Rebuilding in DNA
By Dave Fairbank 247-4637
November 8, 2009
Daven Harmeling eagerly anticipated his senior season at Washington State. He had been a contributor on back-to-back NCAA tournament teams and was part of the resurrection of Cougars basketball, first under coach Dick Bennett and then under his son and successor, Tony.
But Harmeling, a smooth-shooting forward from Grand Junction, Colo., didn't make the kind of competitive jump he envisioned during his junior year. He entered his senior year aiming for a third consecutive NCAA trip and hoping to make amends for a sub-par season.
As the season unfolded, however, the Cougars struggled. Harmeling pressed. His production and playing time further decreased. He couldn't disagree with the coaches' decision to limit his minutes.
Still, as his college career wound down, he found himself drawn to Tony Bennett's office, for guidance, for reassurance, for connection to the man who recruited him and coached him.
"It was an unbelievable experience playing for him," Harmeling said. "If I had a son who was going to play college basketball, I'd want him to play for Tony. I learned the game of basketball, I feel, second to none. But I also feel like I learned just as much off the court as on the court."
Nikola Koprivica, a senior from Serbia who came to Pullman, Wash., sight unseen to play for Bennett, said simply, "I would say it was an honor to play for him."
In the past decade, Bennett has left an impression on both programs and people. After just three years as a college head coach, he was lured cross country last spring as Virginia's under-the-radar choice to replace Dave Leitao.
Bennett, 40, is charged with rebuilding a program that won just nine ACC games the past two seasons, a task that some would consider part of his DNA.
Dick Bennett's specialty was reconstruction. He took three Wisconsin schools to national tournaments, including an NCAA Final Four appearance in 2000 at the University of Wisconsin, a season in which Tony served as an underpaid and overqualified team manager.
Dick and Tony then laid the groundwork for Washington State's rise beginning in 2003, with Tony elevating the program into the Pac-10 and national picture after his father's second retirement in 2006.
Tony Bennett actually came to coaching somewhat reluctantly and relatively late. He saw the work and anguish his dad and older sister endured — Kathi Bennett, too, was a successful college head coach — and initially dismissed the pursuit.
When knee and foot injuries scuttled Bennett's professional playing career, however, he first caught the coaching bug overseas in New Zealand. After he and his wife, Laurel, returned to the States to start a family, the Badgers' 2000 run to the Final Four hooked him for good.
"What I realized about coaching," Bennett said, "is that it is a roller coaster. There are such highs and lows, but it's a way to have an impact on young men's lives and at the same time do what you love to do: bring a team together and do something special."
Dick Bennett sees in his son a coach who adheres to many of the principles he taught, but with a younger man's connection to his players and willingness to experiment.
"He's much more poised than I ever was," Dick Bennett said. "I was intense to the point where I walked a fine line between focusing and not being able to focus on what mattered. When you cross that line, you lose focus, and I stepped over that line too many times. I've seldom seen him do that. He's been that way all his life. He's always been a very poised young man."
Indeed, Tony Bennett can talk for hours about the qualities and lessons his father imparted, but he greatly admires his dad's intensity, and how he handled it.
Dick Bennett, fiery Italian as Tony described him, wasn't above verbally scalding a kid in the heat of competition. But without fail, he would go back to the player, sometimes in front of teammates, sometimes privately, and apologize.
"When you see someone who coached in the Final Four," Tony Bennett said, "somebody who's a legend in the state of Wisconsin in basketball, tell an 18-year-old, 'I'm sorry. I screwed up. I made a mistake. I hope you can forgive me and we can move on.' To me, that's a good example to these young men."
Years ago, Dick Bennett implemented five pillars for his programs, a nod to the family's Christian faith and to John Wooden's famous Pyramid of Success — qualities that apply to both basketball and life.
Tony carried them over upon his father's retirement — Dick actually credits Tony for helping deepen his and his wife's faith — at Washington State and now at Virginia.
Bennett's five pillars are thankfulness, passion, unity, servanthood and humility. They're displayed in the team's media guide. Biblical in nature, they relate to basketball as well — some more obviously than others.
Humility, for example, speaks to the wisdom of self-awareness and understanding strengths and weaknesses. Put competitively: Poor shooters should know better than to jack up 3-pointers; lesser ballhandlers should know better than to run the break.
Servanthood is about making sacrifices and performing acts that help the team — an extra pass, screening, boxing out, propping up a slumping teammate. Thankfulness pertains to appreciating the fact that they play a game, and to being grateful that lessons can be learned in both triumph and defeat.
Bennett doesn't preach or proselytize. In fact, he goes out of his way not to foist his beliefs on others.
"I'm a Christian, and it's an important part of my life," he said. "It's not something I shove down the throat of anybody I coach. I just try to coach and make an impact."
Bennett's faith and personality account for his coaching style and his open-door policy with his players.
"He's a really patient guy," Koprivica said. "He's great with people. He interacts very well with everybody. He's the perfect mixture of calm and intensity."
Said Bennett: "Shame on me if a kid leaves and feels like he was left out in the cold, or there wasn't an effort made to have a relationship with a young man and help him mature. There's nothing better than seeing a young man mature."
Virginia's players still are getting to know their coach and what's expected of them.
"He treats you with respect," said guard Calvin Baker, a fifth-year senior from Newport News. "He'll ask for your opinion. He's not real controlling, but he lets you know that it is his team. You can tell he's real humble. … He's a real good guy, but he's also a really good coach."
Much has been made of Bennett's coaching philosophy and emphasis on defense, which some portray as horse-and-buggy in a hovercraft world. Last year's Washington State team led the nation in scoring defense, but also was 314th in scoring offense. His two NCAA teams were similarly stingy on defense, though ranked below 200 on offense.
Bennett's non-negotiables, much like his dad's, are defensive accountability, preventing transition baskets and second-chance points, and making sound decisions on offense.
"People have this perception of Washington State," Harmeling said, "that we pass it around and wait until the last couple of seconds (on the shot clock) to shoot, that we don't even look for our shot. I laugh when I hear people say that, because it's obvious they don't watch us play.
"We emphasize defense, but Tony plays to his players' strengths. He's not trying to limit players' individuality. He does what's necessary to give the team the best chance to win."
Harmeling's freshman year, which was Dick Bennett's next-to-last season in Pullman, the Cougars lost 81-29 at sixth-ranked Oklahoma State.
Two years later, in Tony Bennett's first season as head coach, the Cougars tied a school record with 26 wins, defeated five ranked teams and finished second in the Pac-10. He won numerous national coach-of-the-year awards. The following year, Washington State again won 26 games and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
"Some people call it 'old school,'" Harmeling said. "I call it 'common sense.' There's no question his system works if people will give it time."
Bennett understands that his name provided entrée into the coaching profession, first at Wisconsin and then at Washington State. When Cougars athletic director Jim Sterk lured the elder Bennett out of retirement in 2003, it was done with no guarantee that Tony would succeed him.
It was up to Tony to demonstrate that he merited a Pac-10 job for his first college head-coaching position. Again, he must prove that a head coach with just three years under his belt and few ties to the region merits a job in the cauldron of the ACC.
"When an (athletic director) will give you an opportunity, a great chance," Bennett said, "I certainly want to do well for the university, but I really want to honor those A.D.s for taking a chance on me and choosing me and trusting me to run a program. That's a big motivation for me to really want to do well."
So now, Tony Bennett, the man who came to coaching reluctantly, wants what his father had. He sees the men that his father coached decades ago call to check in and thank him for the lessons he taught them about competition and life.
"At the end of the day," Bennett said, "I want to be one of those guys. I want our staff to be that way, where these players say, 'I trusted those guys and boy, I really grew when I was at that place.' Of course, there has to be basketball success, and you're going for that common goal, but there has to be something beyond basketball."
U.Va. at a glance
Coach: Tony Bennett.
Last year's record: 10-18, 4-12 ACC.
Games to watch: vs. Stanford, 7 p.m. Nov. 24 (Cancun Challenge); at North Carolina State, noon Jan. 9; Virginia Tech, 7 p.m. Jan. 28; at UNC, 7:45 p.m. Jan. 31; Duke, 7:45 p.m. Feb. 28.
Players to watch: Sylven Landesberg (So., G, 16.6 ppg, 6 rpg); Mike Scott (Jr., F, 10.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg); Jeff Jones (Jr., G, 6.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg); Calvin Baker (Sr., G, 8.4 ppg, 2.8 apg); Sammy Zeglinski (So., G, 7.8 ppg, 3 apg).
Odds of making NCAA tournament: 100-1.
Our thoughts: Though the non-conference schedule is soft, and there's good backcourt experience, Bennett must remain patient while establishing his slow-it-down style. Scott and center Assane Sene (1.6 blocks per game last season) must be tough in the frontcourt to help U.Va. improve its last-place standing in the ACC in field-goal-percentage defense (43.8 percent).
What's inside this section?
•Conference breakdowns for the ACC, CAA, MEAC and USA South, Page 2
•Season previews for Christopher Newport, Hampton, Old Dominion, Virginia Tech and William and Mary, Page 15
U.Va. season opener
WHO: Longwood at Virginia.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville.
Bennett by the numbers
49.7 Percent shooting on 3-pointers in his playing career at Wisconsin-Green Bay (an NCAA record)
55.4 Points per game allowed last season by Bennett's Washington State team (lowest in Div. I)
67.6 Winning percentage in three seasons as Washington State's head coach (69-33)
More Tony Bennett
Research for Sunday’s piece on new Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett yielded a bunch of stuff that there wasn’t room for in the daily rag. No such limitations in cyberspace. This is more than anyone outside Cav Nation, and Bennett's family, would care to read, but here goes.
No one knows how Bennett will work out competitively, nor how well or how quickly his system will be embraced. What emerged from talking to him and to a handful of folks about him, though, is that he is a surpassingly decent gent with very specific ideas about how the game should be played, particularly at places where top-shelf talent doesn’t congregate, and very specific ideas about how to treat people.
“When you recruit young men and you talk to those families and those people who are important to them,” Bennett said, “they have to know that they’re coming here and first, getting a great education and a chance to succeed as basketball players. But it’s so important that they know there’s going to be a relationship. Hopefully, you’re going to influence their sons in the right way. It’s intense on the floor and we push kids, but it’s still all about having fun and having a relationship with our kids and the staff.”
“You can’t please everybody,” he said, “but you can be fair and real. We’re supposed to be kind and compassionate to others. That’s important.”
Though Bennett has yet to call his first timeout in the ACC, he already has made an impression on his players at Virginia.
“Coach Bennett is a mellow guy,” said sophomore guard Sylven Landesberg, the ACC’s reigning Rookie of the Year and the Cavaliers’ most talented player. “But when he has to get in you, he’ll get in you. As a player, you have to respect that. Your coach just can’t be calm all the time.
"There’s times when you’re messing up and he has to get in you. We all respect that. He’ll never embarrass you, he’ll never yell at you for no reason. He’ll pull you over, tell you you’re doing this wrong, doing that wrong, try to do this next time. He respects all of us, and we have respect for him.”
Bennett, 40, came to Virginia after three years as head coach at Washington State, where he elevated the rebuilding job that he and his father, the estimable Dick Bennett, began in 2003 when WSU athletic director Jim Sterk talked the elder Bennett out of retirement.
Tony’s teams at Washington State went 69-33 in three seasons, with two trips to the NCAA tournament and a slew of national recognition at a place where there was no reason for basketball to succeed.
Forward Daven Harmeling, who was at WSU from 2004-09, said, “We beat a lot of teams that if we were just playing in an open gym, running up and down the floor, we’d lose to by 30 or 40 points.”
Tony Bennett watched his dad repeatedly play Ty Pennington throughout his career, mostly in a state (Wisconsin) that’s traditionally thin on elite hoops talent. He and his father said the first thing you must do in those situations is hit upon a formula that allows you to compete against the best teams in your conference.
“You have to find a system that gives you that chance,” Tony Bennett said. “Establish a rock-solid base in how you defend. Soundness and sureness offensively. Good decision making. Constants that are really true, no matter what your style is.”
Sterk said that when he spoke to Dick Bennett about coming to Pullman, Wash., Bennett initially wanted an assurance that Tony would succeed him, hopefully after the program gained some traction. Sterk said that he couldn’t do it.
The Bennetts went to Pullman anyway, Dick said, reasoning that Tony would demonstrate that he had the chops necessary to take over. Which he did. In fact, the Bennetts essentially set it up so that Tony was the de facto heir apparent. He did a good deal of the recruiting and player evaluation because he would eventually be the head coach.
