Tuesday Press Conference Notes - MTSU
Oct 02, 2007
John Phillips and the Cavs will try to grab a second straight road win this week.
At his weekly press conference Tuesday, UVa coach Al Groh was very aware of that fact, noting that this Saturday's game at Middle Tennessee State provided a specific challenge for the players and coaches because they haven't fared well in the non-conference road game scenario in recent outings. Prior to the 27-24 win at Syracuse in 2005, you have to go all the way back to the 2004 opener at Temple to find another non-ACC road victory.
Since defeating Cuse, Virginia has dropped games in uninspiring fashion at Pittsburgh (38-13 last season), at East Carolina (31-21 last season), and at Wyoming (23-3 this season). Beating North Carolina in Chapel Hill a few weeks ago may not mean much either in terms of building road momentum - the Hoos last won consecutive road games in 2004 when they defeated Duke (37-16) and Georgia Tech (30-10).
"This is a pretty big challenge for our team, one of the bigger challenges so far this year because we really haven't handled this type of circumstance very well the last two times we've been out, that is a non-conference game on the road," Groh said. "So we definitely feel very challenged to prove ourselves under this set of circumstances and, as such, we got a really good concentration out of the players yesterday toward that objective."
Putting year-to-year trends aside, the college football landscape is a tricky one. Appalachian State has become the fashionable 'any given Saturday' example, but a number of prominent teams lost away from home last week. Groh pointed that out when asked if the win at Carolina had helped take care of the Cavaliers' road woes.
"Oklahoma had a little struggle on the road last week. USC had a little struggle on the road last week. Penn State had a little struggle on the road last week," Groh said. "It's a challenging circumstance. It's not a virus that just suddenly came to Charlottesville and rested here."
Not So Fast
Certainly, one hot topic following Saturday's victory against Pittsburgh was the disappearance of Peter Lalich. He did not play against the Panthers after sharing the QB duties for three straight weeks with starter Jameel Sewell. So the rotation is dead, the redshirt wasted, and that's that. Right? Well to borrow from ESPN's Lee Corso, not so fast my friend.
Coach Groh said on Tuesday that Lalich likely would have seen time if the score had resembled the final margin earlier and if Sewell had looked crisper in the third quarter. As the scenario played out, the coaches decided to stay with Sewell to help him close out the game with confidence and to allow him to work on certain situations. Groh also indicated that the quarterback decision will continue to be handled on a week-to-week basis with game situations dictating what ultimately happens.
"[Lalich's progress has] continued to be good. Some days are a little faster than others, but that's normally the course with a player so early in his career," Groh said. "We certainly don't have any change of thought in the value of the rotation or any new hesitancy to use it. As we said right in the beginning, the utilization of the quarterbacks is going to be based on game situations and what particular style of play that that game situation might call for."
Sewell's effectiveness in the read option/spread option against Pittsburgh on Saturday probably contributed to his playing time. Sewell rushed for 64 yards on 12 carries, an average of 5.3 yards per carry. Those carries proved to be a good weapon against the Panthers, who have struggled against mobile quarterbacks at times in their recent history. For comparison sake, Lalich only has been credited with 5 carries all season long.
"[Jameel] was very, very aggressive and assertive with it the other night. He saw the reads very quickly and he was very alert to take them," Groh said. "That played off of Cedric [Peerman]. I think Cedric ended up in the high 80s [rushing] for the game; in previous games, he had been 130 or 140, something of that area, and Jameel had been down lower. Had the defense chosen to play that play differently than they did, then probably some of Jameel's yardage would have been on Cedric's total. That they chose to play the play a particular way created more opportunities for Jameel and he was assertive in taking those."
Another hot topic after the 30-point win: Why weren't more subs playing? Considering the fact that there are so many different positions, the answer is not available in an across-the-board format. Focusing on the defensive package, however, provides at least some insight.
Virginia spent much of the latter portion of the game in its dime defense, which involves more defensive backs. That meant players like Ras-I Dowling, Trey Womack, and Mike Parker saw significant playing time. If UVa had been in the base 3-4 alignment or its nickel package, that likely would have shifted those same minutes elsewhere.
"There were a few more, especially on defense, that we probably wish could have got some time, but the whole fourth quarter was pretty much conducted with our dime defense in there," Groh said. "The depth chart on that is quite a bit different than with our regular defense. There are some players who are back-ups on the regular defense who aren't even on the dime depth chart. If we had played more regular, those guys would have gotten a chance to play. We were kind of regretful that the circumstance didn't allow us to get some of those guys in there."
Eugene Monroe, who has a knee/leg injury. "It's hard to tell. It will take us through the week. I was just visiting with him before I came over and we just agree that we're going to go day to day with it and check in at the end of the week," Groh said.
Maurice Covington, hand injury. "I think he'll be back. We certainly would hope that that would be the case," Groh said.
Kevin Ogletree, who is recovering from ACL surgery. "His surgery was a little bit earlier [than some of the others] so he's a little bit further along in what he's doing, but anybody who thinks he's going to play any time soon probably has about seven fantasy football teams too. ... I don't see any signs of [him playing] right now. He's at a stage where sometimes players are able to do enough work to develop enough strength where maybe a players' circumstances can change dramatically over the course of a few weeks, but right now it's not something that's certainly imminent," Groh said.
Chris Cook, who was shaken up late against Pitt. "He's fine," Groh said.
Chase Minnifield, who had ACL surgery in the middle of his senior year of high school. "Really, [he's been practicing] probably since the last couple of days of camp. I'd say that you probably can still see little remnants yet in his gait. ... He's been doing both [receiver and cornerback] for us, actually wherever we kind of need him to help us out to get ready. ... What we can see in him working on both sides of the ball is that he has got the capability to do either one; that was pretty apparent looking at his high school stuff too," Groh said.
Kris Burd (back surgery) and Mike Brown (ACL). "They were running together yesterday and I had a chance to observe them both. You can tell both of them are progressing and they were working at a pretty good clip, but clearly not one that would indicate that being in a game is anywhere close," Groh said.
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