CFN Take: Virginia Loses Late To Duke
Posted Oct 18, 2014

Virginia Cavaliers 2014 ... Head Coach: Mike London

2014 Virginia Cavaliers

2014 Schedule
Record: 4-3

Aug. 30 UCLA L 28-20
Sep. 6 Richmond W 45-13
Sep. 13 Louisville W 23-21
Sep. 20 at BYU L 41-14
Sep. 27 Kent State W 45-13
Oct. 4 Pitt W 24-19
Oct. 18 at Duke L 20-13
Oct. 25 North Carolina
Nov. 1 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 8 at Florida State
Nov. 22 Miami
Nov. 28 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 18 at Duke 20, Virginia 13
And You Care Because … Thomas Sirk came up with a jump pass to David Reeves for a three-yard score to break the tie and give Duke the lead, and then the D did the rest holding on as Virginia’s final drive stalled. Ross Martin hit field goals from 19 and 25 yards out for the Blue Devils, while long Virginia drives were stopped and the O had to settle for two Ian Frye field goals after getting its lone touchdown midway through the second quarter on a five-yard Khalek Shepherd catch.
What Else? Duke QB Anthony Boone completed 22-of-37 passes for 176 yards and a score, and ran six times for 34 yards
- Virginia QB Matt Johns completed 21-of-44 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown
- Virginia WR Mile Gooch caught six passes for 129 yards
- Duke WR Jamison Crowder caught eight passes for 99 yards
Game Rating: B+

Oct. 4 at Virginia 24, Pitt 19
And You Care Because … Virginia broke a 3-3 tie with 21 second quarter points on a 48-yard Kevin Parks run, a three-yard Khalek Shepherd catch, and a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown from Max Valles. Pitt mounted a comeback with 16 unanswered points, with Chad Voytik throwing two touchdown passes and Chris Blewitt hitting a 24-yard field goal, but the Cavaliers hung on after J.P. Holtz caught a six-yard scoring pass with 1:27 to play.
What Else? Virginia RB Kevin Parks ran 29 times for 169 yards and a score
- Pitt RB James Conner was held to 83 yards on 21 carries
- Rushing yards: Virginia 225 – Pitt 116
- Penalties: Pitt 10 for 75 yards – Virginia 6 for 65 yards
Game Rating: B

Sept. 27 at Virginia 45, Kent State 13
And You Care Because … Down 10-7 after the first quarter, Virginia exploded for 38 straight points with Kevin Parks scoring twice and Matt Johns and Taquan Mizzell each rushing for short scores. The Cavalier defense came up with five takeaways including a pick six from Maurice Canady in the first quarter. The Golden Flashes only managed two field goals after scoring first midway through the first quarter on a 45-yard James Brooks touchdown catch.
What Else? Turnovers: Kent State 5 – Virginia 3
- Total yards: Virginia 520 – Kent State 318
- Virginia QB Matt Johns completed 17-of-28 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns with two picks, and he ran five times for a team-leading 65 yards and a score
- Kent State QB Colin Reardon completed 15-of-32 passes for 239 yards and a score with three picks
Game Rating: D+

Sept. 20 BYU 41, Virginia 33
And You Care Because … BYU remained unbeaten, but not without getting all it could handle from Virginia. The Cougars and the Cavaliers went toe-to-toe for most of the game, but BYU never relinquished a lead it grabbed on a Taysom Hill touchdown run early in the third quarter. Every time the Cavs drew within a score, the Cougars had an answer, capped by a 99-yard Adam Hine kickoff return to finally put the game out of reach with 7:50 left in the fourth.
What Else? No, it wasn’t prolific, but Hill cRontinued to make his Heisman case by accounting for 259 yards and three touchdowns. And he did it against a Virginia D that’s been shutting people down all season.
- Oddly enough, Virginia lost the game, but dominated the offensive statistics. The Cavaliers outgained the Cougars, 519-332, dominated time of possession and scored 27 points on five red-zone trips.
- Considering how poorly the defense played, BYU was fortunate to have won this game. Hine’s special teams heroics and the continued leadership of Hill helped keep the dream of a perfect season alive.
- Can Virginia build off this offensive effort? The usually feeble Cavalier attack was potent, balanced and consistent. And the Cavs did it all at a tough road venue and against a physical defensive unit.
Game Rating: B+

