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College Football: Cavaliers still hoping to salvage their season
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
CHARLOTTESVILLE—When the University of Virginia football team won eight games and played in a bowl for the first time in five years last season, it made many big plays in key moments.
But as the Cavaliers have struggled this season, the weight of each loss has caused them anxiety. Virginia (2–4, 0–2 Atlantic Coast Conference) is on a four-game losing streak. It hopes to snap it on Saturday when ACC rival Maryland (3–2, 1–0) visits Scott Stadium.
MARYLAND (3–2) at VIRGINIA (2–4)
WHEN: Saturday, 3 p.m.
WHERE: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville
TV: Comcast SportsNet
RADIO: WGRQ-FM 95.9
“It’s been interesting because last year when we needed a play, we made the play,” Virginia junior center Luke Bowanko said Monday. “It wasn’t something you really pushed for, you stressed out about, you didn’t talk about it. The play just got made.
“It’s difficult this year. You’re standing there watching and things just aren’t going your way four games in a row. It’s tough.”
Bowanko said the Cavaliers may have used up all their good fortune in a 17–16 win over Penn State when Nittany Lions kicker Sam Ficken missed four field goal attempts.
Whatever the case may be, the Cavaliers are a downtrodden bunch. Sophomore cornerback Drequan Hoskey said: “It kind of hurts right now,” but the team can’t dwell on the adversity.
Head coach Mike London is concerned, too.
London said last season the Cavaliers pulled out a 34–31 victory over Indiana, and it helped keep the season afloat. He said this year’s team may need a similar dramatic outcome for a morale boost.
“You know, with these young players, sometimes negative things happen and you try to get them out of the mindset of going down a road of not feeling confident,” London said. “It’s hard to feel confident when you’re not winning games.”
London said he’s talked to his players about winning the month of October. That idea got off to a bad start with a 42–17 loss to Duke on Saturday. The Cavaliers host Wake Forest after Maryland. They have a bye Oct. 27.
Bowanko said while he hopes fans show up for the next two home games, he understands if attendance is low.
He wore a Baltimore Orioles hat to the Cavaliers’ weekly press conference. So Bowanko said he knows what it’s like to root for a team that’s had down times. The Orioles are in the Major League Baseball playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
“You can’t expect fans to show up for a product they don’t think is adequate,” he said.
NEW FACILITY CATCHES FIRE
The Cavaliers may be on a cold streak, but their new indoor practice facility isn’t.
The roof of the building, which will be named after former coach George Welsh, caught fire on Monday at 12:36 p.m. Construction was halted by the blaze, which was doused by Charlottesville firefighters at approximately 2 p.m., said U.Va. representative McGregor McCance.
The $14.5 million facility is scheduled to open next August. McCance said it’s too early to tell how much damage was done or the cause of the blaze.
DIGGS PRESENTS CHALLENGE
Virginia sophomore cornerback Demetrious Nicholson has started all 18 games of his career. Nicholson has encountered plenty of challenges, and the Maryland game is expected to be no different.
Nicholson will be asked to cover Maryland star freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs has been named ACC Rookie of the Week twice this season. He has 17 receptions for 364 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cavaliers’ secondary allowed Duke backup quarterback Anthony Boone to pass for four touchdowns on Saturday. Nicholson has been asked to guard Louisiana Tech standout senior Quinton Patton and Duke’s Conner Vernon the past two weeks. They combined for 15 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Diggs will test Nicholson again.
“As far as the recruiting part, he was the best player in the state of Maryland [last year],” London said. “He’s an explosive, dynamic player and Maryland tries to find a lot of ways to get him the ball. I think [Nicholson] will rise to the challenge.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526