By Kelly Schorling
The Virginia offensive line put together a collective effort last Saturday to help facilitate an upset over No. 12 Georgia Tech in a 24-21 decision. Overall, the Cavaliers accumulated an impressive 409 yards of total offense against Al Groh’s defense. The offensive line’s accomplishments as the game was ending were also quite remarkable. With just less than six minutes to play, Virginia had a field goal advantage over Georgia Tech, and it was the Cavalier offensive line that helped the team complete 14 plays for 68 yards to run out the clock.
Center Anthony Mihota led the charge, enabling Virginia’s running backs to register 274 total rushing yards, including two touchdowns. Last season, Mihota appeared in all 12 games for Virginia, which amounted to 856 total offensive plays. He was a pivotal component of an offensive line that went 13 consecutive quarters without allowing a sack. After a strong season his junior year, he has started in all six contests this year. Against the Yellow Jackets, he participated in every one of the Cavaliers’ 66 offensive plays in which he had nine knockdown blocks. It was for this impressive performance that he was awarded the ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week honor.
According to UVa offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim, the key to Mihota’s success this season has been that he has “gained confidence,” and been able to use that to “put together a solid year.”
Mihota is not the only player taking care of business on the offensive line. Although Luke Bowanko is only a sophomore and appeared in just five games for the Cavaliers during the 2010 season, he has transitioned smoothly into the starting position at right guard this year. Wachenheim stated that Bowanko “had no problem settling in with the other guys on the offensive line.” Further evaluation of Bowanko suggests why he has had such a solid season for Virginia.
“He is improving every week. He comes to work every day. He is a hard practice player. He prepares after practice too. He is a very coachable player. He does all the right things on and off the field,” Wachenheim said.
The game against Georgia Tech was Virginia’s biggest single-game rushing total since facing Duke in 2004 when the Cavaliers amassed 348 yards. Mihota, Bowanko, and the rest of the offensive linemen hope to help the team produce big numbers against NC State this week too. The Wolfpack, who Virginia has not faced since 2007, has allowed an average of more than 400 yards of total offense per game this season (412.2, 9th in ACC).