Beatdown: North Carolina pummels mistake-prone Cavs, 44-10
First play from scrimmage: North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates finds Dwight Jones out in the left flat for what looked to be about a 10- to 12-yard gain. Then Jones breaks the tackle and streaks past the Virginia secondary for what turned into an 81-yard touchdown.
First play of the game, and UNC is on the board. It didn’t get much better for the ‘Hoos after that.
“It takes the wind out of your sails,” said UVa. coach Mike London, whose team lost 44-10 to its rivals on Homecoming, ending a 14-game home winning streak against the Tar Heels, and bursting the bubble on what had been as of a couple of weeks ago a promising first season for the new UVa. head coach.
Virginia (2-4, 0-3 ACC) has clearly taken a step or two back in the wrong direction after a September that saw the Cavs post wins over I-AA Richmond and VMI and a close 17-14 loss at then-nationally ranked Southern Cal.
October has been most cruel – a 34-14 home loss to Florida State, a 33-21 loss at Georgia Tech in a game in which the Yellow Jackets ran for 477 yards, then this loss, in which Yates threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, and Virginia scored just 10 points on six red-zone trips.
Story continues below.
Sidebar: Mike London’s Postgame Press Conference
It got so bad for UVa. on offense that London lifted fifth-year senior starting quarterback Marc Verica after Verica’s third interception of the game was returned 22 yards by Kevin Reddick for a third-quarter touchdown, and backup Ross Metheny himself was lifted after throwing a pick on his only pass of the game in the UNC end zone a series later. Third-stringer Michael Rocco, not to be outdone, was also picked off in the Carolina end zone to end Virginia’s final scoring threat.
London answered a reporter’s question on whether a change might be made at QB by saying that “every player is, and will be evaluated, based on their performance, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. And we’ll see at the end of the day tomorrow where things are with that.”
Verica, for his part, seemed resigned to a change being in the offing.
“Throwing an interception for a touchdown, and then getting booed off the field, that’s a difficult thing to swallow,” said Verica, who was 15-of-25 for 139 yards with the three interceptions.
“Regardless if I’m the starter or not, I’m going to try to represent this team and my school and my family in the best way that I know how, which is with class and with positivity,” said Verica, who has had a love-hate relationship with the UVa. fan base dating back to his hot-cold half-season as the starting quarterback in 2008.
Sidebar: More UVa.-UNC Postgame
A look at the stats shows a game that wasn’t as lopsided as the score would indicate. Virginia gained 335 yards of total offense and had 151 yards on the ground, getting 107 yards and a touchdown out of senior running back Keith Payne. The five INTs hurt, and where they happened hurt more – two in the end zone, another from Verica at the UNC 5, on top of another trip inside the 5 that ended on a failed fourth-down run.
“It’s not about how we played. It’s about how we executed,” Payne said. “We all played hard so playing wasn’t an issue. I really can’t say if this is the worst we have executed. It is the way it is.”
And the way it is – London and his staff need to get a handle on things, and quick, with 13,000 empty seats Saturday night indicating restlessness among the fan base, and another lopsided home loss sending those who did come out on their way home early.
“That’s my team, and I need to coach them up,” London said. “There is nobody else to go to. We need to do better in all aspects of the game. Again, I apologize to our fans and the people who come and support us. We didn’t put on a very good showing, and that rests with me. I need to better prepare the team to play and be representative of a team I think we can be. We just pick up and move on from there. Tomorrow is another day, and we look forward to getting ready to play another home game.”
Story continues below.
Sidebar: Game Action by Mark Miller
London kept his team out on the turf a couple of extra minutes following the final gun to let the message that the result sent sink in.
“I wanted them to feel what it feels like to get beat like we did on your homecoming with the other team’s fans cheering them on and never forget that feeling, the feeling when somebody comes into your house and hands it to you like they did,” London said. “We are going to win around here, and I told them we are going to win around here. The attitude of what may have been – that was then and this is now. It’s a learning process for us, but a team that I’m going to coach isn’t going to forget it. We are going to use it as a learning experience to get better. I have to coach better, players have to play better. I don’t want them to forget feelings like that. Just wanted to make a point in that regard.”
Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.