Augusta Free Press staffer Scott German, on the drive back from Charlottesville after Saturday’s 28-27 UVA football loss to North Carolina, the latest in a string of Virginia defeats that fans could attribute, fairly or not, to poor coaching decisions by Mike London and his staff, posited that London could personally be blamed “for at least 10 to 12 losses” in his four-plus seasons at the helm.
I shot back: “Maybe more,” and then assigned myself the task of conducting an admittedly very unscientific analysis of the losses dating back to London’s first season at head coach at UVA, 2010.
What do you think it will end up being?
Week 2: USC 17, UVA 14 A missed 35-yard field goal late cost Virginia. Felt winnable, but hard to pin this one on any coaching moves.
Week 4: Florida State 34, Virginia 14 The better team dominated.
Week 5: Georgia Tech 33, Virginia 21 Not as close as the score indicates.
Week 6: UNC 44, Virginia 10 Nadir? No, it continues.
Week 10: Maryland 42, Virginia 23 Virginia led 23-21 heading into the fourth. ‘Hoos couldn’t move it, couldn’t stop the Terps in the fourth.
Week 11: Boston College 17, Virginia 13 Another short field goal missed late on a fourth-and-goal from the 8. Logical move to try it.
Week 12: Virginia Tech 37, Virginia 7 They wear orange and maroon, we wear orange and blue.
Skin of teeth moment: The 24-19 win over Miami on Oct. 30 was 24-0 with 10:34 to go, and then 24-19 with 4:30 to go. Anybody out there remember the last two minutes? All Virginia had to do was go into victory formation to bleed the clock, but on first down there was a pitch play to Perry Jones that was almost fumbled in what was pretty much open field. Yikes, indeed, and a forerunner of things to come.
Week 3: North Carolina 28, Virginia 17 Better team wins.
Week 4: Southern Miss 30, Virginia 24 Good, competitive game. Larry Fedora.
Week 6: NC State 28, Virginia 14 Why was David Watford in the game throwing 16 passes, completing four to his team, three to the Wolfpack, one for a pick-six? The first time Virginia got Londoned.
Week 12: Virginia Tech 38, Virginia 0 A blowout, yes, but still pin this one on London. Fourth-and-three from the Tech 7, late first quarter, down 7-0. Nice drive, put some points on the board, get some momentum back, get the sellout crowd into it. London, thinking it was fourth-and-one, calls a dive play that gains two yards, which is not three. This would snuff out the momentum in a game that didn’t get ugly until the second half.
Week 13: Auburn 43, Virginia 24 A game that felt winnable despite the final.
Skin of teeth moment: The 21-20 win over Idaho in September. Remember that this one went to OT? And that Idaho only lost because it went for two and failed in the OT? Virginia dominates statistically (496-296 total offense) and it comes down to the last play.
Week 3: Georgia Tech 56, Virginia 20 Tech is still tacking on points in this one, two years later.
Week 4: TCU 27, Virginia 7 Not competitive.
Week 5: Louisiana Tech 44, Virginia 38 ‘Hoos gained 625 yards, led 24-10 midway through the second quarter and somehow trailed 44-24 in the fourth quarter. You might remember a 12-men-on-the-field penalty giving Louisiana Tech its final first down on a fourth-down play with 1:45 to go playing a crucial role here. Second time Virginia was Londoned.
Week 6: Duke 42, Virginia 17 Duke was just better.
Week 7: Maryland 27, Virginia 20 Virginia scored in the final five minutes to get it close, got the ball back, couldn’t do anything with it.
Week 8: Wake Forest 16, Virginia 10 Virginia D gets the ball back with two minutes to go, but Khalek Shepherd fumbles on the punt return, and Wake bleeds the clock.
Week 11: North Carolina 37, Virginia 13 Better team wins.
Week 12: Virginia Tech 17, Virginia 14 How deep do we need to go here? Third quarter, up 14-7, Virginia attempts a fake field goal that falls short. Fourth quarter, tied at 14, 3:21 to go, Virginia throws into the wind, pass intercepted, setting up Tech at the UVA 24. Two timeouts in his pocket, London lets Tech bleed the clock to set up a game-winning 29-yard field goal with four seconds left, then uses the timeouts to try to ice the kicker, as opposed to trying to preserve what would have been about 1:15 for a final effort at a game-tying drive. The third London.