Two years into Dick’s three-year reign, Sterk went to then-school prez Lane Rawlins and said, “Let’s write the letter now. When Dick retires, Tony’s the guy. You could see the character, how he handled himself, what kind of recruiter he was, how he was with people, one-on-one and in groups. I wanted to lock him up before somebody came after him.”
Sterk said that he and the administration caught some heat for designating Tony as the next head coach. A 30-something with zero college head coaching experience getting a Pac-10 job right out of the chute.
Tony knew that the primary reason he even got a sniff at the Washington State job was because of the family name, yet he said he didn’t feel extra pressure to perform.
“I actually looked at it as a win-win,” he said. “First, it was a great honor to follow a coach like my father. I used to joke that, ‘If I don’t do the job and I stink, at least the family name remains intact and it proves my dad can coach. His name looked good if I struggled, and if I did well, then we both looked good.’|”
Sterk said that he and Rawlins sat in the stands at a game well into Tony’s first season, when the Cougars were on their way to a 26-win season and an NCAA tournament berth.
“He said, ‘Jimmy, I don’t hear them criticizing us any more,’|” Sterk recalled.
The closest thing to criticism leveled against Bennett is his team’s playing style, which is long on defensive accountability and offensive smarts. The Cougars were near the top of the rankings in scoring defense and near the bottom in scoring offense. His teams will attempt to limit possessions, particularly when they’re facing more talented teams. Expect a good deal of 64-57 games at Virginia, at least to start.
Sterk said that once the Cougars started winning, they began selling out their 12,000-seat arena, when they routinely drew 2,000 to games in the years before the Bennetts arrived.
“When I hired Dick and Tony,” Sterk said, “I heard a lot about how what they did was outdated, that it didn’t work with today’s athletes and in today’s game. Well, it worked at (Wisconsin-)Green Bay and it worked at Madison (at the University of Wisconsin). I think winning breeds excitement and interest in the program.”
In the primary piece on Bennett, I devoted a segment to the role that faith plays in his life and coaching, for a couple of reasons.
His former players at Washington State talked about the program’s five pillars, which are biblical in nature and kind of an extension of Bennett’s and his family’s faith. Also, they’re prominently displayed, on page 4 of the U.Va. media guide. Someone drew up a logo with the five words encircling the Virginia crossed-sabres symbol, which is on page 5 of the media guide.
I appreciate that some people think that athletics and religion should be treated like government and religion – separation of church and locker room, God has bigger fish to fry than who wins and loses, and all that. In many cases, I couldn't agree more.
However, when faith is an important part of your makeup and seeps into how you conduct yourself on and off the court, it’s at least worth asking about.
Now, understand that Bennett is happy to talk about his faith, but as I wrote in the main piece, he goes out of his way not to push it on people. In fact, he was a little leery about the questions, because he doesn’t know me at all and because he didn’t want to come across as a missionary with a whistle and a dry-erase board.
“Everybody is at a different place in what they believe,” he said. “I’m a Christian. That’s what I believe. I try to live my life in a manner that’s worthy of trying to be about what I believe. Do I make mistakes? Absolutely. I’m far from perfect. I’m very thankful for what I believe. It’s a very important part of my life.”
“I think a goal for a coach, regardless of your beliefs,” he continued, “is to have a positive impact on the players you teach. Certainly, we want them to have success. But beyond that, I want them to say after they get done playing for me: ‘You know what, Coach had a good influence on me, a good impact. I think I saw what it meant to be a person of character. I see what it means to be a person who cares about his family and cares about people. I see what it means to be someone who makes mistakes and screws up, but can come back and say they’re sorry.’|”
“If your faith is important to you,” he said, “it should play out in your life in whatever you do. It has to have an impact. I just try to respect people. I’m on a journey, man, and I just want to keep growing my faith.”
Bennett is well aware of what’s expected of him at Virginia. Athletic director Craig Littlepage laid it out for him during the interview process. A few years to install his system and his recruits. After that, consistent finishes in the top half of the ACC and trips to the NCAA tournament.
“Having played professionally,” Bennett said, “I accept that. Sure, I’ll have time, but at some point you’re going to have to put results on the table. My hope is that it can come sooner rather than later. … But I know there’s a process, and I’ve watched it take place at these other jobs. When you get young men in and they get experience and they’ve bought in, and those intangibles are in place, and you do a good job recruiting, you can compete and have success.”
Posted by Dave Fairbank
Sene to miss 1st 3 games
By Whitey Reid
Published: November 8, 2009
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Just six days from the season opener and the start of the Tony Bennett era, the Virginia men’s basketball program has suffered a big loss.
On Saturday, Bennett announced that he has suspended sophomore center Assane Sene for the first three games of the season. The 7-footer from Senegal is being disciplined for “conduct detrimental to the team,” according to a press release issued by the school.
Sene will miss Friday’s season opener at John Paul Jones Arena against Longwood, plus Virginia’s Nov. 16 game at South Florida and its Nov. 19 home game against Rider.
“We have expectations for the individuals in our program that Assane has not met,” Bennett said. “He will not play in our closed scrimmage with St. John’s on Sunday and in the first three games of the regular season, but will practice with the team. My hope is Assane will learn from this situation as we move forward.”
Sene, as reported in Friday’s edition of The Daily Progress, had missed a team practice on Thursday due to personal reasons.
Sene played in 22 games last season, starting 16, and averaged 2.5 points and 4.6 rebounds a game. He led the team with 35 blocked shots, which ranked fifth in the ACC.
Sene, because of his size and shotblocking ability, was considered to be a strong candidate for this season’s starting lineup. His loss for any prolonged period would be a major loss to the team.
Without Sene, Bennett could turn to senior Jerome Meyinsse to play center, or possibly go with a smaller lineup featuring junior Mike Scott or senior Jamil Tucker in the middle.
With John Brandenburg transferring to Colgate over the summer, Virginia is thin at the center position.
Devvarman reaches final
By Whitey Reid
Published: November 8, 2009
It was several months back, when the Boar’s Head Sports Club first announced that it would be hosting a Pro Challenger Tour event, that former Virginia star Somdev Devvarman busted into a robot-themed techno dance.
Well, he didn’t do that — but he got really excited.
Devvarman’s thinking was that a return to Charlottesville to play as a professional in front of old friends and teammates would be one of the highlights of his young career.
After Saturday, Devvarman is now just win away from winning the inaugural Virginia National Bank Men’s Pro Championship.
Devvarman, ranked No. 121 in the world, defeated Ryan Sweeting 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to advance to this afternoon’s finals against Kevin Kim, who was a winner over Donald Young in the other semifinal.
“Every tournament, you want to do well in,” Devvarman said, “but here at home it’s been really special for me.
“Hopefully tomorrow, it will be nice and packed and I can come out with a win.”
The match was a lot closer than the score would indicate. Sweeting, ranked No. 141, bullied Devvarman from the baseline to take the second set. It seemed as if he had all the momentum heading into the third. However, Devvarman broke Sweeting in the second game with a looping topspin forehand pass.
In the next game, Devvarman quickly found himself down two break points, but then rallied for the hold.
Two games later, Devvarman showed off an improved serve, blasting two aces to take a 4-1 lead.
The Chennai, India native broke Sweeting at love the next game, frustrating him immensely in the process. Trailing 2-5, Sweeting was called for a foot fault and, for all intents and purposes, imploded.
“I think in the third set, my serve sort of went away from me, my legs went away,” Sweeting said. “He’s a tough player to stay with for three sets. He gets a lot of balls back ... his fitness is unbelievable.
“He’s one of the fastest guys on tour. When you think you hit a winner, the ball’s coming back. And mentally, he’s tough. He’s just a great competitor.”
Devvarman should have confidence today. He defeated the 87th-ranked Kim at his other hometown tournament, the Chennai Open, last January.
“It was completely different conditions — hot, outdoors, bouncy courts,” Devvarman said. “Here, it’s fast, indoors. It’s completely different conditions. But I’m looking forward to a good match.
“He’ll take the ball early and look to dictate, so the more I can keep him from doing that, the better it will be for me.
Most importantly, the main thing is for me to come out and take care of my serve.”
Devvarman’s match gets underway after the completion of the doubles final, which features former Virginia alums Dom Inglot and Rylan Rizza. Inglot and Rizza had never played together before this event.
“It’s been a really positive experience for them,” said Virginia coach Brian Boland. “I’m looking forward to seeing them play in their first final tomorrow.”
Boar’s Head Sports Club tournament director Ron Manilla said that plenty of tickets remain for both of tomorrow’s finals.
“They should both be really great matches,” Manilla said, “as the majority of the matches in the tournament have been.
“It’s a great chance to come out and see some of the best professionals in the world compete at an extremely high level.”
No. 7 UVa Blanks No. 18 NC State, 1-0
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/07/2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE - On a night that the seventh-ranked Virginia men's soccer team honored its senior class, it was two fourth-year players that connected for the game's lone goal as the Cavaliers shut out No. 18 NC State, 1-0, Saturday night at Klöckner Stadium.
Ross LaBauex (Chicago, Ill.) scored his first goal of the season in the 21st minute to lift UVa to victory. Neil Barlow (Herndon, Va.) had the assist, his team-high fifth of the season. LaBauex and Barlow, along with Jordan Evans (Chester, Va.), Chase Neinken (Roswell, Ga.) and Jonathan Villanueva (Grand Prairie, Texas) were honored in a pregame Senior Night ceremony.
Virginia (12-3-1, 4-3-1 ACC) concluded its regular season by extending its unbeaten streak to eight games and shutting out its fifth-consecutive opponent.
In goal for the Cavaliers, Diego Restrepo (West Palm Beach, Fla.) recorded three saves to earn his ACC-leading ninth shutout of the season. Through their 17 regular-season matches, the Cavaliers have allowed just seven goals.
"I really thought it was a game of two very different halves," Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch said. "In the first half, we created great chances and moved the ball unbelievably well. The second half was more of a stalemate and we grinded it out against a very good NC State team."
UVa's goal was the result of a restart, after NC State was called for a foul outside the top of the penalty box. Barlow pushed the ball to LaBauex, who rocketed a shot on goal from 25 yards out with his right foot. NC State goalkeeper Christopher Widman made a diving effort, but LaBauex's shot found the back of the net to the far post.
From there, the Cavaliers relied on their defense to preserve the one-goal victory. Virginia held a slight advantage in shots, 7-5, and corner kicks, 5-4.
Saturday's match concludes the Cavaliers' regular season. Pairings and seedings for the 2009 ACC Men's Soccer Tournament, being held Nov. 10-15 in Cary, N.C., will be announced on Monday, Nov. 9.
No. 17 Wrestling Cruises to Two Wins to Start Season
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/07/2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The No. 17 Virginia wrestling team opened its 2009-10 season with a pair of wins Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium, downing Anderson (S.C.), 37-9, and Campbell, 36-6. The Cavaliers won 16 of their 20 individual matches in the two victories.
Third-ranked Chris Henrich (Jr., Lansdale, Pa.) had a strong start to his season. The reigning All-American recorded a technical fall and pin at 174 pounds and needed less than a period in both.
Matt Snyder (R-Fr., Lewistown, Pa.) and Derek Valenti (So., Newton, N.J.) each recorded a pin and tech fall at 125 and 133 pounds, respectively. Snyder was making his first appearance as a Cavalier after transferring from Bloomsburg University.
Mike Salopek (R-Fr., North Huntingdon, Pa.) added a pair of wins at 184 pounds, while Kellon Balum (Sr., Herndon, Pa.) posted a fall and major decision at 149.
At 197 pounds, ninth-ranked Brent Jones (Jr., Burke, Va.) needed just 29 seconds to pin Anderson's Luis Audelo for his 35th career fall, breaking the Virginia school record.
Michael Chaires (R-So., Scotia, N.Y.) made his return to the mat after a year off with an 8-3 decision over Campbell's Chris Mazzatta in the 165-pound class. Dan Gonsor (R-So., Cleveland, Ohio) also looked sharp in coming off a redshirt season as he racked up a tech fall over Campbell's Jake Fose at 157 pounds.
In a neutral-site match to start the day, Anderson recorded a trio of pins to slip past Campbell, 21-20.
Virginia travels to Chapel Hill, N.C., Nov. 15 to compete in the ACC Challenge. UVa will face No. 16 American, Bucknell and Gardner Webb.
