Heels Hammer Hoos To Snap C'Ville Streak
Oct 16, 2010
Marc Verica and company couldn't overcome numerous miscues on Saturday night.
Mike London and his Cavaliers met at midfield following Saturday's game against North Carolina. The entire team grouped in a circle around the head coach and stood for a moment, taking in the atmosphere around them. The hometown fans were all but gone, the other team was celebrating, and the opposing fans were raucous. There were no postgame handshakes for the few remaining students, and the marching band's final rendition of "The Good Old Song" was nearly drowned out by chants of "Tar! Heels!"
That's because North Carolina dealt Virginia a sound 44-10 beating on Saturday and snapped the Cavaliers' 14-game home win streak over the Tar Heels. Coach London had an important lesson for his players to learn and that's why he kept them on the field.
"I wanted them to feel what it feels like to get beat like we did on your Homecoming with the other team, fans cheering them on, and then never, ever, ever forget that feeling," London said. "Never forget the feeling when somebody else comes in your house and hands it to you like they did."
North Carolina hadn't won a game in Charlottesville since 1981, and the victory came at a crucial time for the program. The Heels have been facing a lot of scrutiny due to some unacceptable activities by some of their players regarding gifts from agents. Coach Butch Davis has managed to keep his squad together, however, and UNC put an end to a losing tradition at Scott Stadium.
"It feels good. We tried not to put much emphasis on it this week in practice, because we found ourselves doing that a little too much in years past," Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates said. "It kind of got us out of the funk a little bit. Once we got back in the locker room, we acknowledged it and it's a good thing for this program to get that out of the way."
"The significance was coming in and playing well, not the history behind how many games we'd won at home," London said. "That's important, but when you're playing a game, you play it to make sure you have an opportunity to compete and win. They did a great job of executing their offense. They did a better job than we did."
It was a tough pill to swallow on Homecoming night. However, London was quick to halt any finger pointing. There were miscues all across the field, and in London's mind, the issues begin and end with one man.
"That's my team and I've got to coach them up. There's nobody else to go to. We've got to do a better job coaching in all aspects of playing the game," he said. "Again, I apologize to our fans and the people that come to support us. That rests with me. I've got to get the team better and ready to play, and be representative of a team that I think we can be."
The Cavaliers struggled on both sides of the ball Saturday. And it started early. North Carolina scored on its very first play from scrimmage. Yates connected with Dwight Jones for an 81-yard scoring strike that took life out of the UVa supporters. Yates connected on two of his first three passes for 127 yards, setting up a career day for the senior signal caller; he finished with 325 yards, 17 completions, and no interceptions. He still has just one INT on the season.
The Virginia secondary was without senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Dowling, who has been suffering from injuries since preseason camp, dinged up his knee last Tuesday. He looked solid in warm-ups, but the coaching staff made the call to hold him on the sidelines. Devin Wallace stepped in again and was caught out of position on the second Yates-to-Jones touchdown pass of the night. The linebacker corps was also caught flat-footed in pass coverage on several occasions, letting UNC complete passes underneath. While the front four did a fair job holding Carolina down in the trenches, the Hoos did give up 140 yards on the ground.
"They didn't do anything we didn't expect. There was just a lot of miscommunication in the secondary," corner Chase Minnifield said. "There are some things that we need to clear up because obviously when you have miscommunications in the secondary, they get big plays."
On offense, multiple interceptions, miscues, and mistakes held the Cavaliers completely scoreless in the second half. Of course, red zone inconsistencies plagued Virginia all night long too. The Hoos were 2-6 on trips to the red zone, and there were three interceptions within 5 yards of or in the end zone.
"We can tuck our heads and talk about the 'if I coulda, woulda, shoulda's' and all those things. But we've got to do a better job on third down," London said. "We can't get down in the red zone and not come away with touchdowns. We can't throw five interceptions."
Yes, you read that correctly - five interceptions. Three came at the hands of senior quarterback Marc Verica. The first was simply unlucky. Verica was under pressure, and trying to throw the ball away to avoid a sack. As he was releasing the ball, he was dragged down by a Tar Heel defender, and couldn't get enough behind the ball to get it out of bounds and beyond defensive end Tim Jackson. On the other two INTs, Verica telegraphed where he was going to put the ball and the defense reacted accordingly.
"I'm disappointed in the fact that there are three interceptions, and down in the red zone two opportunities to score touchdowns. You never want to get down there and come away empty handed. At least get three points," London said. "[Marc]'s got to do better. Your fifth year quarterback has got to do better. We've got to do a lot of things better. I'm sure he's not satisfied with his performance also. We have to do a better job of doing things to make Marc successful and efficient. That's on us."
Keith Payne, who had 107 rushing yards against North Carolina, is ready to move forward with his teammates.
Freshmen quarterbacks Ross Metheny and Mike Rocco both had opportunities on the field, but both added their own interceptions in the red zone due to poor decision-making. Rocco and Metheny showed their sheer inexperience on Saturday night so simply naming a new starter isn't an easy decision either.
"I understand that my teammates, my coaches and my family - and there's a lot of fans out there who do support us no matter what; those are the people that I like in my corner," Verica said. "I'll always take my hat off to people like that. The people in life that want to get on you when you're not doing well and want to be with you when you are doing well, I don't have any tolerance for that."
The only thing the Cavaliers can do from this point is move forward. The focus this season is, and always has been, improvement first. The biggest difference between this year's team and last year's 3-9 group is the attitude surrounding the program. There is no quit in this Virginia squad, but plenty of positive energy.
"We don't talk negatively. We talk positively. We're going to go back out there next week and play well," senior running back Keith Payne said. "We want to play every day. We have to keep our heads up. That is the way it is going to be around here."
"That's my team that's in the locker room right there. You don't go to the waiver wires; you don't do things to try to replace them. You've got to take the guys that you have and coach them up to believe in themselves and try to find ways to do things to help them win," London said. "My vision of this program, of this team, is to have guys that believe in themselves who can play, play after play."
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