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Virginia looks to create 'cracks or crevices' against Seminoles run defense

As Virginia Coach Mike London pointed out Monday, not too many teams have found much success running the ball against Florida State this season. In fact, the most rushing yards the Seminoles have allowed in a single game this year is 128 in a 47-17 loss at Oklahoma.

On Saturday, Virginia struggled to run the ball in the first half against division I-AA Virginia Military Institute, which kept a safety close to the line of scrimmage and appeared intent on halting the Cavaliers' rushing attack. Of Virginia's 125 rushing yards, 110 were compiled during a second half in which the Cavaliers held a commanding lead. London knows his team will need to be more effective on the ground against Florida State.

"You have to be able to run the ball or at least create running lanes or cracks or crevices that hopefully a guy like Perry Jones can slip through," London said. "I don't know if Keith Payne is going to slip through any crack or crevice. He'll have to be more of a power game. But as I've said before, the running game sets up your play action passes and stuff off of that, and if you're one‑dimensional it could make for a long day.

"If we can't run the ball, it'll be difficult for us. But if we can run the ball, then do some play-action passes off of that and do some other things through game planning, then to be able to move the chains, I think that's important. Our first downs are going to be important, not just the third down conversions, but how many first downs we can get, because I think that's always another indicator of how the game is going."

Jones and Payne -- Virginia's two primary tailbacks -- combined to rush for 103 yards on 21 carries Saturday. On the season, Payne leads the team with 217 yards on 40 carries, while Jones has carried the ball 32 times for 207 yards.

After Payne and Jones, the Cavalier with the next highest rushing attempt total is quarterback Marc Verica, though most of his runs are not by design. On Saturday, he took a sack in the first quarter on a third-and-nine play while attempting to avoid a pass rush that lost Virginia 17 yards.

London doesn't mind seeing his quarterback tucking the ball and running when the situation mandates such a decision, but he would prefer to avoid one critical thing.

"You want to make sure that you don't go backwards," London said. "You want to make sure that if you're in a situation where you're being harassed that if you can throw the ball beyond the line of scrimmage and make sure you're not throwing it to their guy, then instead of taking a sack you've got a chance to live to see another day or maybe perhaps punt.

"But if it dictates that it's not there and he can find a crease or a crevice, rather than taking a sack or going backwards, then sometimes you look at [Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder] when you're playing man coverage and guys are turning and running with their back to him. It's ingrained in him. He takes it, and he goes. And he's a fast guy that can add some yardage that way.

"Marc has got to be kind of like that a little bit in that if there's a lot of pressure and they have guys covered that you can be a runner yourself, get as much as you can, go down, don't try to be a hero, take what you can get and live to see another down instead of trying to rush things."

By Steve Yanda  | September 28, 2010; 8:41 AM ET
 
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