Virginia 37, Anderson (S.C.) 9
125: Matt Snyder (UVa) tech fall Dequan Warner (AU), 19-4; UVa 5-0
133: Christopher Francis (AU) pinned Matt Cubillos (UVa), :35; AU 6-5
141: Derek Valenti (UVa) pinned Melchisedac LaVergne (AU), 1:59; UVa 11-6
149: Kellon Balum (UVa) tech fall Dalton Harper (AU), 16-0; UVa 16-6
157: Jonathan Jackson (AU) dec. Pat Riley (UVa), 4-2 (SV), UVa 16-9
165: Beau Fisher (UVa) dec. Jordan Lide (AU), 7-2; UVa 19-9
174: No. 3 Chris Henrich (UVa) tech fall Trevor Sanford (AU), 17-2; UVa 24-9
184: Mike Salopek (UVa) dec. John Hamrick (AU), 6-0; UVa 27-9
197: No. 9 Brent Jones (UVa) pinned Luis Audelo (AU), :29; UVa 33-9
285: Calvin Cardillo (UVa) major dec. Chase Duke (AU), 8-0; UVa 37-9
Virginia 36, Campbell 6
125: Matt Snyder (UVa) pinned Wes Heavener (CU), 1:23; UVa 6-0
133: Richie Apolinar (CU) dec. Matt Cubillos (UVa), 9-6; UVa 6-3
141: Derek Valenti (UVa) tech fall Ethan Carmody (CU), 15-0; UVa 11-3
149: Kellon Balum (UVa) major dec. Nick Rex (CU), 15-4; UVa 15-3
157: Dan Gonsor (UVa) tech fall Jake Fose (CU), 16-0; UVa 20-3
165: No. 16 Michael Chaires (UVa) dec. Chris Mazzatta (CU), 8-3; UVa 23-3
174: No. 3 Chris Henrich (UVa) pinned Peter Comis (CU), 2:00; UVa 29-3
184: Mike Salopek (UVa) major dec. Derek Tomasone (CU), 17-7; UVa 33-3
197: Parker Burns (CU) dec. No. 9 Brent Jones (UVa), 9-5; UVa 33-6
285: Jack Danilkowicz (UVa) dec. Khiry Reid (CU), 3-2; UVa 36-6
Anderson 21, Campbell 20
125: C.J. Gittens (CU) dec. Dequan Warner (AU), 12-9; CU 3-0
133: Richie Apolinar (CU) dec. Christopher Francis (AU), 12-9; CU 6-0
141: Melchisedac LaVergne (AU) pinned Ethan Carmody (CU), 6:29; 6-6
149: Nick Rex (CU) major dec. Dalton Harper (AU), 18-5; CU 10-6
157: Jonathan Jackson (AU) dec. Jake Fose (CU), 6-2; CU 10-9
165: Chris Mazzatta (CU) dec. Jordan Lide (AU), 7-2; CU 13-9
174: Trevor Sanofrd (AU) pinned Ryan Ham (CU), 4:53; AU 15-13
184: John Hamrick (AU) pinned Derek Tomasone (CU), 5:19; AU 21-13
197: Parker Burns (CU) major dec. Luis Audelo (AU), 13-4; AU 21-17
285: Khiry Reid (CU) dec. Chase Duke (AU), 7-3; AU 21-20
Virginia Set for Battle with Maryland for ACC Title
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/07/2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The third-ranked and third-seeded Virginia field hockey team (18-2, 3-2 ACC) will take on top-ranked Maryland (19-0, 5-0) at noon Sunday in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game at the Turf Field. The game will be broadcast live on the league’s regional sports network.
The Cavaliers defeated fourth-seeded Duke 3-1 in the first round on Thursday before upsetting second-seeded North Carolina 1-0 in the semis Friday night to move onto the championship game. The Terps, meanwhile, earned a first-round bye as the top seed and held on to beat Wake Forest, 3-2, in the first semifinal on Friday.
Sunday will mark the sixth time Virginia has played in the championship game of the ACC Tournament, and the second with Maryland. The Cavaliers have never won the ACC championship, with an 0-5 record in title games. The last time UVa played for the league crown was in 2000, against Maryland, a 3-0 win for the Terrapins. Maryland also beat Virginia 1-0 in overtime of the 1998 Championship that was in Charlottesville.
Sophomore Paige Selenski, one of three All-ACC selections for the Cavaliers, has scored twice in the Championship, and leads the team with 24 goals this season. Tara Puffenberger has eight scores while Traci Ragukas has scored seven times, and Inga Stöckel boasts a team-best eight assists. Goalkeeper Kim Kastuk has a 0.72 goals against average with a .806 save percentage for the Orange and Blue.
Maryland, the defending NCAA and ACC Tournament champions, is the lone unbeaten team in the country at 19-0. The last time the Terps lost was Oct. 11, 2008, when Duke claimed a 3-2 win in College Park. Maryland swept the ACC awards this year, as Katie O’Donnell was selected as the Offensive Player of the Year; Emma Thomas as Defensive Player of the Year and Missy Meharg as Coach of the Year. Nicole Murraco leads the conference with 26 goals this season, while O’Donnell has 21 scores and 20 for Thomas. Goalkeeper Alicia Grater has a 0.91 goals against average and a .838 save percentage in the cage for the Terps.
Maryland leads the all-time series with Virginia 34-19-2. The Terrapins scored three unanswered goals to defeat the Cavaliers 3-1 back on Oct. 2 in College Park, one of UVa’s two losses this season. Paige Selenski tallied the lone goal for the Orange and Blue. The two teams also met in the semifinals of the 2008 ACC Championship, with the Terps earning a 3-2 win in overtime. The last Virginia victory over Maryland was Sept. 30, 2001, a 3-2 win that was decided in penalty strokes in College Park.
Maryland and Virginia have several ties between the two teams. UVa volunteer assistant Keli Smith played for the Terps from 1997-2000 and helped them to a national title in 1999. Smith, an Olympian for the United States, was a three-time All-American at Maryland. Smith is in her first season with the Cavaliers. Junior defender Shelly Edmonds’ older sister Kristina played at Maryland from 2003-06 and earned second-team All-America honors as a senior. Edmonds was a member of UMD’s back-to-back national championship teams in 2005 and 2006.
Virginia’s Paige Selenski, Michelle Vittese and Tara Puffenberger, along with Maryland’s Katie O’Donnell, Alexis Pappas and Brianna Davies, were all teammates over the summer, playing for the United States in the Junior World Cup in Boston. The U.S. earned an eighth-place finish in the tournament.
Cavaliers Defeat Wildcats at Home
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/07/2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The Virginia men's and women's swimming and diving teams defeated Kentucky in a dual meet Saturday at the Aquatic and Fitness Center. The Cavalier men earned a 165-125 while the women beat the Wildcats 172-110.
Freshman Lauren Perdue won three events for the second consecutive meet, touching first in the 50 (23.06), 100 (50.30) and 200 freestyle events (1:48.39). Teammate Liz Shaw picked up victories in the 200 fly (2:00.19) and the 400 IM (4:18.85, B), which was exhibitioned.
Matt McLean also finished the meet with a NCAA 'B' cut in the 200 free as he finished first in 1:38.09. He also led the Virginia with a victory in the 500 free (4:26.48) in front of teammate David Karasek (4:36.73).
"There were a few individuals who swam well - Lauren Perdue, Matt McLean, and Liz Shaw - I was especially happy with her IM swims," Virginia head coach Mark Bernardino said. "Anne Summer Myers really had a nice day; Christine Olson remains steady for the women. I thought Scot Robison also did a nice job."
Olson, a freshman, led the Cavaliers to a 1-2-3 finish in the 200 breast as she placed first with a time of 2:17.82 followed by Katherine McDonnell (2:20.22) and Myers (2:21.37). Olson also placed first in the 100 breast (1:04.10) followed closely by McDonnell (1:05.12) who took second.
Senior Mei Christensen won both the 100 back (54.69) and 100 fly (55.00) for the women while classmate John Azar claimed first-place honors the 100 breast (57.00) and 200 breast (2:03.82) for the men.
Other event winners for Cavalier women included Myers in the 1000 free (10:03.23, exhibitioned), Lauren Smart in the 200 back (1:59.56) and Jen Narum in the 500 free (4:55.41).
Other event winners for the men were Taylor Smith in the 1000 free (9:17.52), Eric Olesen in 100 back (50.86), Dan McMahon in the 200 fly (1:51.84), Robison in the 100 free (44.46), David Wren in the 200 back (1:50.74) and Darren Ankosko in the 400 IM (4:00.90, exhibitioned).
The men's 200-yard medley relay team of Olesen, Azar, Robison and Geissinger also took first-place honors, touching in 1:31.89.
Senior Alex D'Ambrosio also took first place on the 1-meter board, earning a score of 279.00.
"We are going to try to make some corrections in pacing and racing in practice," Bernardino said. "I think we have to get a little tougher mentally, so we are going to do some things that make us better both physically and mentally."
The Cavaliers return to action Nov. 20-21 in a two-day meet at Penn State.
Trip to Miami Brings More Misery
By Jeff White
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- As the end of the season draws ever nearer, there's little new to add about UVa's struggles in football.
Nine games in, the Cavaliers' offense once again ranks among the nation's least productive, their defense continues to spend a disproportionate amount of time on the field, and breakdowns still outnumber highlights on special teams.
Virginia absorbed another blow Saturday, losing 52-17 to the 16th-ranked Miami Hurricanes before a homecoming crowd of 48,350 at Land Shark Stadium. To think the Wahoos (2-3, 3-6) actually led this ACC game 10-3 late in the first quarter.
Not since opening the 2008 season with a 52-7 loss to Southern California had UVa allowed so many points in a game.
"Miami's got a lot of playmakers in all three phases of the game, and we had a lot of difficulty controlling those playmakers and matching those playmakers," Al Groh said.
Those game-changers include sophomore Thearon Collier, who had a SportsCenter-worthy punt return. Seemingly hemmed in by six Cavaliers at one point, Collier reversed field and broke free on an electrifying 60-yard return for a touchdown that put Miami ahead for good with 1:17 to play in the first quarter.
"Just a great individual return," Groh said. "We had plenty of guys there."
UVa has lost three straight since winning in the rain Oct. 17 at Maryland. The challenge facing the 'Hoos now is daunting. They must win their final three regular-season games to become bowl-eligible, and their remaining opponents -- Boston College, Clemson and Virginia Tech -- have a combined record of 18-9.
Another loss would assure the Cavaliers of finishing below .500 for the third time in four seasons. Virginia has not won fewer than five games in a season since 1986.
"This is a crucial time for the core leadership of the team to really try to bring in the reins and keep the team together," said senior linebacker Aaron Clark, one of of Virginia's captains. "There's going to be a lot of people trying to pull us apart from the outside, so we gotta tighten up our ship and keep our family close-knit."
Two years after embarrassing Miami 48-0 at the Orange Bowl, the Wahoos returned to South Florida, seeking another triumph. Their starting quarterback in 2007 was Jameel Sewell. Now a fifth-year senior, Sewell suffered a shoulder injury last weekend and wasn't available Saturday.
In stepped junior Marc Verica, who's no rookie. Verica started nine games last season, including UVa's overtime loss time to Miami. In that game, Verica completed 27 of 41 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown.
In his second start against the 'Canes (4-2, 7-2), however, Verica rarely looked in sync. He had few open receivers and little time to pass. He finished 11 for 29, for 75 yards and one interception.
Miami's defensive backs "did a good job of locking down the receivers," Groh said. "We didn't have very many guys open. They've got some very good pass-rushers, and it was one of those circumstances where pass rush and pass coverage combine to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. He had a lot of plays where he didn't have really very many good options."
Groh added: "The better your pass rush, the better your coverage. The better your coverage, the more ferocious your pass rush. If you can put those things together, you've got quite a defense."
This was the same Miami defense, it should be noted, that surrendered 33 first downs and 555 yards of total offense last weekend in a one-point win over Wake Forest.
The Cavaliers finished with 149 yards Saturday, a season low. Asked about the Demon Deacons' production against Miami, Groh said simply, "They got Riley Skinner."
Skinner, a senior, is one of the ACC's top quarterbacks. Miami has an elite QB, too: sophomore Jacory Harris, the hero of the 2008 game at Scott Stadium. This time, Harris completed 18 of 31 passes for 232 yards and two TDs.
