield on defense. Jones has been given the nickname ‘Superman’ for what he does for the Hoos. At only 5’8″ and 185 pounds, you’d think he is a bit undersized to be effective out there but he can run outside, between the tackles, block in the passing game, block as a lead blocker on QB draws, and catch passes either from the backfield or from a receiver slot. Plus, he’s a beast in the weight room where he’s one of the team’s top achievers in the squat lift. As a junior captain, he’s a key leader on the team too.
Minnifield, meanwhile, brings the swagger a defense needs and backs it up with his play. As most corners do, Minnifield can get beat from time to time, but on balance he is able to lock up a receiver on his side of the field. He plays press coverage a lot at the line of scrimmage and moves over the slot receiver when UVa is in its nickel defense. He’s used as a blitzer from time to time as well. A recipient of multiple All-American awards this postseason, Minnifield is a guy to watch in the game.
4. On that note, most of us don’t have computers down here in Alabama, which means most of us don’t have Google, so can you explain the whole ‘Wahoos’ thing?
According to the tradition report in the old media guides, Washington & Lee baseball fans dubbed Virginia players “Wahoos” during the in-state rivalry games between those schools in the 1890’s and it stuck. The joke you’ll hear from some UVa fans is that a “Wahoo” is a fish that can drink twice its weight in water. Other reports suggest it was taken from an old Dartmouth cheer back in the 1800’s. Whatever the official origin, however, fans typically use Hoos or Wahoos in place of Cavaliers.
5. Have you heard the rant Colin Cowherd went on about Virginia fans a few years ago? Honestly, how accurate is it?
Yes. Rival fans love to dig that one up. It’s not overly accurate though I’m sure you can find some Virginia fans that fit the bill. With the likes of Chris Long, Thomas Jones, Chris Canty, and James Farrior all coming from the UVa football program, it’s not a very accurate description of the Cavaliers though.
6. What would draw more Virginia fans: the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn or a lacrosse game against Duke?
Clever. No, really.
The football game clearly would draw more. We’re just impressed that Auburn fans realize there are plenty of sports out there after football and UVa is good in just about all of them.
7. What does Auburn have to do to beat Virginia this weekend? What does Virginia have to do to beat Auburn?
Auburn has to stop the run. I don’t say that because of the season statistics for run defense either. UVa’s offense is based on running the football and using play action in the passing game. In Virginia’s losses this season, NC State, Virginia Tech, Florida State, and even Southern Miss to some extent slowed down the running game and that caused the offense to sputter a little bit.
Virginia, on the other hand, needs to control the tempo. That means running the football on offense and winning third down on defense. Those two things let UVa decide how it wants to play the game by grinding on offense and getting off the field on defense. That’s a vanilla formula, but it’s the way the Hoos won eight games this season.
8. What’s one positional matchup that you see one team having a major advantage?
Virginia likes to get Perry Jones into the passing game against the opponent’s linebackers and that’s a matchup that always favors Jones and the Hoos. I expect we’ll see the Cavalier offense try to create variations on that theme in this one. For Auburn, I think anyone involved in the vertical passing game could find some operating room against the Cavaliers’ safeties, who sometimes get caught up in run support.
9. What is your prediction for the game?
Hoos 24, Tigers 17.
10. Did you know that George Petrie brought the orange and blue colors from Virginia to Auburn? What’s it like to know we made them better?
Yes. In fact, a freelance writer wrote about that for the site. It’s kind of funny that both Auburn and Florida ended up with help from Virginia to pick some colors. Too bad neither school looks as good in them as the Hoos do.