#FireMikeLondon Update: UVA football wasn’t a dumpster fire today, at least

mike-london-ndThere was nothing remarkable about today’s 26-19 loss for UVA football on the road at Pitt. There was no last-second touchdown surrendered by the defense snatching defeat from the jaws of victory; the first play from scrimmage wasn’t a pick-six.

This, it must be noted, counts as progress for the Mike London-led ‘Hoos.

There was a safety on a third-down pass play from inside the 2 that came after a timeout called by quarterback Matt Johns to avoid what would have been a one-yard penalty for delay of game. The timeout was used to call a play featuring play-action and a seven-step drop.

That wasn’t good. None of it. The timeout, the play call, the execution – seriously, come on, Matt, you have to have a clock ticking in your head on those kinds of plays – none of it good.

The interception that Johns threw in the third quarter, not good. The sequence leading up to it wasn’t good, either. The Cavs came out of the locker room gaining 11 and 20 yards, respectively, on back-to-back running plays with Johns under center, traditional power-running-type plays. Then offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild called five straight pass plays with Johns in the shotgun.

Two were incomplete passes, a third ended with Johns scrambling out of pressure for five yards, one was a complete pass for 11 yards to Canaan Severin, the other was the pick returned 51 yards to the UVA 20, setting up a Pitt TD.

That sequence helped make it that Virginia was able to utterly dominate the third quarter, running 21 plays to Pitt’s 10, gaining 108 yards to the Panthers’ 56, getting eight first downs to UP’s four, and still lose ground on the scoreboard.

The first quarter was inexcusable. Virginia had a bye week last week, and you’d have thought that the team would have come in a bit motivated after the 56-14 national-TV beatdown it had suffered at the hands of Boise State two weeks ago.

Instead, the offense gained 78 yards, 71 of them on one play, a burst down the left sideline by Albert Reid that set the Cavs up with a first-and-goal. Johns misfired on a second-and-goal pass that coulda/shoulda been a touchdown, and then on third down, Virginia put in back-to-back delay of game and false-start penalties.

First-and-goal turned into a field goal, and we saw that again in the third quarter. That first-and-goal blew up again on third-and-goal, not by penalty, but by interesting play-calling. After Pitt rescued the UVA offense from its own incompetence, the play-call from Fairchild on the sidelines being a wide-receiver screen that was going to fall well short of resulting in a TD, saved by a Pitt timeout just before the snap, we got another pass from Johns to a receiver nowhere near the end zone that fell harmlessly incomplete.

So you leave those eight points off the scoreboard, have the big swing in momentum that was the Johns interception leading to the quick two-play Pitt TD drive, then the safety that came after the Virginia D recovered a Pitt fumble inside the 1, and you’re in the game mainly because the D returned a fumble for a touchdown in the second quarter.

What does that all add up to?

You lost by seven. You gave them two, you left at least eight off the board, you had a 14-point momentum swing on an INT.

What this adds up to is a winnable game lost, not in dramatic fashion, more like documentary fashion. Nothing interesting about it at all, nothing that would sell popcorn, nothing we haven’t seen before, nothing we won’t have the chance to see again, over and over and over and over and …

Dumpster fires at least keep you on the edge of your seat; incompetence of this sort merely leads to indifference.

– Column by Chris Graham

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