He wasn't perfect -- Harris threw a first-quarter interception that UVa cornerback Ras-I Dowling returned 49 yards to the Miami 19 -- but his poise in the pocket allowed him to torment a tiring defense.
"A critical part of the game was that their pass protection enabled the quarterback to have all the time that he needed to get the speed receivers down the field on vertical routes," Groh said. "And their pass rush made it difficult for us to have enough time to get free for the quarterback to do much. Certainly it took more than that, but those are two particularly significant parts of the game."
The Hurricanes' offensive line also cleared the way for tailback Graig Cooper, who rushed for a career-high 152 yards. The 'Canes totaled 515 yards of offense.
As so often has been the case for the Wahoos this season, they ran far fewer plays than their opponent. In all, Miami had 83 plays, to 53 for UVa.
"You definitely feel the amount of plays that you play, but that's the life of a football player," Clark said. "Sometimes you're out there a long time, sometimes you're not. You gotta be ready to go no matter what the situation."
Groh applauds Clark's spirit, but the Cavaliers' ninth-year coach knows the discrepancy in plays is contributing to the team's woes.
"We're very aware of that," Groh said. "We have been for weeks. We came in with a very specific plan to try to keep that from being the case. Clearly, we missed the mark on that. I think we had [faced] 70 plays by the end of the third quarter.
"Part of that is not getting off the field on third down. We had some opportunities to do that in which we let the quarterback out of the pocket. Which was the No. 1 thing coming into the game: Keep the quarterback in the pocket."
Groh brought up a pivotal third-quarter play several times. Miami, leading 24-17, faced third-and-6 from its 25. Harris dropped back to pass. Outside linebacker Cameron Johnson, who in the first half had recorded his first career sack, closed in on No. 2, but Harris avoided the pressure at the last moment. He spotted a receiver downfield and completed a 29-yard pass.
The drive ended with Miami's fourth touchdown, and the rout was on.
"I can understand why somebody would say, 'Well, look, the score was [52-17] and you're picking on this one play,'" Groh said. "But given that set of circumstances, that's why that third-down play stays really big with me.
"I thought that really swung things downhill for us at that stage. Then we had the next drive with the controversial plays on it, and with that now all of the sudden the thing was getting out of reach."
Johnson, who added a second sack later in the third quarter, was asked about Harris' escape.
"I was trying to get him down but unfortunately missed," Johnson said. "We worked on containing him, and I feel like I let the team down."
Virginia's biggest problems came on special teams. The performance wasn't all bad. Robert Randolph made his only field-goal attempt -- a 34-yarder set up by Dowling's interception return -- and the Cavaliers blocked two punts in a game for the first time in 13 years, running the second back for a TD.
Overall, though, the kicking game was a disaster. After UVa went up 10-3 on a 34-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Rashawn Jackson (77 yards on eight carries), Chris Hinkebein was instructed to squib the kickoff.
The 'Canes returned it to their 49-yard line and capitalized on their field position. Two plays later, they scored the tying touchdown, and things continued to deteriorate for UVa.
A three-and-out series ended with the Nathan Rathjen punt that Collier returned for a TD. The next series failed to produce a first down either, and Miami called time out with two seconds left in the first quarter, forcing Rathjen to punt again into a stiff wind.
His kick went 12 yards before sailing out of bounds at the UVa 25. Moments later, the 'Canes had another touchdown.
Rathjen averaged 25.8 yards on four punts before being replaced by Jimmy Howell, who'd started UVa's first seven games.
Of those special-teams plays, "whether it was wind-caused or performance-caused or whatever, against a powerful team like this, that was exactly what we couldn't have," Groh said.
BLOCK PARTY: UVa blocked two punts in a game for the first time since its 62-14 rout of N.C. State on Oct. 19, 1996. Backup linebacker Terence Fells-Danzer deflected a Matt Bosher punt in the first quarter, and Virginia took over at the Miami 45.
With Miami facing fourth-and-2 from its 35, reserve safety Trey Womack raced untouched up the middle and smothered another Bosher punt late in the second quarter. Outside linebacker Billy Schautz, a redshirt freshman, collected the ball on the bounce and ran 20 yards for a touchdown.
Schautz said he and Womack, who's junior, "attacked the left wedge of the shield. I blew him up, he came right inside, just made a great play on the ball and blocked it. I was running after it, I was trying to see which way it was going to bounce, and luckily it went right into my arms, and I just took off. It was great."
When the Cavaliers started practice in early August, the coaching staff expected Schautz to play a key role on the defense this fall. But a knee injury set him back, and he entered the Miami game with only one tackle.
"During spring training and summer camp, I had a lot more responsibilities, but then I tore my MCL and it took me out for a long time, and I've just started really geting back into it this past week or two," Schautz said. "This is a big boost for my confidence."
The Cavaliers hadn't blocked a punt for a touchdown since 2002, Groh's second season as coach. That came against Akron. Alex Seals got the block, and Darryl Blackstock returned the ball for a TD.
DRAMATIC REVERSAL: Outside linebacker Cameron Johnson's second sack of Jacory Harris, with the score 31-10 late in the third quarter, appeared to be for a 13-yard loss.
The on-field officials weren't sure, however, so they turned to their colleague in the video booth for assistance.
"We will have to go to replay to determine the spot of the ball when he was down," an official announced over the stadium's P.A. system. "We do have an offsetting dead-ball foul."
As the minutes dragged on, with no ruling, Raycom's play-by-play announcer, Tim Brant, told color analyst Doc Walker that "the delay right here is the official review as to where the spot will be. Not anything to do with the other penalties. It was offsetting, so they're just looking for the spot."
Imagine the Cavaliers' shock, then, when an official announced that Johnson, whose hand had grabbed the back of Harris' helmet, knocking it off the quarterback's head, was being penalized for a facemask. That moved the ball to UVa's 13, and the 'Canes scored four plays later.
"If they called it, I guess it was there," Johnson said.
Neither Groh nor many other observers could remember another instance when an action that supposedly was not under review had been ruled a penalty.
"It's a new one on me, too," he said. "A new one on me."
Did he receive an explanation from the officiating crew?
"Not a satisfactory one, no," Groh said.
UP NEXT: UVa returns home to face ACC rival Boston College (3-2, 6-3). The game will start at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Eagles were off this weekend.
BC's head coach is former UVa defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani.
The Eagles have never played football in Charlottesville. BC leads the series 3-0. The teams haven't met since 2005, when Virginia lost 28-17 at Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Virginia Coach/Player Quotes
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/07/2009
Virginia Head Coach Al Groh
"Miami's got a lot of playmakers in all three phases of the game - and we had a lot of difficulty controlling those playmakers and matching those playmakers. We knew what the matchup was going to be coming in, and the whole thing would be if we could control those playmakers and keep them from taking over the game. They did a real good job of framing the game up the way they wanted to, and making it go that way. The critical part of the game was that their pass protection allowed their quarterback to have all the time he needed to the get the speed receivers down the field on vertical routes, and their pass rush made it difficult to have enough time to get free for the quarterback to do much. It took more than that, but those are two particularly significant parts of the game."
On their defense being on the field a lot...
"We played 44 plays in the first half - way above what we wanted. We're very aware of that, we have been for weeks. We came in with a very specific plan to try and keep that from being the case. Clearly we missed the mark on that. I think we had played 70 plays by the end of the third quarter. Part of that is not getting off the field on third down. We had some opportunities to do that in which we let the quarterback out of the pocket. The number one thing coming into the game was keep the quarterback in the pocket. Big circumstance, third down, first series of the second half, we get a good rush on the quarterback, have the chance to make the sack, he does a good job getting free, eventually gets out of the pocket, hits a big play downfield, leads to a score. So we didn't do what we had to do there - that was one of the things on the top of the list, was keep the quarterback in the pocket and we didn't do that. You're right about the play count, we're very cognizant of it, we really wanted to get the number down to a workable number for the defense, but those two circumstances, pass protection on each side were a big factor in not getting the play count where we wanted it to be."
On Thearon Collier's punt return for Miami...
"It was a great individual return. In the special teams meeting last evening, it was pointedly stated that there's a player who has more reputation, but number 28's the guy. He's the more dangerous guy and he lived up to that, that's for sure."
About the low passing numbers...
"They did a good job of locking down the receivers and we didn't have many guys open. They've got some very good pass rushers and it was one of those circumstances where pass rushing and pass coverage combined to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. He had a lot of plays where he didn't have very many options."
On the blocked punts...
"That was a positive in a wild first half. I think both sides would say there were a lot of plays that they liked and I think both sides would say that there were a lot of plays they didn't like. But we said let's just dismiss all of that, and whether it's 38-31, 24-17 or 7-0, the differential is the same. Just forget about that half and go out there as if it's a 7-0 game, and let's try and play it that particular way. I can understand why people would say that the score is whatever it was, and I keep picking on this one play, but given this set of circumstances, that third down play stays really big with me. We had good initial coverage on the pattern, we had pressure in the pocket and Harris did what he always does - made himself difficult to get him on the ground. And then he got out and found the guy on the cross for a big gain, then all of the sudden we have a chance to follow up on what we said with the seven-point differential, and then it's 14 points, so I thought that really swung things downhill for us. Then we have on the next drive with the controversial plays and that where it started to get out of hand."
On the challenge of playing a talented Miami team...
"It's hard for me to quantify those things, but that's why you call it a challenge. It doesn't matter if it's a nine degree challenge or a 10 degree challenge, once you put that word challenge in front of it, it's going to be tough for the coaches and players. Clearly we played a team - that we could see last year with all of the young players - on their way back to being a powerful team. Earlier in the year it caught our attention when they beat a team like Oklahoma. When you can match up with athletes like that, that was an indication to us. We certainly saw that with our own eyes today."
On protection affecting passing...
"A lot of the coverage was tight man-to-man coverage. When a quarterback faces that, whoever the quarterback might be, that's a question of you've got to get some individual wins up the field, get the quarterback somebody to target. If he doesn't have anyone to throw it to and he's just sitting there in the pocket and he throws it away, then it's grounding, and that puts a lot of pressure on the pass protection, and that's again why those two things work in combination. The better your pass rush, the better your coverage, and you can put those things together, you've got quite the defense."
Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling
On how being on the field for so long affected the team...
"Sometimes the defense has to hold up for the offense, and today we just let a lot of points go away. We have to get better throughout the week and come back next week strong."
On the difference between the first and second halves...
"We just brought a lot of energy to the game. We had a blocked punt; that touchdown, that helped out a lot and brought a lot of momentum to the game. The second half we just didn't come out with the same passion that we did in the first half."
On the fatigue factor...
"It's a lot hotter down here than it is in Virginia, so that broke a lot of people's bodies down. But fatigue is not the cause of the loss."
Miami Coach/Player Quotes
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/07/2009
Miami Head Coach Randy Shannon
"This was a nice win to be at home on Homecoming. Coming off the last time we played them at home in the Orange Bowl, this was a big win for us. To see those guys like Jason Fox who were here for the last time we played them to come out and play the way they did today was unbelievable. The defense did a nice job today - did a nice job on third down. The defensive line has been working on the pass rush side of it and they did a good job of harassing the quarterback. We held them to 149 yards total offense.
"Offensively, Cooper came out. He's finally healthy for the first time in three to four weeks and it showed. He does a great job of being patient, and when he had the opportunity to break that long run I thought it set the standard.
"It was a great game, but ... we had two blocks - one for a touchdown and one that gave them field position, and then we had one return. You don't ever want blocks - that can change the momentum of a game. I think the guys did a good job of responding and coming back out to play the way we are supposed to. The offense came right out and scored points, and the defense kept going.
"Thearon Collier's return was unbelievable. We got some key blocks. I think we are finally getting the mentality of where we want to be on returns. The more we keep working on everything we have at University of Miami as a football team, we will keep getting better each week. We're not there yet - we're not where we want to be offensively or defensively, we still got a lot of things we need to fix and get going and we will. The more we keep coaching these guys to be the best we can be, we will get better. The coaching staff does a great job of doing it and we're going to stay on top of it. The coaching staff will stay on top of the players, I will stay on top of the coaches and we will get where we need to be."
On finishing games...
"As a total unit, that is probably the best we have played all year in the second half with finishing games from a defensive standpoint and special teams. You see everybody come down and get big hits - Damien Berry had a big hit on kickoff. We're seeing some guys do some great things. The more we keep demanding from our players and coaches what we want. We will get it the way we want."
On how much they have grown since two years ago...
