Trying to find the positive in another embarrassingly bad UVA football disaster

UVaHelmet_1What can you possibly say that comes across as positive if you’re a UVA football fan after a 56-14 loss for your guys in orange and blue?

You’re trying to find something, anything nice to say, and then you think back to a couple of years ago, to a pair of 59-10 losses.

Yeah, this was just the third worst loss of the Mike London era. But at least those losses were to #2 (Oregon) and #9 (Clemson).

We can make Boise State into the next coming of the Monsters of the Midway, but the Broncos came into the game Friday night unranked, and at game time Vegas considered this game a pick ‘em.

Oh, dear, indeed.

This one was easily the worst loss of the London years, and that’s saying something, considering that there have been so many, losses, that is.

There it is. Got it. The positive.

Mike London is now 24-41 as the head coach at Virginia. Forty-one losses in five and a third seasons. That means he’s working on his 41st time figuring out how to pick up the pieces after a loss.

At some point soon, he’s going to have it down. How to bounce back from another bad defeat.

“You can stay united or stay divided,” London broke it down to reporters after the Boise Beatdown. “There’s enough talk about being divided and finger pointing and wondering who to blame. You can fall into that trap or you can stay united – a team can continue to bond and strengthen itself in terms of resolve.

“We’ve gone through a four-game stretch here where we’ve been tested. We have an opportunity to address our issues with this bye week coming up. We’ve got to stay together.”

Good stuff there. If only the Cavs had taken that approach heading into Friday night. It was clear starting about 7 p.m. last Saturday night, the train wreck that was the 35-29 escape from FCS William and Mary at its final whistle, that anything less than a win over Boise State would forebode the end of the London era.

It’s hard to imagine a team that laid an effort egg on the road in the season-opening 34-16 loss to UCLA, then blew a winnable game in the waning moments at home to Notre Dame, before the hot mess that was William and Mary, laying down to Boise State to start 1-3, somehow, miraculously, rallying to go 5-3 in the ACC, just to finish 6-6 and go to the Military Bowl.

It’s harder to imagine anything less than that ascent to mediocrity saving London’s job.

So you know going in that you need max effort, at the least, and you get this: a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage, a 17-0 deficit before your offense gets its first first down, a 29-7 deficit late in the second quarter, another pick-six in the third quarter, the bulk of your offense coming on seven plays.

If you were at the stadium Friday night, you weren’t able to catch something that TV viewers saw before the game. ESPN cameras were in the UVA locker room before the kickoff to film London’s pregame fire-up-the-troops speech. As London spits fire about who you play for and the like kind of nonsense, his players, almost to a man, look like your average teen at home who just had his phone taken away at the Sunday dinner table, pretending to listen to grandpa drone on about how tough it was back in the Depression, but really thinking about texting his buddy about the new hot chick in French class.

If you’d seen that, the pick-six on the first play from scrimmage, and the laydown that followed, would have made sense.

But if you were to acknowledge that London and his program are in over their collective heads, you’d run the risk of being accused of “pointing fingers.” Seems like that was on whatever list of talking points were handed out before everybody in the UVA locker room headed out to talk to reporters.

“The first thing we said is, Don’t point fingers,” quarterback Matt Johns said. “This is a team effort, and it was a tough one tonight, but we just need to move forward.”

“We have to keep our heads up and stay unified as a group without pointing figures. We have to move on,” junior linebacker Zach Bradshaw said.

(Drink up, by the way.)

“It’s about unity. When there’s divisiveness and finger pointing, teams corrode,” London said, and yes, even though he reversed the order on us there, tip it back, it still counts.

“We have to make sure we stay together, and it’s still the early part of the season,” London said. “There is disappointment in the locker room, and the leadership in there talked about it at length after I finished speaking with them. We’ve got to regroup and get ourselves back in the mindset of having a can-do attitude, and we have to embrace that.”

You’ve got to admire people who can walk away from something that dramatically dismal and abysmal and mouth those kind of sentiments minutes later with TV cameras and tape recorders rolling.

And they actually sound like they believe it, and mean it, and everything.

That’s the kind of thing that comes with a lot of experience at losing, and losing big.

There’s your positive take-home from the night, UVA fans. We’re good at getting our asses kicked and promising to regroup afterward.

(That, and we’re less than a week from the start of basketball practice.)

– Column by Chris Graham





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