Will UVA sell out Scott for JMU? ‘UVA Strong,’ ‘Orange Out’ should make for emotional day

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Coming off an expected lopsided loss at Tennessee last weekend, Virginia is a 7-point underdog to visiting James Madison this weekend in what will be the 500th game at Scott Stadium (opened in 1931).

According to reports, ticket sales have been brisk and there are whispers of 50,000 or more fans showing up for the noon kickoff (ESPNU). UVA will be honoring the three players who were killed in a senseless shooting last November — Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry and Lavel Davis Jr. — and their families in a special pre-game ceremony beginning at 11:30 a.m. The school asks that fans be in their seats early in order to observe the salute (see related story here for all gameday festivities, including parking and other important news).

The “UVA Strong” ceremony will most certainly be an emotional event, followed by a game between programs that haven’t met since the early 1980s.

JMU opened its season last week with a 38-3 win over FCS opponent Bucknell after leading 14-3 at halftime. The Dukes, coached by Curt Cignetti, have the third-longest active streak in the nation in scoring 35-plus points per game.

Virginia’s defense is coming off a decent performance against one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but held Tennessee to only one touchdown in the Vols’ first five drives of the game. No UT opponent — including Alabama (twice) and Georgia (twice) — had done that over the past 20 games.

While the Cavaliers lost, Tony Elliott had to be pleased that his team only had 10 yards in penalties and did not turn the ball over. The last time that happened was during the 2019 Orange Bowl season.

There hasn’t been any word on the condition of UVA starting quarterback Tony Muskett, who left the game during the first drive of the fourth quarter. Muskett was sacked, landed on his left shoulder and did not return to the game.

Afterward, Elliott said Muskett would have X-rays taken when the team returned to Charlottesville that night. The coach is expected to update media on Muskett’s condition at Tuesday afternoon’s press conference.

Meanwhile, backup quarterback Anthony Colandrea, a true freshman from St. Petersburg, Fla., has moved into the starting job unless Muskett is given a green light.

JMU will be starting a different quarterback in Saturday’s game. Jordan McCloud, who entered the Bucknell game with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter, has been named the starter for the UVA game.

McCloud took over for the struggling Alonza Barnett III, who completed only 3 of 11 passes for 15 yards. McCloud was 7 of 11 for 144 yards and threw two, fourth-quarter touchdowns (57 yards to Reggie Brown and 13 yards to Maxwell Moss).

Cignetti said that McCloud has played in big-game atmospheres before. McCloud played against No. 7 Notre Dame in South Bend in 2020, one of his two seasons playing for South Florida, then faced No. 3 Oregon in Eugene in 2021 when he played at Arizona before transferring to JMU.

In last week’s win over Bucknell, JMU compiled 436 yards of total offense, including 261 yards rushing.

UVA, which is asking for an “Orange Out” on Saturday, reported there are a limited number of lower bowl tickets still available (go to UVATix.com).