Virginia aims to shore up special teams issues during bye week

The Virginia coaches will be on the road recruiting Monday and Tuesday before reconvening with the team on the practice field Wednesday, Coach Mike London said Sunday night. The Cavaliers have their bye week over the next seven days, and they’ll use it to try to address a number of deficiencies that have cropped up in recent weeks.

Surprisingly among them are the miscues that have occurred in the kicking game. With just more than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Virginia’s 21-20 overtime win Saturday over Idaho, the Vandals tied the score on a blocked punt near the U-Va. end zone that was followed by a successful two-point conversion.

Virginia operates a shield blocking technique on punts in which three players stand between the line of scrimmage and punter Jimmy Howell. Those three players are supposed to protect Howell – who has held the job the past four seasons – from the oncoming rush. But on that particular play, London said, one of the blockers “didn’t take the proper footwork, maybe got kind of lazy and didn’t get a hand on a guy that he needed to.” It was the first blocked punt of Howell’s collegiate career.

Also on Saturday, Cavaliers placekicker Robert Randolph missed two field goals that were within his range. On the first – a 41-yard attempt eight seconds into the fourth quarter, London said there was “leakage” in the protection at the line of scrimmage, allowing an Idaho defender to deflect the ball.

Randolph kicked the second one – a 36-yard attempt with just less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter – over the top of the right upright. In college football, a kick must go inside the uprights to be good.

After making his first eight field goal attempts of the season, Randolph has missed three of his last five attempts. …

Saturday was another rough day returning punts for true freshman Dominique Terrell. He still just doesn’t seem comfortable out there, which continues to affect his decision-making on when to call for fair catches, when to let the ball be downed and when to attempt returns. He returned one punt against Idaho for four yards.

On the Vandals’ final two punts of the game, senior cornerback Chase Minnifield replaced Terrell as Virginia’s punt returner, a move that London described Sunday as temporary. Minnifield called for a fair catch both times.

However, London left open the possibility during the bye week of replacing Terrell with Minnifield or someone else on a more permanent basis. Minnifield was the team’s primary punt returner last season. He averaged 6.5 yards per return.

Through five games, Terrell is averaging 4.4 yards per return. …

London said Sunday that senior defensive end Cam Johnson has been dealing with a lower leg injury in recent weeks and that the player told coaches during pre-game warm-ups that we was not healthy enough to play against Idaho. …

As far as the quarterback situation is concerned, London was asked Sunday whether he had any new thoughts on how the team planned to use sophomore Michael Rocco and true freshman David Watford moving forward.

“No,” London said. “No new thoughts.”

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