Streaking Hoos Prep For UNC
Nov 13, 2012
It's known as the oldest rivalry in the south, a series that began in 1892 and has seen 116 games, with UNC narrowly holding the advantage (58-54-4).
Virginia is riding a two-game win streak heading into the Thursday night, nationally televised ESPN match-up against North Carolina. To start the win streak, the Cavaliers destroyed NC State on the road, 33-6. The Hoos had an off week to prepare for the Pack, and the additional time certainly helped. Virginia then had a full week to prepare for Miami, a shootout (41-40) that wasn't decided until Jake McGee caught a touchdown pass from Michael Rocco with just 6 seconds remaining.
But this week offers a completely different challenge because the Cavaliers have a short week to prepare due to the Thursday night schedule.
"It's challenging," Cavalier coach Mike London said. "Because normally on a Sunday when you come in, you watch the opponent tape, and then you may do some scouting report stuff, then you go out on the field and you do corrections of what just occurred. But we treated Sunday as we would as we normally would, but we also did more. We didn't look at the Miami tape because we went right to the Carolina tape and the scouting report of the who and the what - because there's so many different facets that they have with formation - that you just have to be on top of. We did show some highlights of the Miami game and obviously did some correction there that we have to make note of, but we spent more time talking about and worrying about what Carolina does."
But London indicated there are some other things that can be done to help counter the short week and keep preparation on par with the Heels.
"We practiced [Monday]," said London. "And normally in a regular week Monday is our day off. [Monday this week] was more like a Tuesday, when we actually do practice. And [Tuesday] will be sort of like a combination of a Wednesday Thursday practice because Wednesday will have to be like a Friday practice on a Saturday game when you don't do too much. ... The fact that we're at home and they're coming off their game and their traveling, I know Coach Fedora will have them ready, but on the other side of that, having to travel and use a full day, Wednesday a full day to get to where you need to. Whether it's an advantage for us or not, I don't know, but we just have to take advantage of our preparation, because again, this is another really good football team coming down the stretch here that we have to play and prepare for."
UNC is coming off a 50-point offensive outing in a loss to Georgia Tech. While the situation is quite different than what Carolina faced with the Yellow Jackets, the explosiveness of the Heels is still a concern for Virginia.
"You know - you have to look at the Georgia Tech game," London said. "First of all, they scored 50 points. What is it, a 3 4 defense, a combination of 4 3, but you look at the other side, that style of offense is a different style of offense that puts up a lot of yardage as we know and can put some points on the board. ... You look at the way they can put points on the board, and we just talked about the receivers are tall, athletic guys - [Bryn] Renner is an experienced quarterback that can place the ball and get the ball to his receivers. The running backs, [A.J.] Blue and [Giovani] Bernard, are excellent running backs. You can see how they can be explosive and get points offensively. ... They're a very explosive team and a very athletic team, so definitely a challenge for us."
Senior linebacker Steve Greer hopes to avenge two straight losses to the Tar Heels.
Greer Keeps Getting Better
19 tackles ... 9 unassisted ... 1 pass break-up ... 1 tackle for loss. Those are senior linebacker Steve Greer's numbers the past two games. Over the past two seasons, Greer has led the defense in tackles and has helped hold together one of the youngest defenses the Cavaliers have ever fielded this season. In the three phases of football - defense, offensive and special teams - it was the defense that was predicted to be the weak link in the operation for 2012. Instead, it has been an improving bright spot. That certainly has a lot to do with Greer's leadership and level of play.
"You see there is a level of not only athletic skill but a level of being a smart player. He studies the game, and he practiced hard. His preparation is very, very good. A lot of the young guys learn from him about how he studies, how he prepares, and just he has a nose for the football, I guess. You want your middle linebacker to have a nose for the football," London said. "13 tackles against Miami and in other games he has had double-digit tackle games. He's put himself in the right position - more than anything else, I think, because of the way he prepares. He might not be the fastest guy and beat you in a foot race, but as I said, from just a preparation and being a smart player standpoint, he's pretty good."
One area Greer has improved greatly the past two games is with open field tackling. Against Miami, Greer made a few stops that could have broken for big plays.
"Steve has played very, very well the last couple games," London said. "And I think that these spread teams that try to spread you out and bring underneath receivers, flashing across the middle, at times requires a linebacker to have awareness, and if the ball is caught, to be athletic enough to make a tackle, because if the pass is caught and you break that first line of defense, then he may be running into the secondary. So as a veteran player, Steve has seen a lot of formations and a lot of different ways to try to exploit your middle defender. And I think based on his experience, we do a lot of that ourselves, seeing different looks, down and distance, running back position the backfield, I think Steve takes a total part of his game to that level to where it helps him execute when the time is called."
Greer's 349 career tackles puts him as the leader in the ACC for active players. Greer is 8th among active players in the FBS and 9th all-time in UVa history. He'll be honored pregame of the UNC game along with his fellow seniors.
Cavs' Confidence Rising with Wins
Zachary Swanson celebrates the victory over Miami.
When Virginia lost its sixth game in a row this season, the players easily could have given up on their season and packed it in. Blame it on youth or poor coaching, or a little of both, but the Cavaliers just weren't getting it done. Yet throughout the difficulties, coaches stayed positive and players kept their heads held high and fought through the adversity.
Fast forward to today. After two straight wins over quality opponents, the Hoos are riding a level of confidence they haven't felt all season. Perhaps the team started to finally find its rhythm. Perhaps the young players are beginning to mature and adjust to the college game. Or, perhaps it was the bye week that jumped started the process. Either way, Virginia is starting to look like the team fans and coaches had hoped for when the season began.
"I think you always look for some sort of spark, whether it's offensively, defensively, or from just the mentality of when good things happen. And I think it can become a snowball effect. People are ruled by the psychology of results, and you win a big game - a homecoming game on somebody else's turf, you come home, you play a very good team and you win last second - that helps the psyche. It helps the mentality of your team, and you keep talking about 'We can do this'. I mean, the players are very positive," London said. "When you look at them now, they're very positive about where they are in the last two games, particularly winning the way that they've had to win, close, and then win conventionally, and I think it just breeds confidence. When confident players are playing, it changes a lot of things. And I think that we have to continue to keep doing that, keep continuing to play confident, even though Carolina is a very, very good team, you've got to play with that passion.
"I think you saw it again this Saturday, but that's something that we're going to have to continue to keep playing with, because we look at this thing as another team in November, another opportunity," London continued. "This is the most this game is the most important game, because without winning this game, there is not another next important game. This is the most important game of our season right now."
Speaking of the pregame festivities for the seniors, Coach London was asked by a reporter about his senior class that he inherited and what it was like getting to know them, and how his relationship changed with them over the last three years. Here's what he said ...
"You know, when you come in and you try to establish a new culture of expectations, about classroom behavior, about the community and expectations of how you stress life after football, you develop a relationship because that's what I am; I kind of pride myself in being kind of a relationship oriented guy. And over the course of the last couple years, first year not much success, but then the second year having some success, it was great to see those guys have an experience like they experienced last year and what it meant to them and their families. And now as you see them getting to transition out and into the real world, hopefully you've had some sort of influence about talking about conduct, about grades, about how you treat people, how to be a significant player in the community that you live in. So that's part of the relationship part of it. The football part always stays off to the side because people see the games and you experience the highs and the lows and the wins and the losses, but you become more hopefully you become more of maybe a role model for them, and as they leave and go on, you hope that they will come back and be an active participant in the VAF [Virginia Athletics Foundation]."
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