Virginia redshirt junior Ausar Walcott replaced fifth-year senior as the starter at strong-side linebacker Saturday at Indiana, a move Coach Mike London said Sunday was due in part to Walcott’s improved play and in part to health issues that kept Taliaferro at less than 100 percent.
London hinted that Taliaferro is injured, though the coach would not go into specifics about Taliaferro’s health. Taliaferro played sparingly against the Hoosiers and was credited with one assisted tackle.
Walcott, on the other hand, finished with six tackles and a pass break up. London said Walcott played about 57 reps Saturday.
After being suspended indefinitely from the team last winter due to his involvement in a fight near the James Madison University campus, Walcott slowly has re-ingratiated himself to the coaching staff. Initially he was banished to the bottom of the depth chart at defensive end, and now he has worked his way back into the starting lineup at strong-side linebacker. Walcott started 11 games at weak-side linebacker in 2010. …
London said senior defensive end Cam Johnson also played “57-plus” snaps against Indiana, which is more than double the amount of plays in which Johnson was on the field against William & Mary in Week One. London revealed in July that Johnson has sickle cell trait, which can affect the player’s endurance and energy level during physical activity.
The Cavaliers may have wanted to sub Johnson out of the game more frequently to provide him more opportunity to rest, but the manner in which Indiana’s offense operated made that difficult. London said that particularly when the ball was on the hash mark closer to the Hoosiers’ sideline, Indiana would not substitute their offensive players in between snaps. Instead, the Hoosiers would immediately head to the line of scrimmage after the previous play ended and look to their sideline for the next play.
“They probably got us winded a little bit because of not being able to substitute, but I think Cam, according to (Defensive Coordinator Jim) Reid and (Defensive Line Coach Jeff) Hanson, played probably one of his better games,” London said Sunday. “And he obviously came up big on the last play and had the presence of mind to grab the ball out of the quarterback’s hands.”
Indeed, on his last snap of the night, Johnson recorded the sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery that, London said, “kind of sealed” Virginia’s win. Four plays after Johnson’s heroics, placekicker Robert Randolph made a 23-yard game-winning field goal.
Johnson finished the night with three tackles, two of which resulted in a loss for the Hoosiers.
“The way that Cam played was the way that we thought Cam could play regardless of whatever health issues there may have been about him,” London said. …
Virginia was charged with six penalties for 51 yards Saturday, which was an improvement from the eight penalties for 56 yards the Cavaliers were charged with the previous week against William & Mary.
That said, many of Virginia’s penalties Saturday came at critical junctures. For instance, the Cavaliers were charged with three penalties in a span of four plays on their second offensive drive of the game.
On second and seven from the Indiana 12 yard-line, Virginia was called for a false start. Two plays later, the Cavaliers were called for another false start penalty. And they followed that up with a delay of game penalty on the ensuing play, which gave Virginia third and 23 at the Indiana 28 yard-line. The Cavaliers had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Randolph.
Freshman defensive end Thompson Brown was called for a personal foul on the opening kick-off of the second half. On that play, Indiana had been called for holding, which meant the Hoosiers would have started on their own 7 yard-line were it not for Brown’s penalty. Instead, they started at the 22. Not that it mattered. Sophomore safety Rijo Walker recorded his first career interception on the following play.
On Indiana’s next drive, Johnson was called for roughing the passer on third and one from the Virginia 45 yard-line. The Hoosiers had thrown an incompletion on that play and may have punted were it not for Johnson’s penalty, which gave them a first down. Indiana scored its first touchdown of the game later on that drive.
Virginia fifth-year safety Corey Mosley earned a personal foul call when Indiana faced third and three from the Cavaliers 11 yard-line. The foul gave Indiana first and goal from the 5 yard-line. Four plays later, Indiana went for it on fourth and goal and threw an incomplete pass.
At one other point during the game, senior cornerback Chase Minnifield was called for a personal foul, but the call was offset by a personal foul charged to the Indiana player with which Minnifield was scuffling.
The Hoosiers “were trying to play physical and get involved and engaged, and when you’re on the road and things like that, you’ve got to keep your head about you and not respond back to some taunting and what you may perceive as late hits,” London said Sunday. “The fact that they called a couple flags on personal fouls, some of them were off-setting. A couple they got. One that Cam got, he probably shouldn’t have done that because it would have been a fourth down situation. That extended the drive.
“But for the most part, other than the three at the very beginning … I think the guys, the players did an excellent job of curtailing the urge to maybe hold and to maybe hit out of bounds late and the urge to maybe do things that have kind of been our nemesis here since last season.” …
With 12 minutes, 31 seconds to play in the fourth quarter Saturday, redshirt freshman tailback Kevin Parks hobbled off the field after a four-yard rush. He did not return.
On Sunday, London said Parks “will be alright” and that the coach thought Parks “will be fine to play” this weekend at North Carolina. But London would not go into specifics about the nature of Parks’s injury.
Parks finished Saturday with 11 carries for 37 yards and two touchdowns. …
Lastly, London confirmed Sunday that junior defensive end Connor McCartin will not be able to play for the Cavaliers for the rest of the season due to medical issues that are believed to be related to concussions. London, however, would not go into specifics about the nature of the medical issues that will keep McCartin off the field in 2011.
London left open the possibility that McCartin might return to the field in 2012, though he said that would be reviewed at the end of the current season.
“I’m going to have him around us,” London said. “He’s going to be involved in football with us and for us. It’s unfortunate that things happened from a physical nature that would cause him not to be able to participate this year. But he’s still one of us, and we’re going to support him every way we can.”