Sept. 13 at Virginia 23, Louisville 21
And You Care Because … Ian Frye nailed a 42-yard field goal in the final minutes and the defense held on as Virginia got by Louisville in a mistake-prone day. The Cardinals turned it over four times, Virginia three, with the winning field goal coming off a muffed punt return by UofL’s James Quick. The Cavaliers got up to a 20-7 lead going into the fourth helped by two Frye field goals and a ten-yard touchdown run from Greyson Lambert, but Louisville roared back in the fourth with two decent scoring drives with a short touchdown run from Dominique Brown and a four-yard catch from Quick for a 23-21 lead before Frye was able to get the job done.
What Else? Neither offense got too much going with both running games held to just 2.9 yards. Virginia’ Kevin Parks ran for 66 yards on 22 carries, while Louisville’s Dominique Brown ran 20 times for 74 yards.
- Virginia QB Greyson Lambert ran for a score, but he was under pressure for most of the game, completing just 13-of-24 passes for 162 yards and a score with a pick. Louisville’s Will Gardner had a rough day, completing 14-of-34 throws for 164 yards with two touchdowns and a pick.
- Louisville FS Gerod Holliman came up with six tackles, a forced fumble and two picks.
- Virginia DE Eli Harold made three tackles with two sacks, and LB Max Valles made four tackles with four broken up passes.
Game Rating: B

Sept. 6 at Virginia 45, Richmond 13
And You Care Because … Matt Johns threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Canaan Severin and Kevin Parks and Taquan Mizzell each ran for short scores as Virginia got up 21-3 and coasted the rest of the way. The defense gave up 422 yards, but seven takeaways led to the rout with seven different players coming up with the big play. Three Cavalier quarterbacks got work with Greyson Lambert completing 13-of-15 passes for 102 yards and a score, and Johns hitting 4-of-7 throws for 65 yards with a score and a pick.
Game Rating: C-

Aug. 30 UCLA 28, at Virginia 20
And You Care Because … UCLA got three defensive touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-3 lead, but Virginia came back with two Matt Johns touchdown passes to pull within four midway through the third quarter. Brett Hundley took over, leading the Bruins on a 59-yard, ten play drive finishing up with a six-yard touchdown run to take the lead for good, but the Bruin defense had to hold up late.
What Else? UCLA got three defensive scores and still needed everything in the bag to get out alive. The pass protection was awful, there were 12 penalties, and Brett Hundley was merely average, completing 20-of-33 passes for 242 yards and running for 39 yards and a score. There’s a lot of work to do …
- Or, Virginia just might be a lot better. It was sloppy in the second quarter with the three big turnovers for scores – give credit to UCLA for forcing the errors – but the team kept on fighting and stayed alive. The defensive front was terrific making five sacks led by Henry Coley’s 14 tackles, a forced fumble and two sacks.
- The UCLA linebackers were fantastic. Eric Kendricks came up with 16 tackles with a pick six and a forced fumble for a score, and Myles Jack made 13 tackles with two broken up passes.
- Matt Johns stepped in at quarterback and was great for the Cavs, hitting 13-of-22 passes for 154 yards and two scores to get Virginia back in the game.
Game Rating: B

2014 Preview 

Mike London: Crackerjack recruiter, but a mediocre head coach.

London keeps cranking out homeruns on Signing Day, while whiffing on Saturdays. And for that reason, he faces a do-or-die situation in his fifth year on the job. The coach has succeeded in getting talent through the door, but that’s where the celebrating has stopped. The Cavaliers won just a pair of games in 2013, and they’re 18-31 since the coach replaced Al Groh in 2010. Yet, five-star studs, like DT Andrew Brown and S Quin Blanding, have chosen to play in Charlottesville, highlighting the riddle that is London. The coach cleaned up in February, but he won’t be teaching his blue-chip pupils for very long if Virginia doesn’t bowl in 2014.

There’s a lot to like about London. High school kids admire him. So does the administration and the local community. But popularity contests don’t impact the ACC standings, and three losing seasons in four years is a problem. London’s downfall has been an offense that’s gotten progressively worse in each of the last three seasons. More specifically, he needs a competent quarterback to lead the offense.

The last time a Wahoo quarterback ranked in the top half of the ACC in passer rating? Would you believe Marques Hagans in 2004? Yup, the situation has been that consistently bad behind center. And there are no signs of guaranteed improvement ahead. Incumbent David Watford was a disaster in 2013, throwing nearly twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. Predictably, he’s been replaced at the top of the depth chart by sophomore Greyson Lambert, whose job it is to lose.

If London survives to coach the Cavaliers in 2015, bank on the D playing a huge role in the reprieve. Jon Tenuta’s unit, which underachieved last fall, begins this season with nine returning starters and something to prove. The good news in C’ville is that the defense boasts star power at each level; Eli Harold up front, Henry Coley from the second level and Anthony Harris and Demetrious Nicholson out of the secondary. All four Cavs are NFL-caliber, so there’ll be no excuses for not being one of the saltier ACC defenses this season.

