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Cavaliers held players-only meeting Sunday in attempt to refocus

Fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica and senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling -- two of the Virginia football team's captains -- led a players-only meeting Sunday in an attempt to get the 2-4 squad refocused, according to multiple sources close to the team. The meeting lasted nearly 30 minutes, sources said, and centered on several of the issues some of the players believe contributed to the Cavaliers' recent unsightly performances.

On Saturday, Virginia lost its third straight Atlantic Coast Conference game by a double digit margin. The Cavaliers fell to North Carolina, 44-10, on their homecoming weekend and gave up 339 passing yards in the process. That defeat came one week after allowing 477 rushing yards in a 33-21 loss at Georgia Tech. Virginia opened ACC play with a 34-14 home loss Oct. 2, during which the Cavaliers gave up 256 rushing yards. Virginia has averaged eight penalties and 66.7 penalty yards per game in its past three contests.

Sources said Verica and Dowling expressed Sunday that the team still has a shot at becoming bowl eligible -- the Cavaliers would need to win five of their remaining six games to qualify -- and that such a goal can be reached if the entire squad commits to getting back to preparing in the same manner that it did leading up to the Sept. 11 game at Southern California. Virginia lost that game, 17-14, but played so well against the heavily favored Trojans that the Cavaliers felt they had let a win slip away.

Since then, Virginia's performance on the field has revealed flaws -- some much more significant than others -- in nearly every unit. Sources said that in recent weeks, some players would joke around and not pay attention during film sessions. And then when it came time for practice, those players would not always fully understand their assignments. The same often remained true during games, which led to players being out of position in situations where the Cavaliers could ill-afford for them to be so.

In the ACC, Virginia ranks No. 10 in penalty yardage per game, No. 10 in total yards allowed, tied for No. 10 in sacks and sacks allowed, No. 11 in points per game, No. 11 in turnover margin and dead last in red zone efficiency. There are a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but the central theme of Sunday's meeting, sources said, was that many of the team's myriad deficiencies are correctable if the players are willing to re-commit to the level of preparation and focus they had displayed six weeks ago.

Whether or not the meeting had any meaningful impact will not be measurable until Saturday. The Cavaliers host Eastern Michigan (1-6), and as Coach Mike London noted Monday, "we need to win a game."

By Steve Yanda  | October 20, 2010; 6:13 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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There's an easy solution to handling players who aren't paying attention: don't renew their scholarships, and give them instead to people who want to do what it takes to win.

Posted by: kemp13 | October 20, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

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