Chris Graham: Trouble ahead for London
Heading into last season’s home finale against rival Virginia Tech, Mike London was on top of the world. His UVa. football team was 8-3 after a stretch with six wins in seven games, including wins on the road at Miami and Florida State.
London could do no wrong.
Then came an early flub on a fourth-and-three call inside the Virginia Tech 10 that London said later he thought was a fourth-and-one, a 38-0 shellacking at the hands of the Hokies, a 43-24 beatdown in the Chick-fil-A Bowl by way of Auburn, and a middling 2-2 start in 2012 that includes the ugliest win in recent memory, a 17-16 win over an undermanned Penn State team that would have won with ease if only there was a placekicker on campus in Happy Valley.
Now London has a full-fledged quarterback controversy on his hands, with last year’s starter, Michael Rocco, struggling to get the offense that many observers had felt would be the strength of this year’s team moving with any consistency, and backup Phillip Sims, a transfer from Alabama and a former top national recruit, breathing down Rocco’s neck.
The defense, meanwhile, that observers had assumed would be the weak point of the 2012 Cavs has not disappointed in that respect, giving up 56 points in an ugly loss at Georgia Tech two weeks ago and failing to get off the field when it needed to last week at #15 TCU.
Coming into town this weekend is Louisiana Tech, who many Virginia fans probably had penciled in before the season as an easy W, but will not be at all, considering its 3-0 record and 52-24 pasting at Illinois of the Big Ten last week.
Oh, yeah. Things are not looking good in ‘Hooland.
We are in the same situation we were last year. I think one of the things, being back at home and having a chance to play is to get that re-galvanized and get that energy again. I think that’s probably why Sunday’s practice was one of the better Sunday practices that we have had, because you know, it’s good to be back home, it’s good to know that you still control your own destiny, five of the last eight games are at your place,” London said Monday.
That’s a positive spin, to say the least, on where things are right now with the Virginia football program. It’s an even bet, maybe not even that, that UVa. will walk off the field on Saturday with a losing record, with games left against rivals Maryland and Virginia Tech and a rough 12-day stretch in November with contests against N.C. State, Miami and North Carolina.
This one could be a lost season and fast, and as much goodwill as London seemed to have in his favor after being named the ACC coach of the year in 2011, it can all blow away in an instant. See Al Groh, the 2007 ACC coach of the year after leading Virginia to nine wins, two years later out of a job after back-to-back losing seasons.
Like London, Groh recruited well and made sure his guys got degrees. And like London, Groh raised expectations early in his tenure. In Groh’s case, he failed to deliver on those raised expectations.
The early returns on London in Year 3 are making Year 2 look like an aberration and not the norm.
A losing season in 2012 would be the fourth for the program in the last five years. Two of the three would belong to London.
No pressure, but them’s the stakes for this weekend and the rest of 2012.