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Special teams remain an issue for Virginia

After Saturday’s 34-9 loss to Georgia Tech, Virginia Coach Al Groh said all three phases of the team must be superior to the Yellow Jackets in order to win. Groh could not say his special teams outplayed the opposition, although he has not been able to say that after most Cavaliers games this season.

An offseason pledge to improve Virginia's special teams, one that hiring former Kansas State coach Ron Price to coordinate the unit, has not yielded nearly the results Groh hoped it would.

Aside from place kicker Robert Randolph’s impressive accuracy, no other component of Virginia’s special teams has positively swayed games. The Cavaliers are eighth of 12 ACC teams in both punt and kickoff coverage.

“The major thing is your specialists have to have an outstanding performance,” Groh said. “That is, kickers and returners on two of the three units, let’s say we're not shooting par, and we're looking for a much-upgraded performance in punting the ball and kicking off.”

The returners have been mistake prone, too, occasionally making risky decisions about when to field a punt return. In losses to William & Mary and Georgia Tech this season, Virginia punt returners coughed up the ball inside their red zone after failing to call a fair catch.

The Cavaliers still are waiting for a touchdown on either a kickoff or punt return, which have not occurred under since 2004.

“We need a more dynamic performance out of our return guys,” Groh said. “We've got to get them a lot more help.”

By Zach Berman  |  October 28, 2009; 9:30 AM ET
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