Quarterback Shawn Moore has recovered sufficiently from an injured right thumb to start against 10th-ranked Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl, and that’s the way it ought to be, Virginia backup quarterback Matt Blundin said.
“Shawn Moore will be the starter,” Virginia Coach George Welsh said. “We feel like he has progressed enough, and his hand is not a real problem physically. He is going to be the guy we go with.”
Moore dislocated his thumb on the final play against Maryland on Nov. 17, and the operation to repair it left a puffy, red scar across the base of his hand.
Blundin said Moore deserves to start, even though it means he must defer a childhood dream.
“All that Shawn’s done since he’s been here, he’s basically been the quarterback that has brought this program up,” Blundin said. “You have to give him the start if he’s at least ready to take the snaps and throw the ball.”
Moore led the nation in passing efficiency this season, completing 144 of 241 passes for 2,262 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also triggered Virginia’s option running attack, gaining 306 yards and running for eight touchdowns.
He had Virginia ranked No. 1 for three weeks in October before a 1-3 finish toppled the Cavaliers out of the AP poll. Moore finished fourth in Heisman voting.
Under other circumstances, Blundin would relish the chance to be the starter. “It would be a special kick. It would be. That’s an understatement,” he said.
“It would be the biggest thrill for me since I’ve been playing sports, to be able to start in the Sugar Bowl. You watch these things when you’re a little kid and imagine yourself doing it. Just being a part of it is great.
“You probably hear that from everybody, but it’s so true.”
In his lone start this year, against Virginia Tech, Blundin passed for 305 yards and two touchdowns.
Welsh said Blundin is a smart quarterback with a strong arm and the confidence of his teammates, but isn’t Moore’s equal on the option.
Defensive tackle Joe Hall, who lines up against Blundin every day in practice, went a step further in praising the 6-foot-7 quarterback.
“I personally think Matt Blundin is a great quarterback,” he said. “He’s going to be a great pro quarterback some day. You’ll see him next year breaking a lot of Shawn’s records.”
Tennessee defensive coordinator Larry Lacewell said he believes Blundin, who also plays for Virginia’s 19th-ranked basketball team, is underrated as a runner.
“You don’t want to see that big red oak tree coming down the line of scrimmage at you,” Lacewell said. “At 6-7, he ought to be able to fall forward and gain five yards.”
Blundin also took exception to the idea that he is an immobile quarterback. “I guess people have this perception that because I’m 6-foot-7 I can’t run or can’t move out of the pocket. That’s wrong,” he said. “I’m agile enough to play basketball, I’m agile enough to move out of the pocket.”
Tennessee (8-2-2) is favored.