"Staying focused... If you look at this team from two years ago, I think they stayed focused in crucial situations. If something bad happens, they don't get flustered. They don't get frustrated. They stay in tune to what we are trying to get done. There are things we learn a lot from in every game. We will learn a lot from this game. We learned a lot on the punt team today. Things you can't do, and as a coaching staff we have to teach it to get it done the right way. Going back to an offensive standpoint, we grew as a unit. But the coaches will tell you, when we have 12 guys on the field, that's not acceptable. Those are things that I see we need to fix, but as far as maturing you can see that these guys don't get flustered."
On if the change in the practice routine helped...
"I think it did. I mean ask the players - I didn't run around last week. They will probably tell you how they feel. But I think it really made a difference from the standpoint of the offensive line, a double team is a double team. How much can you say stay low, bend your feet and hit the guy at the waist line? There is only so much you can do as a coach. We wanted to keep these guys fresh so we could take it to the next step."
On the offensive line...
"They did well if you look at the total yards that we had and the protections. I think Jacory [Harris] did a nice job of moving the pocket and throwing the ball away in certain situations. Last time he threw the ball away one time and today he threw the ball away three times and that's a growing process for all of us as a team. It shows how he is maturing and it gets the offensive line going. The quarterback has confidence in the offensive line and the offensive line has confidence in each other and the more we keep playing together, the better we'll get. "
Miami QB Jacory Harris
On the success of the defense...
"It makes things a whole lot better. You can go onto the field without any worries. You can just run your offense and not feel like you need big plays. The defense stepped it up a whole lot this week and gave us great field position and just took care of business."
On having a good running game...
"It was good for this game because Virginia runs that 3-4 which sometimes they drop eight into coverage to where you have to look for the check downs and it opens up the running game."
On the last three games of the season...
"We used up all our bye weeks at the beginning of the year so we just have to fight it through. North Carolina is a tough team, you have Duke who is now up there in the ACC fighting for a spot and then you have USF who is doing their thing in the Big East. We just have to go out there and prepare every week mentally and physically and hopefully we can get some victories."
On Thearon Collier's punt return for TD...
"Thearon is someone that works hard and is a guy that may not get the ball as much, so in special teams he has to make things happen. He made a Devin Hester play - he went out there, had fun and got a touchdown."
Virginia Game Notes
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/07/2009
• UVa is 1-5 this season when they lose the time of possession game
• UVa lost its first-ever contest against the Hurricanes by more than 10 points
• UVa yielded over 50 points for the first time since USC tallied 52 in the 2008 season opener
• UVa is now 0-3 against ranked teams this season, also falling to then-No. 16 TCU and then-No. 11 Georgia Tech
• Miami's Graig Cooper tallied 152 rushing yards, the most gained by an individual against UVa since UConn's Donald Brown tallied 206 on Sept. 13, 2008
• Cam Johnson recorded his first career sack in the first quarter
• Ras-I Dowling's 49-yard INT return was a career high, passing his previous best of 17 yards against No. 21 Wake Forest on Nov. 3, 2007
• Terence Fells-Danzer blocked the first punt for UVa since Josh Zidenberg did so against Miami on Nov. 10, 2007 in the final game in the Orange Bowl
• Trey Womack blocked a second quarter punt and Bill Schautz returned it for a touchdown, marking the first time UVa blocked a punt and returned it for a TD since Sept. 21, 2002 against Akron. In that game, Alex Seals blocked the punt and Darryl Blackstock returned it back for the score.
• UVa blocked two punts in a game for the first time since doing so at home against N.C. State on Oct. 19, 1996
• Rashawn Jackon's 34-yard touchdown run equals UVa's longest rushing TD of the season, matching Vic Hall's 34-yarder against William & Mary
• UVa had yielded only four passing touchdowns all season, but gave up two in the first half to Jacory Harris
• Steve Greer tallied a career-high 14 tackles
• Darren Childs set a new career high with 15 tackles
• Rodney McLeod registered a new career high with 11 tackles
• Miami's Thearon Collier's 60-yard punt return is the first against UVa since No. 18 Miami's Roscoe Parrish ran a 62-yard return on Nov. 13, 2004 in Scott Stadium
• Quarterback Marc Verica made his first start since Nov. 22, 2008 against Clemson
• UVa played its first regular season game in Land Shark Stadium, after appearing in the venue for three bowl games, the most recent being the 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl
• Al Groh coached his 175th career game at an ACC school (Wake, Virginia) today, holding down fourth place all-time in the league annals
Dreary day in Miami for UVa's Cavaliers
The 'Canes score 28 unanswered second-half points to bury UVa.
By Doug Doughty
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- For all of the revivals that his Virginia football teams have enjoyed in October, coach Al Groh has never been known as Mr. November.
A three-game October winning streak seemed like a distant memory Saturday, when 16th-ranked Miami scored 28 unanswered points in the second half and routed the Cavaliers 52-17.
It was UVa's sixth straight loss in November dating back to 2007, when the Cavaliers pummeled Miami 48-0 in the Hurricanes' final game at the Orange Bowl.
That was Virginia's first win in the state of Florida, where the Cavaliers are 1-16, including 0-4 at the site currently known as Land Shark Stadium.
Saturday's affair could not have been more lopsided, although the halftime score, 24-17, did not reflect it.
The Cavaliers blocked two punts, the first one leading to a 34-yard Rashawn Jackson touchdown run that momentarily put Virginia on top, 10-3, with 2:54 remaining in the first quarter.
The second block, by Trey Womack, was turned into a 20-yard return for a touchdown by redshirt freshman Billy Schautz.
Special teams have been an issue for the Cavaliers all season and it's hard to say Virginia had the advantage in that area Saturday.
Thearon Collier's 60-yard punt return for a touchdown with 1:17 remaining in the first quarter gave Miami a lead that it would never relinquish and was part of a 21-point Hurricanes' blitz that consumed 4:19.
Replays of Collier's return showed that he was surrounded by six UVa players, with nary a Miami blocker in sight.
"We had plenty of guys there," Groh said. "In the special teams meeting [Friday] evening, it was said pointedly that there's another player who's got more reputation or more statistics, but No. 28 [Collier] is the guy. He's the most dangerous guy, and he lived up to that for sure."
Collier's return came on the longest of four first-quarter punts by UVa's Nathan Rathjen, who eventually had to be replaced by former starter Jimmy Howell. Punting into the wind, Rathjen had efforts of 27, 29, 35 and 12 yards.
It appeared that the first quarter had ended prior to Rathjen's 12-yarder, but Miami had called a timeout and the clock was reset to :02.
"We had plenty of evidence during the first quarter of the effect that the wind had going in that direction," Groh said. "We selected a play on third down to try to make sure and keep the clock going. It was worth a timeout by them to keep the wind in our face."
At halftime, Miami had outgained the Cavaliers 233-92. By game's end, the differential was 515-149, with that latter total a season's low for a UVa team that ranked 116th out of 120 Division I-A teams in total offense.
One week earlier, the Hurricanes had given up 515 yards in a 28-27 victory at Wake Forest.
"They've [the Deacons] got Riley Skinner," said Groh, referring to Wake's all-time passing leader.
Virginia's quarterback, Marc Verica, was making his first start since the next-to-last game of the 2008 season. Jameel Sewell, who has been the Cavaliers' No. 1 quarterback for most of the season, was in uniform but was held out of action with a shoulder injury.
Verica completed 11 of 29 passes for 75 yards and a pair of Miami sacks left him with 46 yards in total offense. Fifth-year running back Rashawn Jackson had eight carries for 77 yards, but the Cavaliers almost never had the ball.
Miami had 83 offensive plays, in comparison to Virginia's 53.
UVa's defense was on the field for 44 plays in the first half, "which is well above what we wanted," Groh said. "We're very aware of that [disparity]. We have been for weeks. We came in with a very specific plan to try and keep that from being the case. Clearly, we missed the mark."
One week earlier, Duke had scored 16 points in the final 3:54 and had overcome two fourth-quarter deficits to defeat the Cavaliers 28-17.
"It's always tough when you can't get off the field," said UVa freshman Steve Greer, who had 14 tackles on an afternoon when fellow linebacker Darren Childs had 15. "We do conditioning every week in practice; it's more mental than anything. It would be nice to have a break, but we've got to have the mentality of, 'It's not going to affect us.' "
The loss left Virginia (3-6, 2-3 ACC) with its second three-game losing streak of the season and the Cavaliers have now lost 10 of their last 13 games since last November. Miami (7-2, 4-2) has won five of its last six games.
"We played a team that we could see last year, with all of their young players, was on the way back to being a very, very talented, powerful team," said Groh, whose Cavaliers were 24-17 losers to Miami last year in Charlottesville. "Early [this] year, it certainly caught our attention when they beat a team like Oklahoma.
"We saw it with our own eyes today."
UVa football notebook: Verica not his old self
By Doug Doughty | The Roanoke Times
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- For the first time in any reporter's memory, Virginia quarterback Marc Verica declined requests to speak to the media following Virginia's 52-17 loss Saturday to host Miami.
Verica got the start, his first since last November, when a shoulder injury caused the Cavaliers to hold Jameel Sewell out of action.
Sewell was in uniform but Virginia reported in its ACC-mandated Thursday injury report that he was doubtful.
"His throwing, clearly, would have been very affected," said Virginia head coach Al Groh, who said Sewell would have been used "only if we needed someone to conduct the game."
Missing Saturday's game should improve Sewell's chances of playing against Boston College next week, but Groh couldn't offer a long-term prognosis.
"It's impossible to gauge what that is," Groh said.
So, it looks as if the Cavaliers (3-6, 2-3 ACC) could turn again to Verica, who shows little resemblance to the quarterback who passed for 200 yards or more in six straight games last year, tying Matt Schaub's school record.
Of course, Verica no longer has his top two receivers from a year ago, wide receiver Kevin Ogletree and tight end John Phillips, both of whom caught passes last Sunday for the Dallas Cowboys.
Verica was 11-of-29 for 75 yards Saturday. For the season, he is 28-of-63 for 156 yards, a paltry 2.5 yards per attempt. He averaged 5.8 yards per attempt last year.
"A lot of the coverage [Saturday] was tight man-to-man coverage," Groh said. "When a quarterback faces that, whoever the quarterback might be, that's a question of 'You've got to get some individual wins up the field.' "
Verica was sacked twice and also yielded an interception when it appeared that the ball slipped out of his hands. Verica had a ball slip out of his hand in a crucial situation in UVa's opener against William and Mary, although a pass rusher may have caused him to lose the handle Saturday.
Virginia sophomore Cam Johnson was credited with his first two sacks of the season Saturday but it was a third failed sack opportunity that Groh was lamenting after the game.
Miami was facing a third-and-5 from its 13 early in the second half when Johnson slipped past his blocker and appeared to have Hurricanes' quarterback Jacory Harris in his sights.
Johnson was able to get a hand on Harris, but Harris slipped away and completed a 29-yard pass to Tharon Byrd. The Hurricanes, leading 24-17 at the time, went on to score a touchdown on the drive.
"A critical part of the game," Groh called it.
"I can understand why somebody might say, 'The score was whatever it was and you're picking on one play.' But, we had good initial coverage on the pattern. We had pressure in the pocket.
"Harris did what he always does [and] made himself difficult to get on the ground. We had a chance to follow up what we had said at the half [with] a seven-point differential, 'Get 'em stopped, get the ball back and see what we can do.' Now, all of a sudden, it's 14 points."
Groh had a heated exchange with head referee Tom McCreesh following Johnson's second sack, which would have put Miami in a second-and-25 from its 30 with Miami leading 31-17 later in the third quarter.
McCreesh called for a review in order to spot the ball, then came back and charged Johnson with a face-mask penalty. A reporter said that he was unaware that a replay official could call a penalty.
"That's a new one on me, too," Groh said.
When asked if he had received an explanation, Groh replied, "Not a satisfactory one."
Groh indicated that he was unwilling to pay a fine comparable to the $30,000 that Florida coach Urban Meyer was assessed by the Southeastern Conference but tossed one barb concerning an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on Nate Collins:
"We have to remember, this is not CYO ball we're playing."
Virginia next week
One-time Virginia defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani will be on the opposing sideline as head coach when Boston College (6-3, 3-2 ACC) visits Virginia for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff next Saturday. The Eagles had an open date this week.
Miami pound machine
By Jay Jenkins
Published: November 8, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It was an odd sight.
Virginia’s players entered the locker room excited about the numbers on the scoreboard.
