Scott German: Wolfpack deals Cavaliers reality bite

After a stunning win just last Saturday over previously unbeaten and 12th-ranked Georgia Tech that Virginia appeared primed to build upon, the Cavaliers welcomed winless in Atlantic Coast Conference play North Carolina State University to Scott Stadium on Saturday. But the Wolfpack had different ideas on the outcome of the game and defeated Virginia 28-14, leaving the Virginia faithful scratching their heads heading for the parking lots. And for the second consecutive season the Cavaliers have followed an improbable win (beating Miami in 2010) with an almost unexplainable loss.

In Saturday’s contest Virginia coach Mike London once again played the “let’s take turns at quarterback” card with signal-callers Michael Rocco and David Watford, and the outcome was a flat bust. Thus Virginia squandered a wonderful opportunity to build up last weeks win against a less-than-formidable N.C. State squad.

“Hey we’re in  still in the middle of the pack in the conference, and we have to define what direction we’re going in, that’s my job” said London after the game.

Another task London might consider is making a final decision on who the full-time quarterback will be. The shuffling between the two players early in the season was by necessity, now it seems by indecisiveness by London. Watford , a true freshmen from Hampton, appears to be a potential game-changing player, and London’s desire to get him playing time is admirable, but his decision to yank Rocco from the State game made absolutely no sense, to anyone. especially after Rocco led a nifty nine-play scoring drive, capping it with a six-yard scoring strike to  Clifton Richardson. That score put Virginia up 7-0 and had Scott Stadium jumping.

As in past games, Londo’s explanation of the change, “It was the fourth drive,” rings hollow. Come on, Coach , enough already. Game  number seven of the season, and you’re still treating these two young men like schoolkids?

On Watford’s second snap, he threw short to intended receiver Darius Jennings and was intercepted. On the very next play, Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon connected with Bryan Underwood for a 33-yard touchdown pass that seemingly deflated the fans and the Virginia sideline. Rocco returned to the game on the next series as scripted but failed to complete another pass the entire game. Rocco was 7-of-9 before giving Watford “his turn” and 0-10 afterwards. Coincidence, or do not momentum and rhythm play a huge part of the role of quarterback, and Rocco clearly lost both.

After the game, a clearly disappointed Rocco said of the quarterback shuffling, “We’re kind of getting used to it. It’s not easy getting momentum, but it’s what we’re given, and we have to make do with it.”

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor also needs to be accountable for some questionable play-calling. After averaging nearly five yards per carry on the ground in the first half, the Cavaliers put the ball in the air on eight of their first 11 plays in the third quarter. Rocco went 0-of-5 and was benched for the remainder of the game.

Having surrendered 21 straight points, Virginia faced a 21-7 deficit when Watford found Tim Smith for a 60-yard touchdown that sliced the deficit to 21-14.  After three consecutive stands for the Cavalier defense, they  took possession of the ball at their own four with 6:19 left,  a tough mountain to climb for any quarterback, much less a true freshmen. Watford’s second-down pass across the middle was intended for Smith but deflected off  his fingertips into the hands of State’s James Amerson, who returned his eighth interception of the season for a 12-yard touchdown that signaled the end for the Wahoo faithful.

“I think I threw it a bit too hard,” said Watford. Nonsense, any “softer” and the pass would surely had been picked off. Smith needed to make that catch and keep the chains moving.

Watford’s second interception of the contest came on another pass that should have been caught. His bullet pass to Kris Burd  went through his hands into the cornerback’s hands for the pick.

Maybe with some game experience with the same quarterback Virginia’s receivers can get a better sense of the touch a particular quarterback has-or doesn’t have. Until then similar results like Saturday can be expected.

With a Thursday night game in South Florida against a hot Miami team there is little time for more experimentation behind center.

Column by Scott German

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