Backs against the wall: UVA football needs to get it done on the road

UVaHelmet_1The margin of error for UVA football is: there is no margin of error. With three games remaining, the 3-6 Cavs need to win all three to become bowl-eligible.

Coach Mike London, whose future would seem to depend on the outcome, isn’t looking past this coming Saturday.

“The most important game is this game here,” London said of Virginia’s game at Louisville (5-4, 4-2 ACC). “It is an away game, and we want to get back and have the opportunity to win ACC games on the road. Obviously the most important game is this one. I’m not counting up how many wins – this is the biggest one, the biggest game for us. Then after that game you look to the next game. Right now, it is another ACC game.”

Vegas doesn’t think Virginia gets past Saturday in terms of its season goals. Louisville, winners of five of its last six, is a 13.5-point favorite. The Cardinals’ losses this year include a pair of three-point setbacks at home against undefeated teams, #1 Clemson and #16 Houston.

Their other losses – Auburn and Florida State – add up to a resume similar to Virginia’s. UVA has gone down in defeat to #6 Notre Dame, #17 North Carolina and #18 UCLA, along with Boise State, Pitt and Miami.

A key difference is that Louisville has been able to finish off close wins over N.C. State, Boston College and Wake Forest, while the ‘Hoos haven’t been able to get out of their own way in one-score defeats to the Irish, the Panthers and the ‘Canes.

London addressed the issue of finishing out games that has been a point of focus for two seasons.

“You go back to those critical moments. Whether it’s a third-down play or keeping yourself from getting penalties like a false start, we have to be wired in and focused towards the end of the game,” London said.

“The stakes are high, but we have to remain poised and make sure there’s a level of confidence in the players and the calls. The biggest thing is that we have to execute. We have shown it and demonstrated it. Last time against Louisville, it came down to a last-minute field goal by Ian Frye. We need to show that kind of resilience to come out on top.”

Virginia topped Louisville, 23-21, in Charlottesville last season, getting a late field goal from Frye after a Louisville special-teams turnover. But that was at home, where UVA is 8-5 over the past two seasons.

On the road, the Cavs are 1-17 dating back to the start of the 2012 season, the last win away from home coming at N.C. State on Nov. 3, 2012.

Virginia has been competitive on the road this season, but sloppy play at inopportune moments has been the only thing consistent about those defeats.

“Outside of one of the halves for the UCLA game, we’ve done a pretty competitive job on the away games,” London said. “That’s just a matter and a mindset of just keep pressing forward. Just keep trying to get better. Whatever it is, whatever we are calling or asking them to do, the playmakers, the guys who can get it done, just find a way.

“We’ve just got to find a way to keep staying positive and make sure we put ourselves in positions to have those positive experiences. The next game up mentality is that this next game is an away game against a good Louisville team.”

– Story by Chris Graham


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