Muskett will start against BC; Butler, Long, Akere all out

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Tony Elliott anticipates that Tony Muskett will start at quarterback for Virginia’s game at Boston College, as the Cavaliers attempt to break the nation’s second-longest losing streak on Saturday (2 p.m., The CW).

Muskett, a 6-foot-2, senior transfer from Monmouth, started UVA’s season opener against Tennessee and was injured in the second half, missing the next three games. In his absence, true freshman Anthony Colandrea has been sensational, breaking the program’s freshman single-game passing record in all three starts.

“I think he’s much closer,” Elliott said Tuesday of Muskett’s recovery from a shoulder injury. “I anticipate that Tony will be ready to play this week and that’s how we’ll roll.”

The Virginia coach is sticking to his philosophy that a starter doesn’t lose his job because of injury and after recovery, returns to the starting position. 

“As I said, I want to do what’s best for Tony,” Elliott said. “Each week we go into it with Tony being the guy until we get to the game and we assess what the situation is.

“So right now [Muskett] is our starting quarterback. I think we have a good sample size of what [Colandrea] can do. Both of them have to be ready. I think that they have a really good relationship and I see them hanging out together. They push each other in practice. There is a healthy competition.”

Elliott was asked if he was opposed to playing two quarterbacks and he replied that he will do whatever gives his team the best chance to win the game, but that the coaches need to see Muskett in another game in order to truly assess the situation.

“I think in fairness to Tony [Muskett], he’s played 45 snaps and has been out. He earned the job coming out of camp (in August) and he needs to be evaluated in the game as well. For me, it’s whatever gives us the best chance. I won’t know that until we get a good same size on Tony in the game.”

Colandrea has averaged 311 yards passing per game over his three starts and is second in the ACC in yards per completion (14.65), and third in yards per pass attempt (9.05).

In Virginia’s 11-play, 66-yard drive to tie the game at 21-all with 36 seconds to play against NC State, Colandrea accounted for 60 of those yards (50 passing while completing 5 of 6 passes, and another 10 rushing). He also threw for the touchdown pass and the 2-point conversion.

Colandrea needs only 419 yards passing the remainder of the season to break the Virginia freshman record for most passing yards.

Elliott will not have “bandit” Kam Butler, one of the team’s leading pass-rushers, available for the Boston College game, after the sixth-year starter was injured against NC State last Friday night. Butler had an MRI performed Monday night and the coach didn’t have the details on the injury, but did say Butler would not play this week.

“Hopefully hoping for the best,” Elliott said. “Think this might be more [pectoral] than shoulder, so hopefully we get good news that it’s not season-ending. Right now, we’re still waiting on those results.”

Elliott revealed that strong safety Lex Long will also be unavailable for this week’s game.

Meanwhile, linebacker Josh Ahern is probable, defensive end Ben Smiley is questionable and Butler’s backup at “bandit,” Paul Akere, is also out this week. Antonio Clary is still out, with probably another six weeks to recover from surgery.

Elliott said that Su (Olasunkonmi) Agunloye — the defensive lineman who injured both his knees in a freak accident while celebrating on UVA’s sidelines in the Tennessee game and is out for the season as a result — visited the Cavaliers’ locker room on Monday.