When Virginia Coach Mike London gathered his team for practice Sunday, less than 24 hours after a 27-7 loss at No. 15 TCU, he talked about the missed chances that could have allowed the Cavaliers to come out on the winning end of things Saturday.
He mentioned the deep ball that bounced off wide receiver Darius Jennings’s helmet, the result of him getting tripped by a TCU cornerback Kevin White and losing sight of the ball as he tried to maintain his balance (the refs did not call pass interference). There was the fourth-quarter fumble by TCU backup quarterback Trevone Boykin that the Horned Frogs recovered even though the ball landed right at Virginia cornerback Drequan Hoskey’s feet. Not to mention the interception by cornerback Maurice Canady that was called back for pass interference.
Combined with the fact that the Cavaliers churned out more yards on the ground than they had all year against Football Bowl Subdivision competition (164) and forced two turnovers, it led London to one conclusion.
“Even coming off of this loss, I’m encouraged with the fact that, I just think we’re not far away from things happening for us,” he said Sunday night during his weekly teleconference with reporters. “Our mindset is positive and we’re anxious to be back home and anxious to play again. I think that’s probably one of the biggest things coming out of this loss as opposed to coming from Georgia Tech [last week].”
It wasn’t all cheery, though. London acknowledged that the four turnovers Virginia committed Saturday “killed us,” and he was disappointed that the Cavaliers converted just three of their 16 third downs Saturday, including only one while quarterback Michael Rocco was in the game.
Even the rushing stats are a bit misleading. If you take out a 49-yard run by sophomore Kevin Parks and a 27-yard scramble by Rocco on a broken play, Virginia averaged just three yards per carry.
But London emphasized that the 2-2 record the Cavaliers will bring into their game against Louisiana Tech this week is the same one they had a year ago before going on a run at the end of the regular season. It’s also right in line with what many expected from Virginia through four games, although the Cavaliers could be staring at a 1-3 mark if not for a bad Penn State placekicker.
“We’re close to getting to where we need to be, particularly against a good team like [TCU],” London said.
But Saturday could be the ultimate test for a Virginia offense that has struggled to put points on the board, particularly if the Cavaliers have plans to become bowl eligible this year. Louisiana Tech, coming off a 52-24 victory over Illinois Saturday that boosted its record to 3-0, is No. 3 in the country in scoring (54.7 points) and is averaging more than 536 yards per game so far this season. The Bulldogs are currently receiving votes in both the AP and coaches polls.
London said Sunday he got a head start on game planning for the Bulldogs last week since he watched film of last year’s Poinsettia Bowl in which TCU beat Louisiana Tech, 31-24. And as defensive coordinator Jim Reid put it after Saturday’s game: “You think those guys [TCU] are fast. Wait until you see next week’s team.”
Though he didn’t discuss any potential offensive changes Sunday, London hinted Saturday that some could be on the horizon. If that has anything to do with the tenuous situation at quarterback – Rocco currently has more interceptions (5) than touchdown passes (4) and has yet to play a full game this year – remains to be seen.
“Whether it’s personnel, whether it’s scheme, whatever it might be, we’ve got to do better,” London said.
Note: The ACC announced this weekend that Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech will be a 3:30 kickoff and streamed online at ESPN3.com.