Clemson University

Cavaliers seniors eager to go out with victory

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. | Quarterback Marc Verica knows Virginia heads into its game against Clemson on Saturday needing one more victory to become bowl eligible, and with just two more chances to do it.

That, by itself, it motivation enough for him to spend more time studying film this week to give the Cavaliers their best chance to win.

But in Verica's mind, there's far more at stake.

"There's a lot riding on this game and it's really not just being able to become bowl eligible," he said this week. "It's sending guys like John Phillips and Cedric Peerman and Clint (Sintim) out with a win."

The three teammates he mentioned are among 24 fourth- and fifth-year Cavaliers who will be recognized before playing their final home game.

Others include linebacker Jon Copper, who will start for the 36th time in his career, and left tackle Eugene Monroe, the next Virginia offensive lineman projected as a very high first-round draft choice.

It also will include backup quarterback Scott Deke, a mentor to Verica who may well finish a five-year career having attempted just nine passes in that time, and whose only touchdown throw came on a fake field goal.

All of them, Verica said, deserve to leave with a winning smile.

The outgoing players themselves will try to do their part to inspire the Cavaliers' best at the team meeting on Friday night, when several of them traditionally take advantage of an opportunity to address the team.

Often, the messages are passionate, and sometimes revealing.

"There was one guy who spoke and just said he had a lot of regrets about the way he had lived his life in college and he talked about leaving a legacy and said he kind of blew his shot to do that," said Copper, who did not name the player.

"Another guy, Connor Hughes, ... used to head up going to the hospitals on Mondays and he talked about the kids that really looked up to us and just the great opportunity we have to have an impact on others."

Copper said he expects to give a talk much like Hughes did.

"That really stuck with me," he said.

Others, like Sintim, joke that maybe they should just keep quiet.

He recalled defensive lineman Kwakou Robinson's talk from 2005.

"A lot of guys really got emotional when he was talking," Sintim said. "A couple people say some things and it really kind of hits you and makes it hard to sleep that night, so maybe we shouldn't have anybody speak."

Sintim said he's not sure he'll have anything to say, but may decide on the fly, especially if inspired by his teammates' testimonials.

That, coach Al Groh said, is a common approach, and the end result tends to leave the coaching staff feeling like it has done things right.

"There have been on occasion some pretty emotional exchanges about what being part of the program has meant to the player and the relationships that he's established with his teammates," Groh said.

"From our standpoint a lot of times, it's been very reassuring that what we have been trying to create in terms of the unity of team and the commitment to each other and becoming part of the culture that we're trying to establish has taken place, and when you hear it come directly from them without prompting from their hearts, it is reassuring."

The Cavaliers have one more game after Saturday, at arch rival Virginia Tech, where the Hokies will be honoring their senior class.