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College Football: Victory soothes Cavs’ aches

SNAPPING A SIX-GAME SKID KEEPS VIRGINIA’S PLAYERS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THEIR LAST THREE CONTESTS

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

CHARLOTTESVILLE—The University of Virginia football team was growing weary of returning to practice on Sundays following loss after loss.

But the Cavaliers’ 33–6 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over N.C. State on Saturday to snap a six-game losing streak has rejuvenated the team.

    MIAMI (5-4) at VIRGINIA (3–6)

    WHEN: Saturday, noon

    WHERE: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville

    TV: ABC (channels 7, 8)

    RADIO: WGRQ–FM 95.9

Virginia sophomore quarterback Phillip Sims said the Cavaliers are usually tired at Sunday practices because of soreness from the day before. But that malaise was replaced two days ago by renewed confidence from the victory.

“I think winning makes everything that much better,” Sims said Monday. “It’s sweeter. The whole team is energized. Everybody’s back to normal. It’s hard to come in week after week, especially after tough losses, when you’re losing by three or four points. Those are the ones that really wear and tear on your team.”

The Cavaliers (3–6, 1–4 ACC) host Miami (5–4, 4–2) on Saturday at noon at Scott Stadium. They must win their final three contests to qualify for a bowl game for the second straight season.

“We basically just feel like it’s a playoff-type system,” true freshman defensive end Mike Moore said. “We want to win every game we can to get to that bowl.”

ROTATION WILL REMAIN

The Cavaliers have struggled to define their quarterback situation this year. But head coach Mike London believes he may have found the remedy.

Sims and junior Michael Rocco shared the job against N.C. State, and both earned passing grades from London.

Sims started and completed 8 of 10 passes for 115 yards. He ran for a 1-yard touchdown and threw a 38-yard scoring pass to Tim Smith. Rocco went 12 of 23 for 83 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to Darius Jennings. Neither quarterback threw an interception for the first time since a season-opening win over Richmond.

London said both Sims and Rocco will play against Miami, as well. He said Rocco’s knowledge of the offense and Sims’ strong arm make it sensible to use both.

“We just looked at it as we have two guys that have run the offense and they both bring something to the table for us,” London said. “So it was more of, ‘Let’s find the plays they can do, and let’s put a scheme together that can benefit not only them, but the players we’re trying to surround them with.’”

FINALLY, SOME TAKEAWAYS

The Cavaliers’ defense had forced just four turnovers in eight games prior to the N.C. State victory. The Wolfpack committed five on Saturday (three interceptions, two fumbles).

London said the Cavaliers were so focused on gaining takeaways they even practiced the way they would celebrate after them during their bye week leading up to the game.

“I always envisioned the turnovers would come and when they would come, they would come in bunches,” London said. “That’s what happens sometimes.”

A VOTE FOR A FRIEND

Sims, who transferred from Alabama, still stays in contact with Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron. Sims said he watches No. 1 Alabama every chance he gets, and that his friend McCarron should be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. He pointed out McCarron’s 19 touchdowns and no interceptions as the reason he should be considered for the award.

McCarron beat out Sims for the starting quarterback job in 2011.

“To win a national championship last year and come back this year and have your numbers at [19] touchdowns and no interceptions this year,” Sims said, “this is a whole another AJ. He’s doing things the way everybody knew he was capable of doing it.”

COLEY, BATTLE RETURN

Virginia senior fullback Lovante Battle and sophomore linebacker Henry Coley have returned to the team after a one-week suspension for a violation of team rules. London said backup tight end Jeremiah Mathis, who was suspended for the same reason, remains on the team, but hasn’t done what’s necessary to return to action.

TWO CAVS HONORED

Virginia sophomore defensive tackle Chris Brathwaite has been named ACC defensive lineman of the week. Brathwaite recorded five tackles and two sacks against the Wolfpack.

True freshman cornerback Maurice Canady, who made his first start with sophomore Drequan Hoskey injured, was named co-defensive back of the week. Canady made seven tackles and recorded an interception.

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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