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, those numbers came at halftime and those feelings were short-lived.
Miami blanked Virginia’s already stagnant offense in the second half, torched the Cavaliers’ defense for four touchdowns in the final two quarters and cruised to 52-17 victory at Land Shark Stadium in front of 48,350.
For UVa and embattled coach Al Groh, the dreams of contending for an ACC title were exchanged for heartache in a mere 30 minutes.
“I thought that we were doing pretty well,” Virginia wide receiver Jared Green said. “We went into halftime saying, ‘We are just down seven.’ We were excited about that given how we played at times.
“And then, the way it turned out, the game kind of got away from us after that.”
More than the contest may have gotten away from Virginia (3-6, 2-3 ACC).
Mired in a three-game losing streak, the Cavaliers’ dim postseason aspirations may have also vanished. They now must win their final three games to become eligible for postseason play.
That remained a mystery until Miami’s first two possessions of the second half.
The 16th-ranked Hurricanes (7-2, 4-2) appeared forced into a punting situation on a third-and-6 at their own 25 as Virginia linebacker Cam Johnson had Miami quarterback Jacory Harris in his grasp.
An instant later, Harris escaped and completed a 29-yard pass to LaRon Byrd that moved the chains.
“We get a good rush on the quarterback, had the opportunity to make the sack, [Harris] does a good job of getting free, actually gets out of the pocket and hits a big play down the field,” Groh said.
Johnson, who had two sacks, was just as miffed.
“He just got away from me,” he said. “I tried to hold onto him, but I guess a block came and chipped me off. I still should have been able to make the play.”
Seven plays after Harris’ game-changing heroics and with 10:14 left in the third, the Hurricanes pushed their lead to 31-17 on a two-yard run by Damien Berry.
Miami’s next possession was just as deflating for Virginia and once again centered on the actions of Johnson.
Having just converted a first down that pushed the ball to the Virginia 15, Harris was sacked for an apparent 13-yard loss by Johnson. But as the outside linebacker went to tackle the signal caller, he pulled Harris’ helmet off and forced a fumble.
After both players were whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct in a dust up that followed, the officials elected to use instant replay to determine the spot of the ball.
Referee Tom McCreesh returned and announced that Johnson would be flagged for a face-mask penalty.
Having never seen a replay official make a call on a penalty, Groh was stunned and irate on the sidelines.
“That is a new one on me,” he said.
Five plays later, Miami pushed its advantage to 38-17 with 27 seconds left in the third as Berry capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive with a plunge on a 1-yard carry.
“Now, all of a sudden, it’s 14 points,” Groh said of the deficit. “I thought that really swung things downhill for us at that stage.”
With Virginia merely going through the motions on offense, Miami added a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to match the highest point total allowed by Virginia in two seasons.
It was easy to see why — the Cavaliers’ defense allowed 515 yards of total offense and was on the field for 83 plays, 30 more than what Virginia managed.
“We came in with a very specific plan to try to keep that from being the case,” Groh said. “Clearly, we missed the mark on that. I think we had played 70 plays by the end of the third quarter.
“Part of that was not getting off the field on third down.”
That was an issue in the first half, too, but Virginia managed to keep the game tight with an interception and two blocked punts, something that had not happened even once in a game for the Cavaliers in 13 years.
Trailing 3-0, Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling hauled in an errant pass from Harris and rumbled 49 yards down the Miami sideline.
After the Marc Verica-led offense stumbled, sophomore Robert Randolph converted a 34-yard field goal with 5:26 left in the first quarter.
After holding Miami on the ensuing possession, Virginia sophomore Terence Fells-Danzer blocked Matt Bosher’s punt, deflecting the ball out of bounds at the Miami 45. Rashawn Jackson, who led Virginia with 77 yards rushing on just eight carries, gave the Cavaliers a 10-3 lead after he broke free for a 34-yard touchdown run.
After a lackluster kickoff from UVa, Miami evened the score in two plays as Harris fired a 35-yard touchdown to wideout Leonard Hankerson with 2:29 left in the half.
Miami answered again in quick fashion after forcing Virginia to go three-and-out as sophomore returner Thearon Collier eluded six unblocked Cavaliers and sped 60 yards for a touchdown return.
“Collier’s return was unbelievable,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “We got some key blocks.”
After falling behind 24-10, Virginia inched closer with 2:28 left in the opening half when junior Trey Womack went untouched and blocked an attempted punt by Bosher at the Miami 20. After the ball squirted to Womack’s left, freshman Bill Schautz scooped up the ball and raced 20 yards into the end zone.
“It was a great call by [special teams coach Ron Prince] to go block it,” Schautz said. “I attacked the left wedge of the shield and Trey Womack made a great play and came in and blocked it.
“I ran after it and I was trying to make sure it didn’t bounce anywhere and it came right to me and I just ran with it. We work on that all the time and it came into play today.”
Despite playing without starting quarterback Jameel Sewell, who is nursing various injuries, Virginia suddenly had new life.
The offense never clicked, however, without Sewell on the field.
Verica, who passed for 240 yards against Miami last year, completed just 11 of 29 attempts and managed just 75 yards.
He refused to speak to reporters after the game.
Graig Cooper’s 152 yards on the ground led Miami’s rushing attack, which entered 95th in the nation amassed 268 yards.
That helped push Virginia’s slide even further — the Cavaliers have now lost 15 of their past 23 games and six straight in November.
“It’s tough. We were right there again,” Virginia linebacker Aaron Clark said. “I don’t think anybody in any athletic situation likes losing.
“It’s just one of those things were you have to try to forget about it and move on.”
Virginia will attempt to do that on Saturday at home against Boston College (6-3, 3-2). Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m.
Playing out the string
By Jerry Ratcliffe
Published: November 8, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.
Al Groh trotted off the field for the 110th time as Virginia’s head football coach on Saturday at Miami’s Land Shark Stadium.
One has to wonder if this was one of his last few times participating in the ritual while wearing the orange and blue.
For three hours, Groh battled. He coached his defense on the sidelines. He tried to inspire the lifeless offense. He barked at officials, who seemed to find new ways to bungle calls.
In the end, there was nothing the embattled veteran coach could do to change the outcome — a 52-17 beating at the hands of a Miami program that is starting to rediscover its swagger.
Afterward, Groh looked like a beaten man. He attempted to inject some humor into the postgame press conference, held in the pro stadium’s Field Club, an unusual setting for such a gathering, at least in college football.
“Field Club, huh?” Groh said to handful of reporters. “I thought clubs were where you went to have fun.”
There wasn’t much fun for Groh on this sunny Saturday in South Florida. His offense was its usual woeful self and his defense, as has been the case recently, bowed to the pressure of an unrelenting and talented Miami offense that ran up 83 physically-draining plays.
Other than a pair of blocked punts, UVa’s special teams weren’t so special, either — particularly when victimized by a spectacular, bone-jarring 60-yard punt return by the Hurricanes’ Thearon Collier, a guy Groh warned his team about all week long.
In happier times
Throughout the day, Groh’s mind must have drifted back to 2007, when he brought the Cavaliers to Miami and delivered the worst beating in Hurricanes history — a shocking 48-0 whipping that ruined the school’s farewell party in the old Orange Bowl.
The difference in talent on the two rosters must have been disturbing. Groh talked afterward about all of Miami’s playmakers and how his team knew its only chance to survive this test would be to contain those talented Hurricanes.
Miami rolled up 52 points, the most since it pummeled hapless Charleston Southern 52-7 last year. The Hurricanes put up 515 yards of total offense, the most since routing Florida A&M three years ago.
A defense, no matter how good it may be, can only stay on the field for a certain amount of time before yielding to constant pressure.
Consider that Miami’s running game, ranked 95th in the country, rushed for 268 yards against the Wahoos.
All of this led to Virginia’s third straight loss and its 10th over the last 13 games.
Certainly, Groh realizes that the end is near.
He’s been around the block enough to know when things turn for the worst. In previous years, give the man credit. He’s been able to hold teams together under the worst conditions, rally them, coach them up, and turn potential disasters into respectable seasons.
The magic may be gone.
With heavyweights Boston College, Clemson and Virginia Tech lying dead ahead, the Cavaliers will not be favored to win another game.
Groh will coach his hardest, try to salvage some glory out of what little there is left to fight for. In the end, we suspect it won’t be enough to hold off the clamoring for a change in the program’s direction.
Losing at home to Duke, once the laughingstock of ACC football, was a blow. Losing by a lopsided count to a revived Miami program that Groh’s guys walloped two years ago, was yet another.
“Clearly we played a team — that we could see last year with all of the young players — on their way back to being a powerful team,” Groh said of the 16th-ranked Hurricanes. “Earlier in the year it caught our attention when they beat a team like Oklahoma. When you can match up with athletes like that, that was an indication to us. We certainly saw that with our own eyes today.”
What the Virginia coach also saw with his own eyes was a lack of that type of athletes in his own program, which is one of the major factors in the Cavaliers’ downfall.
While Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage insists that no decision will be made on Groh’s fate until the end of the season, the writing is on the wall.
Groh can surely sense it, just as if he were smelling out a new scheme to blitz an opposing quarterback.
It appears that neither the win count over the rest of the month nor financial obstacles (an estimated $4.5 million buyout for the remaining two years of his contract), will have any bearing on Virginia’s impending decision to make a change.
The end is near and like a drowning man thrown overboard in stormy waters, it appears there’s nothing Groh can do to save himself.
There are no more lifelines.
Starting again, Verica struggles
By Jerry Ratcliffe
Published: November 8, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — If traveling to South Florida to face 16th-ranked Miami wasn’t enough of a challenge, Virginia’s struggling football team had to play Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes without starting quarterback Jameel Sewell.
The results weren’t pretty.
With backup Marc Verica playing the entire way as UVa’s quarterback, the Cavaliers put forth their worst offensive performance of the season and were pounded 52-17 at Land Shark Stadium.
An aggressive Miami defense held Virginia to a season-low 149 yards of total offense and a season low 75 yards passing. The Cavaliers mustered only 10 first downs in the game (four in the first half) and converted 2 of 12 third-down situations.
As bad as Virginia’s offense had been (No. 116 out of 120 FBS teams in total offense), it just got worse without Sewell, who made the trip but did not play due to assorted injuries, mostly a shoulder problem.
Verica, who had played in 10 games last season and started nine (Vic Hall started the season finale at Virginia Tech), had been considered a relatively accurate passer. He completed 63.8 percent of his attempts last season, and had a completion percentage higher than 70 percent in four of those nine starts.
His biggest problem a year ago had been interceptions.
Against the Hurricanes, though, Verica had the worst game of his career. The junior completed a mere 11 of 29 attempts for 75 yards (by far the lowest total in any game he had started), was intercepted once, sacked twice and did not throw for a touchdown. His longest pass of the 11 completions went for 16 yards.
His pass efficiency rating for the game was 52.76, one of the worst in memory for any Cavalier quarterback, especially compared to Miami QB Jacory Harris, who completed 18 of 31 for 232 yards and two scores. Harris’ efficiency rating for the game was 135.77.
“A lot of the coverage was tight man-to-man,” UVa coach Al Groh said of Miami’s defense. “When a quarterback faces that, whoever the quarterback might be, that’s a question of you’ve got to get some individual wins up the field [by receivers]. Give the quarterback a target. If the quarterback doesn’t have anybody to target and he’s standing in the pocket and throws it away, then it’s grounding. That puts a lot of pressure on the pass protection.”
That was the case against the Hurricanes who pressured Verica throughout the afternoon, causing some of the inaccuracy.
“Our defense did a nice job on third down today,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “The defensive line has been working on the pass rush side of it and they did a good job of harassing the quarterback.”
We don’t know what Verica thought about Miami’s pass rush because he uncharacteristically blew off interview requests after the game.
“I’m not talking,” Verica said when approached by reporters outside the Virginia dressing room as he made his way to the team bus.
Last season, and even in backup appearances this season, Verica had always showed up for postgame interviews and patiently answered every question.
“[Miami’s] pass rush made it difficult for us to have enough time to get free for the quarterback to do much,” Groh said.
Sewell did not practice at all in the week leading up to the Miami game and participated in only light stretching before Saturday’s game. Groh said that his senior quarterback could possibly have played, but “only if we needed somebody to conduct the game, but not to do very much.”
Groh said that Sewell’s passing would have been greatly affected by a shoulder injury in addition to possibly worsening the injury had he been hit or landed on the shoulder.
Sewell’s status for next Saturday’s home game against Boston College is unknown.
