'We have some incentive'
Top-10 finish, 10-win season at stake for Virginia
Posted: Friday December 18, 1998 11:14 PM
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (AP) -- Virginia coach George Welsh and his players say the possibility of a record-tying 10-victory season and a spot among the top 10 teams in the country are powerful motivators heading into the Peach Bowl.
The 13th-ranked Cavaliers (9-2) meet No. 19 Georgia (8-3) in the New Year's Eve game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, a rematch of the 1995 game that Virginia won 34-27 on an 83-yard kickoff return in the final minute.
"I think we have some incentive," Welsh told reporters Friday. "If we don't win, it's just going to be another year."
Ten victories and a top 10 finish is "a big motivation," said offensive lineman Noel LaMontagne. "A 10-2 record would be incredible. It would prove we are fulfilling a commitment to make this team better. The players take it seriously."
Virginia's only other 10-victory season was in 1989.
LaMontagne, a 6-foot-5, 302-pound junior, said the Cavaliers started the season thinking they could go undefeated, but Florida State and Georgia Tech got in the way.
"We'd like to prove we deserve the wins we got," he said. "The Virginia Tech game was a big statement about that."
In its final game of the season, Virginia outscored Virginia Tech 29-3 in the second half to win 36-32.
But the Cavaliers won't draw much momentum from that stirring victory, Welsh said.
"You gotta crank it up again," he said.
Welsh said he had not watched any film of Georgia and knew very little about the Bulldogs other than "they got a lot of different formations and they're spread out a lot."
He said he doesn't think Georgia, which is in Athens, will have a home field advantage at the Dome in Atlanta.
The Cavaliers will be off through next Saturday and will travel the next day to Furman University in South Carolina to begin preparations for Georgia.
"We'll try to get our skills, timing and intensity back," Welsh said.
He said the Bulldogs should be particularly wary of wide receiver Terrence Wilkins. The Cavaliers senior had a career day against North Carolina, catching four balls for 167 yards and a touchdown.
"Wilkins is vastly improved," Welsh said. "He's got a lot of quickness. They'll have trouble with him."
Wilkins hopes to play a major role in the game.
"I get open every game," he said. "When the ball is thrown to me I'm going to catch it every time and make a play out of it."
The 31st annual Peach Bowl will mark the first time that two teams ranked in the Top 20 will play in the Atlanta game.
Officials say they expect a sellout in the 71,151 seat stadium. The game, with a 5 p.m. kickoff, will be televised by ESPN.
The last Peach Bowl paid $1.5 million to each team, and officials said the payout this year would be more.
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