The authority for sports coverage in the Fredericksburg region.
College Football: London stands by his men
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
CHARLOTTESVILLE—The boos heard at Scott Stadium during the University of Virginia’s 27–20 loss to Ma-ryland last Saturday sounded eerily similar to the ones that ultimately led to the firing of former coach Al Groh.
Cavaliers’ third-year head coach Mike London’s job security hasn’t been a major topic of discussion, but much of the fans’ displeasure was because of Virginia’s conservative play-calling as it attempted to come back from a late deficit.
As the Cavaliers (2–5, 0–3 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepare to host Wake Forest (3–3, 1–3) today and try to snap a five-game losing streak, London has been in defense mode.
He took up for his team earlier this week saying he remains confident he’s building the program the right way. He said he’s supportive of all his coaches, namely special teams coach Anthony Poindexter and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who called the plays that drew the ire of the fan base.
“I support my coaches. That’s important,” London said. “I know that the plays that are called are called to be successful. What happens is that when they’re not successful, everyone knows it.”
London said Lazor might rethink some of his play calls from that game if he could do it over again. He said Lazor’s plays “look great when they work,” but when they don’t “they’re up for discussion.”
Lazor’s offense has been consistent at producing yards the last three games, but points have been a different story. The Cavaliers have outgained their opponent in each of their last three setbacks.
“It’s very frustrating,” sophomore quarterback Phil-lip Sims said. “As a quarterback, scoring points is your job. That’s how you stay around. If you don’t produce, somebody else goes in.”
Sims discovered that against Maryland when he was benched with 6:01 left in the game in favor of junior Michael Rocco.
Rocco started the first five games of the season before Sims, an Alabama transfer, took over. Sims has done little to distinguish himself in two starts. So more than halfway the season, neither quarterback has taken control of the team.
“I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating, but it’s a little different,” Sims said of the way he and Rocco have battled. “I don’t think it’s something either one of us have ever been through as far as competing against another guy this much. But this is the way the season has dictated us to go along as an offense. We’ve got to keep going with it and maybe one day it’ll be one or the other. But right now it’s back and forth. You never know.”
Wake Forest has issues of its own. The Demon Deacons suspended eight players in the past week. The six players who were initially suspended are eligible to return today, but head coach Jim Grobe hasn’t said they’ll definitely suit up.
“Coach Grobe has obviously had some off-the-field issues that have devastated his team to this point,” London said. “So they’re on the road, conference game, looking for a win.”
London said the Cavaliers are even more desperate. A sixth straight loss would send them spiraling into their bye week. When they return from the week off, they visit N.C. State. Their final four opponents all have winning records.
“We’re not where we want to be,” London said, “by any stretch of the imagination.”
Virginia junior right tackle Morgan Moses (medical) is questionable for today’s game. Junior wide receiver Tim Smith (leg) is probable after missing the past two contests. Senior defensive end Billy Schautz (hamstring) will miss his fourth straight game.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526