Virginia Coach Mike London said Monday he could not yet provide an update on the health status of sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco. In the event that Rocco is physically unable to play Saturday against Idaho, London said the Cavaliers’ starter would be determined during the course of practice this week.
London said following a 30-24 loss to Southern Mississippi this past weekend that Rocco had suffered a rib injury late in the second quarter and that Rocco was pulled late in the third quarter because the injury was negatively affecting his performance. Rocco – who threw three interceptions before he was removed – said after the game he was fine and denied that any pain he felt in his ribs impacted his second-half throws.
The players had Monday off, and the team’s injured members underwent MRIs and X-ray exams on their various ailments, London said, including Rocco in that group. London said he would know more about Rocco’s status and how he was feeling later Monday night.
“If Michael Rocco is fine to go, then we’ll do like we’ve done before,” London said. “He’ll go in and take the first snap of the game, and then we’ll get (true freshman) David (Watford) those opportunities to get in because he will get in, and we’ll try to utilize his talents, as well.”
Should Rocco be unable to play Saturday, London said the Cavaliers will turn to either Watford or redshirt sophomore Ross Metheny. Should that scenario play out, London said he would determine the starting quarterback by the end of practice Thursday.
Watford replaced Rocco late in the third quarter against Southern Miss and ended up conducting a 10-play scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Following a one-yard touchdown pass, Watford completed a two-point conversion pass before which he scrambled way out of the pocket to evade a Southern Miss defender.
“He outran that pressure toward their sideline and then ran back up and threw the ball,” London said. “The one thing that a young quarterback will learn is that type of pressure, most quarterbacks that have experience, you want them to step up in the pocket and then, if the opportunity presents itself, then you escape that way and you head toward the goal line. I think what we saw was David’s athletic ability to outrun a pursuing defender and use his athleticism.
“What we’ll see as he starts learning more about being a quarterback and some of the things that it takes, particularly in games like that, is sometimes you can step up in the pocket and make those throws and have some confidence in the protection and just because people are flying around you all the time, it doesn’t mean things are going bad. And so, that’s one of the things I thought was positive. I think you saw his athleticism, but at the same time you see some of the growth that he’ll need as we move forward.”
As for Rocco’s performance prior to being pulled from the Southern Miss game, London noted the two first-quarter scoring drives Rocco engineered before turning to the player’s two first-half interceptions.
The first interception, London said, was “probably an ill-advised throw.” He said the second interception “probably had a little more air underneath it than it should.”
“As a quarterback, whether it comes off the hands of a receiver or you underthrow it or overthrow it, you’ve got to be the guardian of the football because you’re the one delivering it,” London said. “Anytime you throw an interception, that’s not a good thing because the other team gets the ball. I thought this game was going to come down to a game of possessions, and when they got it, our defense had to, in spots, play on the other side of the 50-yard line.
“We never want interceptions in that situation, and I know Michael, if he could, he would take those throws back. But he made the throws, they were interceptions, and you never want a quarterback to make those types of mistakes.”
Rocco has completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 792 yards, one touchdown and seven interceptions. Watford has seen action in all four games thus far. He has thrown for 145 yards and one touchdown while completing 50 percent of his passes. Metheny made a brief appearance in Virginia’s season-opener against William & Mary. He completed both passes he threw for a total of 36 yards.