Skin of teeth moment: The 17-16 win in Week 2 over Penn State was a missed PAT and four missed field goals, the last one on the final play.
Week 2: Oregon 59, Virginia 10 Needn’t say more.
Week 4: Pitt 14, Virginia 3 Two second-quarter drives inside the Pitt territory end with failed fourth-down conversions. A fourth-and-two at the Pitt 3 with 3:30 to go in the fourth falls short, when a field goal would have put Virginia at least mathematically back into the game. Even with an 11-point margin of defeat, you have to count this as the fourth London.
Week 5: Ball State 48, Virginia 27 This one gets fifth London status just because it’s a three-touchdown loss at home to a MAC team.
Week 6: Maryland 27, Virginia 26 Second-and-goal from the 1, third-and-goal from the 1, in the second quarter, no gain, kick the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Third-and-1 at the 8, no gain, kick the goal on fourth-and-one in the fourth. Not fair to criticize him for not kicking field goals against Pitt, and then taking the three twice against Maryland? Not in a one-point loss. Sixth London.
Week 7: Duke 35, Virginia 22 Virginia led 22-0 in the second quarter, and London and staff were dramatically outcoached in the second half. Key play: Up 22-17 in the fourth, wildcat quarterback Brandon Connette completed a 47-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-one play. Make a note of that one. Seventh London.
Week 8: Georgia Tech 35, Virginia 25 Hard to believe from the stats that this one was as close as it was on the scoreboard.
Week 9: Clemson 59, Virginia 10 This one was lost when it was scheduled.
Week 10: North Carolina 45, Virginia 14 Nail, meet hammer.
Week 11: Miami 45, Virginia 26 Pick-six on the first play from scrimmage. Just not enough talent wearing orange and blue.
Week 12: Virginia Tech 16, Virginia 6 Want to give this one Londoning status, but Virginia never mounted a serious threat in the second half. Going with Greyson Lambert late in the third helped ensure that.
Skin of teeth moment: The 19-16 win over BYU in the opener was BYU, running a new fast-break offense, not knowing how to bleed clock out of the fast break up four in the final minutes, throwing an interception that set up the game-winning Virginia score. Also a factor was a two-hour weather delay that had to drain the guys traveling across the continent more than the home team.
Week 1: UCLA 28, Virginia 20 Three second-quarter defensive touchdowns spoil an otherwise solid performance.
Week 4: BYU 41, Virginia 33 Statistically dominant performance comes up short with special teams blunders, red-zone inefficiency.
Week 7: Duke 20, Virginia 13 My original read on this was decidedly not Londoned, but upon further review, it’s definitely a London. Virginia outplays Duke, somehow gets 13 points out of 465 yards, and gives up the go-ahead score on a pass by wildcat quarterback Thomas Sirk on a play call that Virginia players admitted after the game they had not seen on game film and had not been prepared for. Eighth London.
Week 8: UNC 28, Virginia 27 Another one when you outgain an opponent, leave points on the field (two field goals and a turnover in the last three red-zone drives) and commit a farce of errors in the final six minutes, encompassing pissing away a game-clinching field-goal drive, giving up the go-ahead touchdown to the backup quarterback, an onside kick and a 12-men-on-the-field penalty that let the Heels bleed the clock. Ninth London.
Skin of teeth moment: The 24-19 win over Pitt on Oct. 4 was 24-3 at halftime, but Pitt got back to 24-19 in the final two minutes with poor clock management from UVA with a chance to bleed the clock, poor kick coverage allowing a long return, and wasn’t sealed until Virginia recovered an onside kick.
So there we have it. By my count, that’s nine Londons, plus several additional skins of teeth wins.
(Good on Mr. German for being damnclose without having spent an hour doing this analysis.)
Solid recruiter, excellent spokesman for University, 22-35 record in four-plus seasons, 10-26 in ACC play, 4-14 in 2012 and 2013 against the FBS.
The sad truth is that even with wins in all nine of the Londons, he’s just back over on the right side of the coaching Mendoza Line.
– Column by Chris Graham