“It’s impossible to gauge what that [status] is,” Groh said about whether Sewell’s injury will permit him to play the next game or whether it may affect him in the long term.
UVa NOTES: Cavs perplexed by replay penalty
By Jay Jenkins
Published: November 8, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — There was mass confusion.
Coaches scurried for answers. Players looked on in disbelief. Fans at Land Shark Stadium cheered wildly.
On a pivotal sequence in the third quarter, Virginia linebacker Cam Johnson raced around the Miami offense line and dropped quarterback Jacory Harris to the ground.
To complete the sack, Johnson pulled the back of Harris’ helmet, forcing it to come free.
Harris promptly fumbled the ball and the two players wrestled on the ground for it.
After Harris secured the ball, Harris and Johnson exchanged pushes, drawing respective unsportsmanlike penalties. Harris said that Johnson had head-butted him as they fought for the ball.
That’s where the story gets confusing.
The game’s referee, Tom McCreesh, announced over the stadium public address system that the play was being reviewed to locate the spot of the ball following the fumble.
When he returned from wearing the headset that communicates with the replay official, McCreesh relayed an additional facemask penalty on Johnson.
It left many to ponder how a replay official had that power.
Virginia coach Al Groh, who admitted he had never seen that happen before, begged for an explanation.
Did he get a response from McCreesh?
“Not a satisfactory one, no,” he said.
Johnson was just as dumbfounded, but avoided the question to a certain degree.
“I wasn’t expecting [the penalty], but the referees did a great job and made that call,” Johnson said. “If it was there, then they did a great job.”
Did Johnson grab the facemask?
“I don’t know, but I guess if they called it then it was there,” Johnson said. “I guess I grabbed his facemask.
“That is their job. They get paid to do it. They are professional at it — if they see it, they call it and that is fine.”
While many of the special teams operations floundered in the 52-17 loss at Miami, Virginia managed to dive into the record books by blocking a pair of punts in the opening half.
It marked the first time in 13 years that the Cavaliers had blocked a pair of kicks in a game, a stretch that dates back to Virginia’s 62-14 victory over N.C. State in 1996.
Virginia’s first punt on Saturday came in the first quarter as sophomore Terence Fells-Danzer outstretched his hand in time to block Matt Bosher’s punt out of bounds at the Miami 45.
Oddly enough, it was the first time Virginia had blocked a punt since Josh Zidenberg altered a punt in the final game at the Orange Bowl in 2007.
The Cavaliers were not done yet. In the second quarter, junior Trey Womack raced past the long snapper untouched and blocked Bosher’s punt with the top of his helmet.
The football squirted to Womack’s left and into the hands of redshirt freshman Bill Schautz, who raced into the end zone from 20 yards out. Virginia’s last blocked punt for a score came in 2002 after Alex Seals blocked a kick against Akron that was returned for a score by Darryl Blackstock.
“What we do here is focus on putting our face on the ball,” Schautz said. “I didn’t see it, but I am sure he got his hands or his face on the ball.
“Trey made a great play, and luckily, the ball bounced right to me. It was a good play to help out the team.”
Virginia’s punting unit, which included Nathan Rathjen and later Jimmy Howell, did not fare as well.
The two combined to punt nine times for an average of 35.1 yards.
Forced to kick into the wind in the first quarter, Rathjen had a 12-yard attempt and averaged just 25.8 yards per attempt.
Virginia lost the time of possession battle for the sixth time this season, falling to 1-5 on the year when that occurs. … UVa linebacker Steve Greer registered 14 tackles, the most in his career. … Former UVa star Chris Long was on the sidelines during the game. Long’s St. Louis Rams are on a bye ... The Cavaliers are 1-16 in the state of Florida, with the lone win coming Nov. 10, 2007 against Miami in the Hurricanes’ last game at the Orange Bowl.
By Kevin Clark Correspondent
November 8, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - For a half, it seemed that punt blocks were all Virginia needed to stay close to the No. 16 Miami Hurricanes on Saturday.
But a wacky first half gave way to a miserable second half as Virginia conceded 28 straight points to fall to Miami 52-17, giving the Cavaliers their second three-game losing streak of the season.
Virginia (3-6, 2-3), playing with backup quarterback Marc Verica, had a woeful offensive game, with 75 passing yards and 149 total offensive yards to Miami's 515 total yards. Though the Cavaliers were buoyed by two first-half punt blocks — one returned for touchdown — Verica, filling in for injured starter Jameel Sewell, struggled in his first start since November 2008, completing just 11 of 29 passes and averaging just 6.8 yards per completion.
"They did a good job of locking down our receivers," Cavs coach Al Groh said. "We didn't have many guys open and they've got some very good pass rushers, and it was one of those situations where pass rushers and pass coverage combined. They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and (Verica) had a lot of plays where he didn't have good options."
Groh, when asked how Wake Forest gained 555 yards of offense on Miami last week despite losing, replied, "They had Riley Skinner."
That referenced the talented Wake quarterback, seeming to imply the lack of skills at Virginia's quarterback position. Virginia did not convert a third down through the first three quarters and finished 2-of-12.
But the Cavaliers grinded their way to being down just seven going into halftime. It was good enough, linebacker Bill Schautz said, for the players to think they had the momentum entering the second half and for them to be "ready to dominate."
But Ras-I Dowling, who had a key interception in the first half, said the team "just didn't come out with the same passion" in the second half.
"It's a lot hotter here than it is in Virginia. That broke a lot of people's bodies down," Dowling said.
The Hurricanes (7-2, 4-2) scored their most points against a Division I-A opponent since 2005. The performance of quarterback Jacory Harris, who had 232 passing yards and two touchdowns, was overshadowed by running back Graig Cooper, who rushed for a career-high 152. It was the most rushing yards the Cavaliers have given up since September 2008.
"Cooper was just hitting holes good. We weren't making tackles and he was breaking tackles," Virginia linebacker Steve Greer said. "Just missed plays."
Groh said one problem with the defense was its inability to get off the field. He said Miami's 44 offensive plays in the first half were much higher than they planned, and that they had specific plans to limit the play count for the defense. He said the 70 plays by the end of the third quarter were a result of not stopping Harris and the Hurricanes on third down, where they were 8 for 14. Fatigue set in, with players battling Miami heat.
A possible beginning of the collapse occurred, according to players and Groh, on the first drive of the second half and with U.Va. down seven points. On third-and-6 from the Miami 25, Harris escaped defensive end Cam Johnson and completed a 29-yard strike to wide receiver LaRon Byrd, leading to a touchdown.
Miami scored on the next drive, and Virginia didn't score for the remainder of the game.
"We are expecting a run from every team, especially on the road, like there's going to be a burst of energy," Johnson said.
Face-mask penalty draws U.Va. ire
By Kevin Clark Correspondent
November 8, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - One controversy that emerged was a booth review after a sack of Jacory Harris in the third quarter. Despite looking for the spot of the ball in the review, the referees returned to call a face-mask penalty on defensive end Cam Johnson, a 15-yard penalty that swung the momentum of the drive. Virginia coach Al Groh called it, "a new one to me."
"Look, Urban (Meyer) makes a lot more money than I do," Groh said, referencing the Florida Gators coach who was recently fined for criticizing officials.
Though clearly frustrated, Johnson, who picked up his first two career sacks, would not criticize the officials. After the play, a minor skirmish followed between both teams.
"If they called it, I guess it was there," Johnson said. "I guess I grabbed his face mask."
The Cavaliers blocked two punts for the first time since Oct. 19, 1996, against N.C. State, and Bill Schautz's return for a touchdown off the second block was the first since Sept. 21, 2002, against Akron.
Schautz said the touchdown was especially sweet after tearing his MCL before the season "It came right into my arms, I took off and it was great."
Virginia linebackers Darren Childs and Steve Greer both set career highs in tackles, with 15 and 14 tackles respectively.
Spreading it around
Thirteen Hurricanes caught a pass in the game, a season-high for Miami.
Cavs' special teams are nothing special
By Kevin Clark Correspondent
November 8, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - In a team meeting Friday night, the Virginia coaches cautioned their players of one thing. Despite the reputation and the statistics of Miami kick returner Travis Benjamin, another returner, Thearon Collier, was the most dangerous one. They were right.
In the second quarter, Collier broke away from the six Cavaliers defenders who surrounded him, breaking a tackle then speeding through the Virginia special- teams unit with the help of some key blocks for a 60-yard touchdown play to give the Hurricanes a 17-10 lead that they would not relinquish in their 52-17 victory.
The touchdown highlighted a poor special-teams performance for the Cavaliers, who gave the Hurricanes good field position and points all day.
"I said earlier in the week that this team had the best up-field capabilities of anybody we played, and we gave them, as a result of special teams, three possessions in our territory on a punt return"
Said Virginia coach Al Groh, "Whether it was wind-caused, performance-caused, against a powerful team it's exactly what we couldn't have."
Virginia punter Nathan Rathjen averaged just 25.8 yards a kick, including a crucial 12-yard shank punt that led to a Miami touchdown that made it 24-10. Rathjen eventually was pulled for Jimmy Howell, who averaged 42.6 yards per punt. A squib kick after a Virginia touchdown in the first quarter gave Miami the ball at its own 49, and the Canes scored two plays and 25 seconds later on 35-yard Leonard Hankerson touchdown reception to make it 10-10.
Virginia’s offense fizzles again in lopsided loss to Miami
By Michael Phillips
Published: November 8, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- With Miami's 52-17 victory safely in hand, former Virginia star Chris Long went over to defensive end Matt Conrath to offer some consoling words.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of that exchange was that Conrath spent time on the sideline.
Once again, a defense with little depth was asked to take the field far longer than half the game, the result of an offense that has bigger problems than just who is lining up behind center. The unit also had to deal with short fields caused by misfiring punters.
"I felt like we brought a lot of energy to the game," cornerback Ras-I Dowling said. "The second half, we just didn't come out with the same passion."
Missed tackles did in the Wahoos, and they were most notable on a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Canes' Thearon Collier.
He took the ball with six white shirts surrounding him, but shook off Danny Aiken and Ausar Walcott. He took off sideways before turning vertical when Patch Duda was knocked to the ground violently by Chavez Grant. The crowd responded with a loud "ooh" each time the replay was shown.
Those oohs also were the noise of the Virginia faithful, realizing there was not any comeback magic for the 3-6 Cavs.
"Miami has a lot of playmakers in all three phases of the game, and we had a lot of trouble controlling those playmakers and matching them," coach Al Groh said.
Offensively, that meant finding a way for quarterback Marc Verica to have some time in the pocket. He was starting because of a shoulder injury to Jameel Sewell, and finished the game 11 of 29 with 75 yards in the air.
He struggled to find time in the pocket. Nor did he receive much help downfield.
"They did a good job of locking down the receivers," Groh said. "We didn't have a lot of guys open."
None of the team's offensive players were made available for comment after the game. Groh may have offered the most pointed remark, however, when he was asked how Wake Forest put up more than 500 yards of offense against the same team just seven days earlier.
"They have Riley Skinner" was his response, referencing the Demon Deacons' star quarterback.
Virginia's points were generated mostly by the punt rush. The field goal followed a Dowling interception, where the offense gained two yards afterward. One touchdown was created when Terence Fells-Danzer tipped a punt, setting up a Rashawn Jackson run. The other score came on Bill Schautz's 20-yard return of Trey Womack's blocked punt.
"He made a great play on the ball," Schautz said of Womack. "It bounced right to me, and I just took off."
The special teams never got the opportunity to make a play in the second half, though. On the first possession, the Canes were pinned in their own territory, with third and 6 from the 25.
Cam Johnson had a shot at quarterback Jacory Harris, but let him slip away, and Harris completed a pass that extended the drive.
"We didn't do what we had to do there, and it was one of the top things on the list," Groh said. "Keep the quarterback in the pocket."
Miami's next three scoring drives were 79, 80 and 90 yards, enough to finish off the depleted defense.
"It's always tough when you're taking that many plays," linebacker Steve Greer said. "But at the same time, we have to be ready for that."
Groh said the third-and-6 opportunity was pivotal. Had the defense had gotten off the field at that juncture, it would have given the offense the opportunity to tie the game. Virginia trailed 24-17 at halftime.
Of course, that assumes the offense would have moved the ball, which the unit found tough to do yesterday. Miami's pass rush and pass coverage combined to shut down the aerial attack, giving Verica little opportunity to make the 3rd-and-6 conversions that would have extended drives and kept Miami's offense on the bench.
