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Despite early struggles, Cavaliers stay the course

With just more than 10 minutes remaining in the first half Saturday, Florida State tailback Jermaine Thomas scored on a 10-yard touchdown run to give the Seminoles a 24-0 lead. Virginia couldn’t run the ball, couldn’t pass the ball and certainly couldn’t stop Florida State from running the ball.

For the Cavaliers, the good news and the bad news at that point was that there was a lot of time still remaining in the game. Virginia tallied 17 total yards, one first down and zero points in the first quarter. The Cavaliers had 42 total yards, four first downs and still no points by halftime.

“You can’t do things that you hadn’t practiced,” Coach Mike London said. “So it’s like, you start to search for, ‘What else can we do? Let’s go no huddle.’ But if you haven’t practiced it, you don’t want to do things drastic. For the most part, still try to maybe stay in your game plan and things that you spend a lot of time breaking down in your opponent and things that you think you can do against them. It is somewhat frustrating when you can’t move the ball and you try different things, or you can’t stop them, or it’s a third down and you have them stopped and then they get out.”

The third quarter went a little smoother for the Cavaliers. There was the 76-yard touchdown pass from Marc Verica to Kris Burd. The passing game as a whole improved as Virginia attacked the middle of Florida State’s secondary more frequently.

In fact, midway through the third quarter it appeared as though the game’s momentum might be shifting in Virginia’s direction. The Cavaliers got the ball at their own seven yard-line and began swiftly moving forward. Verica completed six straight passes to four different receivers.

Virginia drove all the way to the Florida State 30 yard-line. A touchdown would have made it a two-possession game with plenty of time left on the game clock. On first and 10, Verica overthrew Dontrelle Inman, who broke inside on what appeared to be a post pattern. The ball was intercepted in the end zone on a play that seemed to suck the remaining life out of Scott Stadium.

“It wasn't the clearest picture, so the best thing to do in that situation is not throw it or not force it,” Verica said. “Just to come to the checkdown or something. Generate something positive and maybe not compound a bad play with something even worse.”

Clearly, the Virginia offense has seen better days. Thanks in large part to that third-quarter drive (the part that came before the interception, at least) and a late fourth-quarter drive engineered by redshirt freshman quarterback Ross Metheny, the Cavaliers finished with 304 total yards, 279 of which were compiled through the air.

Still, the problems were apparent. The pass protection, the run game, the third down efficiency and the quarterback’s decision-making all need work. According to London, it’s not the scheme; it’s the execution.

“Instead of trying to just wholesale make changes, you stay with the plan and you try to re-iterate to the players that if you have a chance to make a tackle and it’s a scramble situation, you’ve got to make the tackle,” London said. “When the receiver’s open … you’ve got to throw the ball where it’s supposed to be. There’s not a scheme that has to change. It’s, ‘We’ve got to do better.’

“We learned that today. We learned a lot of lessons today.”

By Steve Yanda  | October 4, 2010; 7:02 AM ET
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