Elliott says Kemp out for Syracuse; more notes from his weekly presser

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Billy Kemp IV (Photo: UVA Athletics)

For the second game in a row, Virginia will be without one of the key figures in its pass-receiving corps, in slot receiver Billy Kemp IV.

Kemp was too sick to play against Old Dominion last Saturday, and it appears he will miss Friday night’s game at Syracuse (7 p.m., ESPN). The fifth-year senior ranks fourth on UVA’s all-time reception list with 179 catches.

Coach Tony Elliott said during his game-week press conference Tuesday that Kemp had been practicing last week, but had been battling some illness and became severly dehydrated and had to undergo some tests by team physicians.

“He’s doing better now, but we’re just erring on the side of caution to make sure,” Elliott said. “The most important thing is his health and that it’s not a severe situation, but he needs to be cleared from a doctor and he won’t be able to go to the doctor until [Wednesday], so we’re not going to push it, so I don’t anticipate that he’ll be cleared.”

Meanwhile, strong safety Antonio Clary is day-to-day with a stinger issue from the ODU game.

“It’s just a matter of how quickly the nerve responds and he has the proper amount of strength,” Elliott said of the senior. “So it could be a game-day decision, but he was out there today running around. He was in a green jersey (no contact), but I saw him in a tackling drill, so obviously he’s feeling better.”

Virginia (2-1) is a 10.5-point underdog, according to the oddsmakers, when the Cavaliers travel to the JMA Wireless Dome for the Friday night contest. Syracuse is one of seven unbeaten ACC teams at 3-0, and fresh off a 32-29 victory over Purdue (1-2).

The Orange will be without wide receiver Isaiah Jones, who coach Dino Babers said is “probably out for the remainder of the season.”

Previously, Syracuse lost both fullback/tight end Chris Elmore and linebacker Stefon Thompson for the season.

UVA hasn’t played at Syracuse since 2005, when Marques Hagans, now associate head coach of the Cavaliers, quarterbacked Al Groh’s team to a 27-24 win. Hagans became so dehydrated in the Dome that day that he had to have an IV at halftime, but finished with 110 yards rushing, including a 26-yard gain on third-and-six to set up the winning field goal.

Fans will remember Groh gambling on fourth-and-one at the Syracuse 9-yard line with a little over a minute remaining, choosing to run down the clock. Fullback Jason Snelling picked up the first down on a 4-yard run.

Asked about the gamble after the game, Groh said: “Are you familiar with the movie ‘Risky Business’? Sometimes you just gotta say what the heck!” electing to use a substitute word for actor Tom Cruise’s line in the film.

The last time the two teams met was a wild, triple-overtime game in 2015 in Charlottesville, as the Cavaliers pulled out a 44-38 win.

No place like Dome

Elliott knows how tough Syracuse’s dome – formerly known as the Carrier Dome – can be.

He was the offensive coordinator for Clemson in 2017 when the Tigers had won 74 of their previous 79 games, including two national championships. They ventured to Syracuse, where they were stunned 27-24 by the huge underdog Orange (Clemson was a 21-point favorite).

Even last season in the Dome, Clemson had to eke out a 17-14 win over Syracuse when Babers elected to try a 48-yard field goal on fourth-and-one with 38 seconds to play.

“I figured this question was coming,” Elliott said with a canary-chomping-Cheshire-cat grin. “Definitely they create a home-field advantage. They do a great job of regardless the size of the crowd. They find a way to make it loud in there.”

Elliott said he plans to show his team the Dome, because very few of them have ever been there.

“I think it would be important to get them there, kind of learn from Illinois,” he said. “The schedule was a little bit different, but I want to make sure we have some time for those guys to go in, see it, see the locker room, walk around on the field, see the new ceiling that they put in, for guys that are going to be catching balls in the lights.”

Elliott said he’s playing loud music – including the Syracuse fight song – this week in practice, so that his team will grow accustomed to the noise level.

One of the big storylines for the week will be Virginia going up against its former offensive coordinator Robert Anae and former quarterbacks coach Jason Beck, who left after Bronco Mendenhall shocked fans with his resignation days after the regular season ended last November. Both took the same jobs at Syracuse.

Apparently, both are off-limits to media this week, at least the Virginia media. We will have a story on the matchup of Anae & Beck against their former team.