After 12 weeks of workouts and several false starts on the schedule due to COVID-19 chaos, Virginia is finally scheduled to open defense of their coastal division title in the Atlantic Coast Conference on Saturday against Duke in Charlottesville, Va.
Punahou graduate, running back Wayne Taulapapa enters the year as the featured back for the Cavaliers having posted 12 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore.
Adding to the confidence for Taulapapa, who averaged 4 yards per carry in a dual-back role a season ago is the fact that the Cavaliers return an experienced offensive line that returns a line that has 116 starts combined.
The offseason was an interesting one for the former Cover2 Offensive Player of the Year finalist, who joins Kahuku’s Samson Reed and Kapolei’s Aaron Faumui as former Hawaii prep stars on the Virginia roster. All three players spent part of the summer in the islands where 3am HST virtual meetings were daily wake up calls.
“It was a struggle. You never know when you’re supposed to sleep or when you’re supposed to wake up, but at the end of the day if that’s you’re job, if it’s your responsibility you have to do it,” said Taulapapa.”It’s easy going into that situation just because the commitment that I have for the team, that Samson has for the team, that Aaron has for the team, all the boys that are from the islands and so, although it was difficult it was easy to us because of the fact that we’re committed to the team.”
While in Hawaii, between COVID-19 lockdowns for O’ahu, Taulapapa went back to his roots for workouts that he’s confident helped him find a new gear.
“In Hawaii, something that I used to do as a kid was sand hills over at Kahuku Golf Course. You talk to every kid from Laie or Hau’ula they know exactly what sand hills those are and so, just going back to the basics. Working from when I was a young child running on sand. Being able to pick my feet up, being able to do steps in hard terrain and so, always working willow where the beach was, where the sand was, where it was beautiful scenery was I think was a step-up in a way and I was able to carry out and keep in good shape.”
With current state guidelines limiting capacity to the lesser of 50 percent occupancy of the facility, or one-thousand patrons, UVA will only allow family of student-athletes and coaches to attend home games this Fall. That guideline certainly will lower the decibels of what is typically one of the loudest stadiums in the ACC, however, Taulapapa remains confident that it won’t affect his team’s performance.
“Football is football. No matter what the situation. All the boys are supportive of each other, we all push for each other. We all get really excited during practice and so we hope that it doesn’t change our mindset and it won’t. At the end of the day, football is football.”
Taulapapa and company will hit the field on Saturday at 10:00am HST.
The Blue Devils (0-2, 0-2 ACC) have already played two games against Notre Dame and Boston College, whereas the Cavaliers’ previously plotted contests against Georgia, VMI and Virginia Tech were all canceled or postponed.
Virginia has won the last five meetings with Duke, including a lopsided 48-14 win last season in Charlottesville. The game will be televised on the ACC Network.