Game Preview: East Carolina, Part 1

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UVa’s Chris Gould goes head-to-head with a good punter and a good kicker at ECU.

Virginia travels to East Carolina for the first time ever this weekend so rest assured, the Pirates will be fired up and ready to play. The Cavaliers should have plenty of motivation for this out-of-conference game, though. The Hoos are trying to get back to .500 before a key ACC stretch and this game could loom large in any late-season bowl picture. That means Chris Gould and company need to find a way to win despite being the underdog in this match-up.

Special Teams

ECU senior place kicker Robert Lee was one of 30 players named to the 2006 Lou Groza Award Watch List. He opened his first season at East Carolina with a perfect showing on PATs (30 of 30) and finished his initial season hitting 17 of 19 field goals – that tied ECU’s standard for most three-pointers made in a season. Lee has opened the ’06 campaign successfully, converting all eight PATs and drilling 4 of 6 field goal tries with the misses coming from 39 and 40 yards.

Cavs kicker Chris Gould has yet to miss an extra point although Virginia fumbled a placement snap against Duke. The Cavaliers are 6 of 10 on field goal attempts with Gould connecting on 6 of 9. All four of the Hoos’ misses have come from beyond 40 yards, including two attempts of 47 and 49.

The Cavaliers’ return game has provided limited production of late averaging just 20.2 yards per kickoff return and only 8.6 yards on punt return. The kickoff group had little chance to see the impact of Tony Franklin in the operation as Virginia returned just one kick against Duke for 15 yards. I believe Mike Brown’s addition to the punt return operation ultimately will make a big difference once he gets a higher comfort level on game day. Brown has the potential to be a game breaker. The Pirates will be a challenge for the return gang as they have limited opponents to