Muskett returns to practice, likely to start against Terps

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia’s football team will enter Friday night’s game at Maryland (7 p.m., FoxSports1 TV) the healthiest it has been so far this season, including the likely return of starting quarterback Tony Muskett to the lineup.

Muskett missed last week’s 36-35 loss to visiting JMU with a shoulder injury suffered in the opening week in a 49-13 road loss to top-10 Tennessee. In his stead, true freshman Anthony Colandrea started against the Dukes and threw for a freshman-record 377 yards and two touchdowns. It was one of the top 20 single-game passing performances in UVA history.

Still, Tony Elliott’s coaching philosophy, shared by most coaches, is that a starter doesn’t lose his job due to an injury. So if Muskett is healthy — Elliott said his status is still day-to-day — he will start against the 2-0 Terps, who have wins over Towson and Charlotte.

The coach said that Muskett has returned fully to practice, an indication that the Monmouth transfer will likely be slated in as the Cavaliers’ starter in College Park.

“Tony looked good in practice. I feel a lot better about the day-to-day decision,” Elliott said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s back in full practice. Last week he was a little limited, but he’s been able to do everything, make all the throws, go through the handoff progression, so I’m excited about his possibility for the weekend.”

Elliott reported that tight end Sackett Wood is also back, along with linebacker Josh Ahern and strong safety Langston Long. The only player still out is defensive back Antonio Clary, who is still day-to-day with an ankle ligament injury.

The coach said his team has bounced back from Saturday’s loss when the Cavaliers led JMU by 11 points before the game was held up for more than an hour due to a passing storm. JMU came out after the delay and scored two touchdowns over the last 12 minutes to win the game, while the Cavaliers barely responded.

Elliott shouldered some of the blame for Virginia’s poor play after the break in action.

“When I look back at it, I didn’t do a good job of having them ready to come out after the delay and finish the fourth quarter,” Elliott said. “When you look at it, credit to JMU, but a lot of it was we just didn’t make the plays.

“So the key is as we practice, we have the right intensity later in the week to make sure that we’re building as we go into the fourth quarter and not just trying to coast.

“I told the guys that, in my opinion, there’s two ways to win a game. You either go win it or the other team gives it to you. Not taking anything away from JMU, but we didn’t go win it, and that’s what we have to do.”

Maryland is a two-touchdown favorite in Friday’s game (more on Tuesday’s presser coming up).