I say again, because the clusterhump that was the botched ending of the game was a throwback to the coaching staff that made botching things the hallmark of Virginia football of recent vintage.
Mike London is no longer the head coach at Virginia, and it’s because he didn’t win a lot of football games, but that was in good part due to his inability to get a handle on the little things – having the right sub packages on the field, getting plays called on time, knowing how to use timeouts, or not use timeouts, as the case may be
That was all going away, because new coach Bronco Mendenhall made it clear that he was going to address the little things head on.
He hired former UTEP offensive coordinator Patrick Higgins to serve as his game-management guru and set him to work on analyzing what had gone wrong in the past and then directing players and coaches on how to get things right.
And so it was that everything went wrong, and it wasn’t just those frantic final seconds, with a kicker in his first-ever football game running out onto the field with the final seconds ticking down, still trying to measure his approach as the ball was snapped, shanking a 20-yard kick as wide left as you can imagine a 20-yard kick can be shanked wide left.
It started with two poorly-called timeouts earlier in the half that left Mendenhall with just one in his pocket in the fourth quarter, and allowed UConn coach Bob Diaco to bleed the clock on his team’s final offensive drive as the Huskies set up for the go-ahead field goal with 1:33 to go.
Mendenhall was forced to burn that final timeout before the kick, leaving himself with none when the Cavs got the ball back.
Credit to the offense that it was able to get the ball to the UConn nine for a first-and-goal play. The pass was completed in the middle of the field with 47 seconds left; with the clock stopping in the college game to allow for the first-down chains to be reset, that allowed the offense time to get down the field to call their next play.
Which was a run. A run! Albert Reid gained four yards, and the clock was tick, tick, ticking.
The next play: a spike by quarterback Kurt Benkert. A spike! So now you’re at third-and-goal at the 5, no timeouts, inside of 30 seconds to go.
The next play is the most vexing, though all are vexing: Benkert kept on a quarterback draw.
A quarterback draw! You get the touchdown, great, you win the game. You get tackled in bounds, and the result is a scramble drill to run your kicking unit onto the field before the clock expires.
With a kicker who has no game experience to fall back on.
The whole situation is inexplicable, inexcusable.
If this were to happen to an NFL team, somebody would be fired just for show.
Mendenhall doesn’t have to worry about his job, but UVA fans have to worry about the basic competence of the new coach and his staff.
Column by Chris Graham