Virginia football aspires to quicker starts in games

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 12, 2010; 12:10 AM

CHARLOTTESVILLE -- In the first halves of its past two games combined, Virginia has managed just seven points and 149 yards of total offense. The Cavaliers' offense grew more productive after halftime in each contest, but not enough to prevent double-digit losses.

As Virginia prepares to host North Carolina on Saturday, the Cavaliers (2-3, 0-2 ACC) understand that, in the words of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, they "have to start the game with a greater sense of urgency."

Despite competing without a handful of key defensive contributors that are caught up in an agent scandal that has brought on internal and NCAA investigations, North Carolina (3-2, 1-1) ranks fourth in the conference in total defense and held Clemson to 305 total yards Saturday in a 21-16 victory.

"It's just about execution, coming out ready to play and understanding what is your assignment," Virginia quarterback Marc Verica said Monday. "We have to do a better job of that in the first half because the trend is that we're getting in holes now, so when we come out in the second half, you know, the hole might be too deep to dig ourselves out of. It will definitely be important against UNC to come out and establish something early. Overall, we just have to be more consistent."

The Cavaliers entered the second half of their Oct. 2 game against Florida State trailing 27-0 and having managed 42 total yards. Verica threw for 160 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter, and Virginia ended up compiling 304 total yards in a 34-14 loss.

Virginia's offensive turnaround transpired in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 33-21 loss at Georgia Tech. Of the 239 passing yards Verica registered that game, he threw for 174 in the final period.

"I think in both of those situations, the tempo of our offense had increased," Verica said of the unit's second-half performance boosts the past two weeks. "We were trying to go to a two-minute tempo a little bit there. No huddle, just lining up on the ball, get a completion, line up on the ball again, and boom, get another completion. It kind of presents a challenge to the defense where they can't really change their personnel that well.

"And at that point in the game they could also be playing differently, maybe not as aggressively as in the beginning of the game. It's good production in the quarter, but those are the kind of numbers that we'd like to see more in the beginning of the game, because we need to establish something at the beginning of the game so we're not in that role and we're not trying to dig ourselves out of that hole at the end of a game."

Left tackle Bradley out

Coach Mike London said Monday that junior Landon Bradley, Virginia's starting left tackle, "will be out for a couple of games" with a hand injury the player suffered in the third quarter of Saturday's loss at Georgia Tech. Bradley underwent surgery Monday to mend the hand, according to an injury report released by the team.

With Bradley out, some reshuffling will take place. On the depth chart released by the team Monday, redshirt freshman Sean Cascarano, who stepped in for Bradley on Saturday, is listed as interchangeable at the starting left tackle spot with sophomore Oday Aboushi, who typically starts at right tackle.

Aboushi remains listed as the starter at right tackle, though London said Sunday that Aboushi would swing over to play on the left side should Bradley have to miss time. Now that it's clear Bradley will be out, it remains unclear which side of the line Aboushi will anchor come Saturday.

Redshirt freshman Luke Bowanko and sophomore Aaron Van Kuiken are listed below Aboushi at right tackle on the depth chart, though it's possible Cascarano could play some snaps there against the Tar Heels.

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