Jimmye Laycock was tipping his hand. His Tribe had just recovered a Vic Hall fumble at the Virginia 9. There’s 8:20 left in the third quarter, an eternity in a college-football game. William & Mary is down 14-13. A touchdown and two-point conversion gives them a seven-point lead.
But Laycock realized he didn’t need a seven-point lead. All he needed was the lead.
How you can tell – Laycock ran the ball into the line three straight times to set up a 20-yard Brian Pate field goal that made it 16-14 with a quarter and a half still to go.
I caught on to what he was doing immediately. Laycock was going to play field position the rest of the way and basically make Virginia do something it had done just once all night – put together a sustained offensive drive.
The war of attrition on, Laycock turned another UVa. turnover, this one by the third Cavs’ quarterback to play in the game, 2008 starter Marc Verica, into another Pate field goal for a 19-14 lead at the four-minute mark left in the fourth quarter. B.W. Webb intercepted a Sewell pass on Virginia’s next possession and took it to the house, literally, running 50 yards with the PickSix into the end zone, past the W&M fan section and down the tunnel toward the dressing room, drawing an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty that itself added to the sting of the loss.
“Not only are they beating us,” I said to my neighbor on press row, “but they just got a rubbing-it-in penalty.”
Adding insult to injury, Virginia coach Al Groh clearly doesn’t see the writing on the wall.
“There are 11 more weeks to go. There will be a lot of negativity out there. Some of it well deserved. We can either crack or we can stick together. One thing we have never done around here is crack,” said Groh after the program-depth-defining loss, the first to a I-AA (I refuse to refer to the classification as FCS, and since I don’t answer to the NCAA, I won’t) team since a 41-37 loss to William & Mary in 1986.
That one was different in that it came in George Welsh’s fourth year at a time when Welsh was still stocking the cupboard for what became a dozen-year-long run of sustained success that had UVa. at the top of the national rankings just four years later and contending for ACC championships on a regular basis into the late 1990s. This loss comes at the start of year nine in the Groh era, and what looks to have the makings of a third losing season in four years in Charlottesville.
Before the 2009 season, I had predicted a 1-3 start and a Groh axing following the UNC game on Oct. 3. The 1 in that 1-3 was W&M, and with games upcoming against nationally-ranked TCU next weekend and then on the road at Southern Miss on Sept. 19, it’s more likely an 0-3 start for the Cavs heading into a bye week the weekend of Sept. 26 preceding the UNC game.
There’s almost no way Groh survives into the Oct. 3 game in Chapel Hill short a win at home against TCU next week, which seems about as remote a possibility as single-payer what with the Cavs’ performance on offense today, which featured seven turnovers and six other possessions that were of the three-and-out variety.
It wouldn’t even surprise me to wake up Monday morning and hear that a change has already taken place or will be that day.
I say that after sitting in on the press conference with the tone-deaf Groh, who seems to think that he just lost to the Miami Dolphins, but next week a win against the Buffalo Bills will get things back on an even keel.
“We were hoping this game would be a lot smoother than it was. They had a very good plan, and we didn’t execute very well. Hopefully, now that we’ve played against some competition, we’ll have a chance to move forward with it,” an almost-nonsensical Groh said after what by all accounts should have been a much, much worse loss than it was, considering that Pate missed three very makeable field goals in the first half, and Tribe quarterback R.J. Archer overshot two wide-open receivers downfield on plays that would have been easy scores had he been able to connect.
That, and the fact that the first of Virginia’s two scores, a 34-yard run by Hall on UVa.’s first possession of the game, came on a scramble that was Vic Hall being a great athlete more than it had anything to do with Virginia running a good offensive series, and this one had the makings of 39-7 shellacking all over it.
Case in point: Virginia put together only one sustained drive, a 10-play, 82-yard scoring march that culminated with an 8-yard Sewell TD run that gave the ‘Hoos a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
UVa.’s next three possessions ended in turnovers, and from there it was punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, fumble, PickSix, turnover on downs.
This one was a beatdown, folks.
I wrote on our in-game blog that UVa. might be competitive in the CAA this year. I take it back now. After reading about how Richmond dominated Duke at Duke in a 24-16 win, I’m not sure UVa.or Duke could finish in the first division in the CAA.
Sad thing for Virginia fans is that Groh, when he is shown the door in the next couple of weeks, will be leaving the cupboard so bare that it will take his successor four or five years to make Virginia competitive in the ACC.
Considering what he was handed when he was given the keys to the UVa. football program in 2001, he ought to write the Virginia Athletics Foundation a refund check that starts with a single-digit number and ends with six zeroes just to make amends.
– Story by Chris Graham