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College Football: Cavaliers’ skid tests their poise
LONDON WORKING HARD TO KEEP HIS YOUNG TEAM’S ATTITUDE POSITIVE
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
CHARLOTTESVILLE—As the losses have piled up, University of Virginia football coach Mike London has had to appear poised and confident in front of cameras.
The Cavaliers are on a five-game losing streak, but London said Monday he must continue to show his players and potential recruits that when adversity strikes, “it’s just one more step in the process of trying to get this program to where I envision it.”
WAKE FOREST (3–3) AT VIRGINIA (2–5)
WHEN: Saturday, 12:30
WHERE: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville
TV: Channels 5, 35
RADIO: WGRQ-FM 95.9
Still, London’s patience is being tested. The Cavaliers (2–5, 0–3 Atlantic Coast Conference) host Wake Forest (3–3, 1–3) on Saturday, desperate to end their slide.
“Disappointment,” London said of the first seven games this season, “but it’s one of those things that you have to show these young men—that adversity is going to happen in life. We’ve experienced our fair share of it.”
The Cavaliers have experienced problems with penalties, special teams miscues, offensive issues in the red zone and defensive breakdowns.
They’ve switched starting quarterbacks and kickers. London said part of the problem is that 22 freshmen and sophomores play significant roles.
London said he always remains positive, but his players said anxiety is setting in.
“Each week it gets a little more on your shoulder to get back in the win column,” sophomore tight end Jake McGee said. “It just brings added stress that we don’t need to put on ourselves.”
SIMS STILL THE QB
Sophomore quarterback Phillip Sims was benched with 6:01 left in the Cavaliers’ 27–20 home loss to Maryland on Saturday.
However, Sims is still listed atop the depth chart as the projected starter for the Wake Forest game. Junior Michael Rocco replaced Sims against the Terrapins and led the Cavaliers on a scoring drive.
But London said Sims still needs a fair chance to lead the team. London noted that the Maryland game was just Sims’ second career start.
“Sometimes we lose perspective of what that is,” London said of Sims’ inexperience.
Sims completed just 13 of 28 passes for 139 yards, a touchdown and an interception against Maryland. The Alabama transfer and former blue chip recruit from Chesapeake said his performance was well below his expectations.
Sims said he needs to improve on his decision-making and “after last week’s performance, being more accurate.”
“I was not accurate at all throughout the entire game,” he said. “It’s unexplainable to be that inaccurate as a quarterback.”
The Cavaliers’ special teams have struggled this season—never more so than when Maryland true freshman Stefon Diggs returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
Maryland’s A.J. Francis also blocked Drew Jarrett’s field goal attempt, which London said was kicked so low Francis didn’t have to jump. Jarrett was replaced by Ian Frye, who made two short field goal attempts and both extra points.
London said there will be an open competition for the kicking job this week in practice.
He also said special teams coach Anthony Poindexter has taken undeserved heat. He said he’s talked to Poindexter about simplifying his units.
“People are like ‘Maybe he’s been here too long,’” London said of the former Virginia All-American safety. “But he’s one of the best recruiters we have on the staff. He does an outstanding job of that. He wants the special teams units to perform better.”
SCHAUTZ WILL RETURN
Senior defensive end Billy Schautz will return at some point this season, but not on Saturday, London said.
Schautz has missed the past four games with a hamstring injury that London said is “quite severe.” London is hopeful Schautz returns for the Cavaliers’ Nov. 3 trip to N.C. State, which comes one week after a bye.
JONES’ BELL RUNG
London said starting running back Perry Jones suffered a concussion against Maryland. Jones’ availability for the Wake Forest game is uncertain.
A confused Jones caused Sims to call two consecutive timeouts in the third quarter against Maryland.
Sims said Jones not knowing the play call caused the Cavaliers to burn one timeout. Virginia coaches then didn’t send in a replacement for Jones, which caused Sims to burn the second timeout.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526