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College Football: Cavs must rev it up to stay with Heels
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
CHARLOTTESVILLE—Virginia’s coaching staff didn’t waste much time reviewing the Cavaliers’ 41–40 victory over Miami last Saturday.
The Cavaliers’ Sunday routine was shaken up a bit because they had a short week to prepare for tonight’s home contest against Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina.
NORTH CAROLINA (6–4) at VIRGINIA (4–6)
WHEN: Tonight, 7:30
WHERE: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville
RADIO: WGRQ–FM 95.9
So instead of handing out accolades for the win over the Hurricanes, Mike London and his assistant coaches were reviewing film of UNC and Southern Mississippi.
The Tar Heels’ first-year head coach, Larry Fedora, was the Golden Eagles’ coach last season when they visited Virginia and earned a 30–24 victory.
London is hoping lessons learned from that experience can help the Cavaliers (4–6, 2–4 ACC) tonight as they attempt to win the final home game for their senior class and keep alive hopes of a second straight bowl bid.
“When you look at their team, you can see Southern Miss in the style of defense they play and obviously in the style of offense,” London said of the Tar Heels. “Coach Fedora was successful at Southern Miss, and he brought a large part if not all of his coaching staff to Carolina and implemented that scheme and that system that was productive for them.”
The Tar Heels (6–4, 3–3) are on pace to set a school record for total offense (488.7 yards per game). The previous record of 441.8 was set in 1983.
North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard is the ACC’s leading rusher (1,088 yards) and ranks second in the nation in scoring, third in all-purpose yards, fourth in punt returns and eighth in rushing yards per game (126.0).
Senior quarterback Bryn Renner has thrown 20 touchdown passes and is the only player in school history to have multiple seasons with that many scoring throws.
“You look at the way they can put points on the board, the receivers are tall, athletic guys,” London said. “Renner is an experienced quarterback that can place the ball and get the ball to his receivers. [A.J.] Blue and Bernard are excellent running backs. You can see how they can be explosive and get points offensively.”
The Tar Heels and Cavaliers surrendered a combined 108 points last week. North Carolina lost to Georgia Tech 68–50, while the Cavaliers enjoyed their narrow escape over Miami.
That may lead many to expect a shootout tonight, but the Cavaliers are hoping to make strides defensively.
“That’s not what we want,” senior outside linebacker LaRoy Reynolds said. “I think we pride ourselves on playing good defense.”
If the Cavaliers are to slow down the Tar Heels, it may start with Bernard. He’s the first Tar Heel with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Natrone Means in 1991–92.
His 70-yard punt return for a touchdown in the closing seconds broke a tie against N.C. State and lifted the Tar Heels to a 43–35 victory earlier this season.
London said he’s hopeful that the Cavaliers’ experience with Miami freshman running back Duke Johnson prepared them for Bernard. Johnson rushed for 150 yards on 16 carries and also scored on a 95-yard kickoff return.
“He’s a great player, a great running back,” Reynolds said of Bernard. “He’s probably one of the best we’re going to play against. I have a lot of respect for him, but you live for competition like this.”
The Cavaliers’ offense has gotten on track lately, as well. Virginia has won two straight games since its bye week and is averaging 464 yards per contest in that span.
“They have become a really good football team,” Fedora said. “They are playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
Virginia true freshman cornerback Maurice Canady (medical) is doubtful for tonight’s game after earning two straight ACC co-defensive back of the week honors. Kicker Ian Frye (lower extremity), defensive end Billy Schautz (lower extremity) and safety Anthony Harris (medical) are probable.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526