"We're very aware of (the importance of time of possession) and have been for weeks," Groh said. "We came in with a very specific plan."
It wasn't enough, though, and now Virginia is in the midst of another losing streak with three winning teams left on the schedule.
"Nobody on this team likes to lose," Greer said. "That's why we'll start working towards Boston College."
U.Va. notes: Punter blown away
By Staff Reports
Published: November 8, 2009
Punter blown away
It was a long day for Virginia punter Nathan Rathjen. In his second start of the season, he booted the ball four times for an average of 25.8 yards, each time into a 25 mph wind that was gusting up to 30 mph.
"In the early part of the game, we gave them, as a result of special-teams plays, three possessions basically in our territory," coach Al Groh said.
Miami used that to its advantage toward the end of the first quarter. With the Cavs in their own territory and 8 seconds left before they had the wind at their back, they opted for a run on third and long.
The'Canes, however, stopped the play and took a timeout with 2 seconds left, forcing U.Va. to punt into the wind. The result was a 12-yard kick.
Rathjen was replaced by Jimmy Howell in the second quarter.
But the biggest return of the game wasn't Rathjen's fault. He had a nice kick that was fielded by Thearon Collier, who bolted 60 yards for the touchdown, seemingly shaking off every U.Va. tackler.
"It was a great individual return," Groh said. "He's the most dangerous guy, and he lived up to that, for sure."
On Miami's second scoring drive of the second half, it appeared Virginia had shut things down before the replay official decided otherwise.
Cam Johnson blitzed Jacory Harris, bringing him down by the back of his helmet for a 13-yard loss. The two players then exchanged words, and Miami lineman Jason Fox, who was beaten on the play, came in and pushed Johnson. Offsetting personal fouls for unnecessary roughness were given, and the official announced that they would go to replay to determine where the ball was spotted.
However, after the replay, Johnson was penalized for a face mask, which turned the loss into a 2-yard gain and a first down. After the game, a reporter asked Groh about the ruling, because face mask penalties are not subject to booth review.
"That's a new one on me, too," he said.
Any explanation given by the ref?
"Not a satisfactory one."
After a pause, he joked that "Urban makes a lot more money than I do," referring to Florida coach Urban Meyer being fined $30,000 for comments about the officiating in his game last week.
On his end, Johnson said that "if the refs called it, I guess it was" a face mask.
It was the first time U.Va. blocked two punts in a game since Oct. 19, 1996. . . . Cam Johnson recorded his first career sack. . . . Miami had a homecoming crowd of 48,350 in cavernous Land Shark Stadium. . . . Steve Greer (14), Darren Childs (15) and Rodney McLeod (11) set career highs in tackles. . . . Virginia is 0-4 in the stadium, having appeared in three bowl games previously. - Michael Phillips
Miami Hurricanes earn satisfaction in blowout win over Virginia
The Hurricanes avenged their dismal loss to Virginia in the Orange Bowl's finale two years ago with their best performance of the season.
The Miami Hurricanes badly wanted to prove they could stop playing down to their opponents.
And for one half -- the most important half -- they finally did that on homecoming Saturday.
Their defense dominated. Their running back made a triumphant return. And their punt returner created a masterpiece.
Despite a flawed first half, the Hurricanes let loose with 28 second-half points to defeat Virginia 52-17 at Land Shark Stadium. The 16th-ranked Canes are 7-2 and off to their best start since 2005.
``It was an emotional game for me and the seniors who played in that game two years ago,'' UM coach Randy Shannon said, referring to Virginia's 48-0 throttling of Miami in the historic final game in the Orange Bowl. ``To see guys like Jason Fox, who were here the last time we played them, come out and play the way they did [Saturday] was unbelievable.''
Senior Matt Bosher, who had two punts blocked Saturday and kicked a 42-yard field goal, was one of several UM players that expressed relief.
``That loss against Virginia two years ago, it hurt us,'' Bosher said. ``It sat with us. Last year it was close, and we beat them in overtime. But we really needed to come home and do this in front of our home fans to show we've definitely grown over the past two years.
``We aren't where we were in the past, and we're playing our hearts out.''
A crowd of 48,350 watched the Canes (7-2, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) score the most points against a Football Bowl Subdivision team since their 52-7 victory against Duke in 2005. Their 515 yards of offense -- a career-high 152 of those by tailback Graig Cooper -- were the most since September 2006. Their defense kept the Cavaliers (3-6, 2-3) to a season-low 149 yards.
WORK OF MAGIC
And Thearon Collier's 60-yard punt return for a touchdown? A piece of magic without the conventional magician. Collier evaded seven defenders, at first running backward and then across the field, before a wall of UM blockers led him to the end zone. It broke a 10-10 tie with 1:17 left in the first quarter and gave the Hurricanes enough padding to maintain a 24-17 lead at halftime.
``He went out there and made a Devin Hester play,'' said UM quarterback Jacory Harris, who completed 18 of 31 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. ``I was happy to rest up some more and sit and let the defense go play its heart out.''
Six different Hurricanes scored in a game for the second time this season. Besides Collier's punt return, Miami had three rushing touchdowns (two by Damien Berry and one by Cooper) and three receiving touchdowns (Jimmy Graham, Leonard Hankerson and Kendal Thompkins).
Thirteen Hurricanes caught passes Saturday, including redshirt freshman Thompkins, who got his first touchdown reception from backup quarterback A.J. Highsmith with 3:34 left in the game. It was Highsmith's first touchdown pass.
Defensively, after allowing 555 yards the previous week at Wake Forest, UM gave up only 75 yards passing and 74 rushing. Filling in for injured starter Jameel Sewell, Marc Verica started his first game in a year for the Cavs. He was sacked twice.
The first half was not quite as easy for the Canes.
Three costly first-half turnovers by UM led to 17 points for the Cavaliers: two touchdowns and a field goal. Two of those turnovers were blocked punts -- the first one late in the first quarter by Terence Fells-Danzer and the second one coming late in the second by Trey Womack.
UM's initial error was an interception thrown by Harris to begin his second drive. At first-and-10 from the Miami 45, Harris threw toward Aldarius Johnson, but the ball ended up in the arms of cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Dowling ran 49 yards to the UM 19-yard line. Four plays later, Robert Randolph's 34-yard field goal made it 3-3.
The Cavaliers took over on the UM 45-yard line after Fells-Danzer's block. They scored three plays later on a 34-yard run by fullback Rashawn Jackson to give the Cavs a 10-3 lead at 2:54 of the first quarter.
Later down 24-10, Virginia cut UM's lead to 24-17 when Womack's punt-block was scooped up by linebacker Bill Schautz and returned 20 yards for the score with 2:28 left in the first half.
But in the end, it was the second half that mattered most for the Hurricanes, the half that seemed to make the 48-0 loss more distant.
``The way we lost that game was so difficult,'' center A.J. Trump said. ``It took months of healing. We felt so bad, not only for us but for the fans. Coming back and letting them have a good time [Saturday] is a good feeling. We owed it to them.''
After win, Miami Hurricanes on way back to where it belongs - in
By EDWIN POPE
What a lot of people can't figure out today is how Virginia ever won three games this season. The closest thing to an answer is that they weren't playing anybody like Miami those days.
The Cavaliers had at least been in every contest coming in here at 3-5. And the Hurricanes could have clobbered them far worse than 52-17 if Randy Shannon had so chosen. Which, of course, he didn't, calling off his devil dogs in the fourth quarter to keep UM from hanging something in the 70s on the scoreboard.
I'm not sure this had anything at all to do with Virginia humiliating Miami 48-0 two years ago in the Hurricanes' last game in the Orange Bowl.
This was much, much more about UM just cutting loose and moving closer to the top 10 where it belongs.
It was about Miami and Shannon and the lengths of the Canes' strides since Shannon took over from Larry Coker in 2007.
Getting two punts blocked and still winning by 35 qualifies for a word Shannon was unable to avoid using late Saturday. ``Miraculous'' was the word. Coming from Shannon, who is one of the more careful phrasemakers you will meet, it offered a credible summation of how far UM has come.
With three games left to play, starting Saturday at North Carolina and then coming home against Duke and finishing up at South Florida, this bunch has already equaled last year's seven-win total.
THE SHANNON TOUCH
Credit the Shannon touch and those of chief assistants Mark Whipple and John Lovett for a good part of Saturday's rout.
Jacory Harris, as usual the chief engineer of triumph, was the first to thank Shannon for ``giving us our legs back'' through a lightened practice schedule last week. ``It showed in our energy level,'' Harris said, and indeed it did -- like 515 yards of total offense to Virginia's 149.
I may be going off the deep end here, but my idea at this precise moment is that this UM team could play anybody anywhere on even terms. The offensive line has brought the running game to within at least a decent margin of the somewhat sensational passing attack, and the injury-depleted defense is hanging in; it wasn't to blame for two blocked punts that led to touchdowns.
I may be choking on it after this coming Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C., but to me this looks like the best team since Larry Coker's 2003 club went 11-2.
Most certainly, Team Shannon is still building, and will be for a good while longer.
Beating Wake Forest by only 28-27 last week will be used as a mark against any Cane claims to greatness just yet.
And, of course, Virginia Tech manhandled Miami 31-7, and there was that 40-37 overtime loss to Clemson.
What we see, though, is a strengthening of resolve and even ``brotherhood,'' in Harris' phrase, during a time when injuries could have brought the whole thing tumbling down.
The Canes are simply too explosive to have let that happen.
They are The Long Ball Bunch.
Witness: Harris' 35-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson for a 10-10 tie.
Thearon Collier's 60-yard punt return for a touchdown with three portrait-worthy blocks by C.J. Holton, Chavez Grant and Colin McCarthy for a 17-10 lead.
Harris' 29-yard pass to LaRon Byrd on the way to 31-17, where the game went out of Virginia's reach.
UM's defense cannot be highlighted so easily, but an interception of Harris set up Virginia for one touchdown and a blocked punt accounted for another.
Not much there to fault the Hurricanes' defense.
``Nice job on third down, too,'' said Shannon, whose men went 8 of 14 on third-down conversions while holding Virginia to 2 of 12.
Now, in overview, there seems no pressing need for UM to act immediately in renewing Shannon's contract, which is in the third of a four-year deal.
What is pressing is for UM to decide unequivocally to extend Shannon as soon as the season ends, no matter what gremlins might leap up in the form of even more injuries or any freak events.
He has earned it. Or you may say his players have earned it for him.
With Shannon, it is all the same. Which, in itself, makes for a great deal of the beauty of it.
Last Tuesday, Jacory Harris was talking about how he and his teammates kept playing down to opponents. For the first time all year, the Canes showed us they could play a complete game. Yes, there were gaffs. Virginia took advantage of two blocked punts and an interception to score 17 points. But UM dominated in the second half and rolled to a 52-17 victory because it was the superior team and played like it.
A few more quick thoughts before I head down for postgame interviews...
> Thearon Collier's 60-yard punt return in the second quarter was without question the play of the year thus far. Collier channeled his inner Ted Ginn, running backwards and across the field before turning on the afterburners. He got three huge blocks on the return to spring him -- including ones from Ramon Buchanon and Chavez Grant that made the crowd at Land Shark Stadium "Oooh" and "Ahhh" during the replay on the Jumbotron.
> While there is plenty of good to talk about from this game, there is still work to be done. Virginia's two punt blocks were break downs on blocking schemes and will be a point of contention in the Canes film room this week. Brandon McGee also took a real bad angle on Rashawn Jackson's 34-yard touchdown run that put Virginia up 10-3 in the first quarter. I also thought Mark Whipple took a chance early on with the flea-flicker and Jacory Harris made a terrible read throwing the ball into triple coverage toward Aldarius Johnson. But that was about it. This way by far UM's best overall game.
> It was nice to see Graig Cooper return from his ankle injury and shine. He finished with a career-high 152 yards rushing including a 70-yard burst and three-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Miami pounded the Cavs for 268 yards on the ground as a team. That's making up for the 21 carries at Wake Forest.
> Safety Jared Campbell had a few nice pass breakups. That's good to see considering it doesn't look like Ray Ray Armstrong isn't coming back anytime soon. He was on the sideline with a knee brace. Linebacker Sean Spence had one too. Eric Moncur had his left leg in a soft cast. Lucky for UM, it didn't look like anybody else suffered injuries Saturday. Although Joel Figueroa did point down to his ankle in the third quarter. He stayed in the game.