Dowling, McLeod make their season debuts against VMI
Senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling and junior strong safety Rodney McLeod made their season debuts Saturday. Dowling (hamstring) and McLeod (knee) had sat out Virginia's first two games due to injury, and neither started against Virginia Military Institute.
Dowling entered the game on VMI's fourth offensive series, and the Keydets went at him right away. On the first play of the drive, VMI quarterback Cam Jones completed a 36-yard pass to T.J. Talley with Dowling trailing in coverage. Dowling was called for pass interference on the first play of the second quarter on another pass intended for Talley, who caught two passes for 44 yards on the day.
Afterward, Dowling said he could not discuss whether he felt any lingering soreness or tightness in his hamstring and declined to say how close he felt to being 100 percent. He finished with two tackles.
"Um, yeah, I mean, you have to go out there and play," Dowling said when asked to assess his first outing of the season. "I’m just happy to be out there and just be with my team, you know? We had a great victory today, and just carry on to next week."
McLeod entered the game with 12:52 remaining in the second quarter and did not record a tackle. Dowling and McLeod split time the rest of the game primarily with cornerback Devin Wallace and safety Trey Womack, respectively. Wallace and Womack have started in place of Dowling and McLeod in all three games this season.
"I thought it was important that they have a chance to get into the game and play and be out there making calls and competing and taking a hit," Virginia Coach Mike London said of Dowling and McLeod. "So they take a hit, and now their bodies are subject to the normal aches and pains that happen with guys that play in the game. I didn’t want the Florida State game to be that game, so both of them went out there and played. A little rusty, as you saw, but now they’ve got a game behind them, and I look forward to them playing and participating a whole lot next week."