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ACC Football: Cavaliers out to sustain winning mindset against Miami

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

THE FREE LANCE–STAR

CHARLOTTESVILLE—An opportunity for the University of Virginia football team to work on itself during a bye week paid dividends when the Cavaliers earned a 33–6 road victory over N.C. State last Saturday.

The victory snapped a morale-draining six-game losing streak. The Cavaliers (3–6, 1–4 Atlantic Coast Conference) will see if the momentum from the win carries over today when they host Miami in an ACC Coastal Division clash.

Virginia must win its final three games to earn a second straight bowl bid. Miami (5–4, 4–2) controls its own destiny to reach the conference championship game.

“Clearly the University of Virginia is a different team coming out of a bye week,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “They clearly have made some changes.”

The primary change is at quarterback. Sophomore Phillip Sims and junior Michael Rocco have both appeared in all but one game this season.

But the N.C. State contest represented the first time they played on a rotational basis. Sims and Rocco combined to complete 20 of 33 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Sims also rushed for a score.

Sims said neither quarterback has a problem with the arrangement because “the team comes first over any individual no matter who you are.”

Cavaliers coach Mike London said earlier this week the setup will continue because of its success against N.C. State.

“I just think we were clicking on all cylinders the other day,” Sims said. “And no matter who was in at quarterback, everybody else fell in together and we just moved the ball all day long. I’m not sure if it was the quarterback system or what it was that sparked it, but we’ll keep doing whatever it was.”

Sims said the bye week didn’t hurt, either. It gave the Cavaliers a chance to improve without concentrating on an upcoming foe. Virginia is 3–0 following byes under London.

“It was just getting reps with different guys when you don’t necessarily have to worry about a defense that week, you don’t have to game-plan against anybody, just focusing on the little things that your team has to do to get better,” Sims said. “I think that’s what really helped me over the bye week, just really being able to hone in on the small things.”

The Cavaliers used a 28–21 road win over Miami to propel them to a four-game winning streak and a bid to the Chick–fil–A Bowl last season. It was the second straight season Virginia defeated the Hurricanes.

“I know that Golden is going to be reminded of that,” London said of the 2011 meeting. “But we’re reminded of it, too. It goes back to winning in November and having a chance to keep some of these goals alive.”

London said the Cavaliers will have to contend with Miami’s speed on offense if they want to still have something to play for following today’s game.

However, the Hurricanes have been vulnerable defensively this season. They rank last in the ACC in total defense (490.4 yards allowed per game). They’re also last against the run (246.2 yards allowed per game).

That could bode well for Virginia, which boasts the conference’s fourth-best rushing attack (133.9 yards per game). The Cavaliers were able to rush for a season-high 248 yards against the Wolfpack, and they hope that becomes a trend.

“I think with success comes confidence,” Sims said. “When you’re successful as an offense like we were last week, everybody gets a little more confident. Everybody’s a little happier with the situation that’s going on.”

INJURY REPORT

Virginia starting true freshman defensive end Eli Harold (medical) will miss today’s game. Kicker Ian Frye (lower extremity) and defensive end Billy Schautz (lower extremity) are questionable.

Miami starting safety Deon Bush (upper extremity) is out today, while starting linebacker Denzel Perryman (lower extremity) is doubtful.

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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