The Virginia players like London. But if they love their coach, they’ll find a way to compete at a higher level in 2014. It’s desperation time in the commonwealth, and no amount of quality recruits or personal goodwill is going to save London if he can’t guide the ‘Hoos back to .500 for the first time since 2011.

What to look for on offense: The ongoing battle at quarterback. Sure, there are other competitions, such as the left tackle opening vacated by Morgan Moses, but they pale in comparison to behind center. Junior David Watford may be the incumbent, but sophomore Greyson Lambert had the better spring, which is why he sits atop the depth chart. Lambert is a strong-armed 6-5, 220-pounder, whose been noticeably more consistent this offseason than in 2013. He has a long way to go and just 75 career passing attempts, but he has clearly erased the gap that was already beginning to shrink last fall.

What to look for on defense: Filling the openings up front. Virginia’s biggest vulnerability is along the D-line, which must replace DE Jake Snyder and DT Brent Urban, a pair of underrated performers. The base is in place with DE Eli Harold and DT David Dean, but who joins them in the lineup? Tackle doesn’t figure to be a major problem, since 2012 sack leader Chris Brathwaite is back from academic suspension, and uber-recruit Andrew Brown has already participated in practice. A reliable end, though, needs to be mined to keep offenses from loading up Harold’s side of the line.

This team will be much better if… the offense makes even modest gains this fall. You can’t average fewer than 20 points a game in this age—or any age—and expect to win many games. After ranking 13th in ACC scoring, the Cavaliers can take a quantum leap in the standings by even becoming a middle-of-the-pack league offense. While the defense is the clear-cut backbone of the 2014 squad, it doesn’t mean the unit can survive on its own. It needs help from an offense that punted, stalled and turned the ball over far too much a year ago.

The Schedule: Uh-oh. The Cavaliers not only have a nasty conference slate, but they’re not exactly taking it easy in before diving in starting the season out against UCLA and going to BYU in mid-September. Richmond and Ken State ease things up a little bit, but not enough considering what’s happening in ACC play. Louisville comes to Scott Stadium, and so do Pitt, North Carolina and Miami, but there’s a brutal, brutal stretch of three road games in four weeks starting out against defending Coastal champ Duke and going to Georgia Tech and Florida State after dealing with North Carolina. The rivalry date with Virginia Tech is on the road just six days after facing the Hurricanes.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Kevin Parks. Parks isn’t just the focal point of the Cavalier offense. He’s also one of the most versatile all-around playmakers in the ACC. He’ll pick up tough yards and blitzes with equal effectiveness, while serving as a reliable safety valve in the passing game. Parks brings leadership and a high football IQ to a Virginia backfield facing uncertainty at quarterback. After earning a spot on the All-ACC Second Team, he has his eyes on a top spot this fall.

Best Defensive Player: Senior Anthony Harris. The undisputed strength of the Cavaliers is the defensive backfield. And the leader of a very talented group is Harris, who carries All-American honors with him into his senior year. He’s like having a third ball-hawking cornerback on the field, which creates nightmares for the other team’s quarterback. Harris does it all out of the secondary, from flipping the field with picks to lowering the boom in run defense, which has not been lost on the NFL scouting community.

Key players to a successful season: The quarterbacks. Whether it’s Watford or Lambert who ultimately gets the nod from the coaching staff in Week 1, that guy has to operate with more efficiency than any of his last six or seven predecessors. Poor quarterback play is the primary reason Virginia is in its current rut. The Cavaliers need the offseason competition between the contenders to bring out the best in both, resulting in an offense that averages at least 25 points per game this season.

The season will be a success if ... the Cavaliers manufacture six wins out of a very difficult schedule. Whether or not a bowl is realistic in 2014 is somewhat irrelevant, because that’s where the bar will be set for a program that hasn’t been a part of the past two postseasons. At first glance, Virginia might be favored in no more than three or four games this fall. Still, if the school isn’t playing an additional game in December, the year will go down as another failure, and the coaching staff will have to be overhauled by AD Craig Littlepage.

Key game: Nov. 28 at Virginia Tech. One of these years, the Cavaliers are going to defeat their rivals from Blacksburg. This season would be as good a time as any for a beleaguered regime that’s trying to locate solid footing. Virginia has dropped 10 straight, and 14 of the last 15, meetings with Virginia Tech, a nasty trend that’s haunted numerous coaches in Charlottesville. The Hokies aren’t exactly flourishing these days, affording the Cavs an opportunity to finally snap one of the nation’s longest current losing streaks in a rivalry series.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Touchdown passes: Virginia 9 – Opponents 19
- Third-down%: Virginia 38% – Opponents 32%
- Points per game: Virginia 19.8 - Opponents 33.2

- 2014 Virginia Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players  


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