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Florida State 34, Virginia 14: Three up, three down

In the first quarter Saturday against Florida State, Virginia tallied one first down, one passing yard and 16 rushing yards. Things eventually would get better for the Cavaliers, but not by much.

The Seminoles dominated most of their 34-14 win over the Cavaliers at Scott Stadium. First-year Coach Mike London lost in his ACC debut, and his team took a considerable step backward after generating positive vibes throughout the first month of the season.

Virginia was exposed on offense (shoddy work by the offensive line) and on defense (poor tackling) against a fast Florida State squad that took advantage of the opportunities it was presented. The Cavaliers have a week to simultaneously recover from Saturday's defeat and prepare for Georgia Tech's triple-option offense. Oh, and that new defensive coordinator they've got down there in Atlanta. You know the guy I'm talking about.

"It was all on us," senior offensive guard B.J. Cabbell said. "Not taking anything away from (Florida State), not saying that they weren’t good. But I’m just saying that we didn’t play up to our full potential."

Three Up:

1) Third-quarter tempo. Fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica did not have a particularly good day. He completed 14 of 30 passes for 211 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown. But in the third quarter, Verica and the Virginia offense came to life, and a lot of it had to do with them picking up the pace. Verica threw for 160 yards on 7 of 8 passing in the third quarter. He tossed his lone touchdown of the day -- a 76-yard pass completion to junior wideout Kris Burd -- less than four minutes after halftime. He also overthrew senior wideout Dontrelle Inman to record his first interception of the day. Overall, though, Virginia's offense looked fairly competent in the third quarter, which is more than can be said for its performance in the other three.

2) Kris Burd. The junior wide receiver has recorded touchdown receptions in each of Virginia's four games this season. Burd is the first Cavalier to accomplish such a feat since tight end Heath Miller tallied receiving touchdowns in the first five games of the 2002 season. With four catches for 118 yards Saturday, Burd also became the first Virginia player to record more than 100 receiving yards in consecutive weeks since Miller did it in 2003. Burd registered 119 receiving yards last week against Virginia Military Institute.

3) Ross Metheny. Okay, so the redshirt freshman quarterback played in mop-up duty at the end of a game in which his team was on the sour end of a beatdown. He still completed 7 of 9 passes for 68 yards and conducted a 14-play, 70-yard drive that ended in an 11-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Colter Phillips. Coach Mike London said the battle between Metheny and true freshman Michael Rocco for the No. 2 quarterback job remains ongoing and that Rocco would have been inserted into the game had Virginia gotten another offensive series. Still, the fact Metheny was the coaching staff's choice to get first crack at relieving Verica in the fourth quarter says something. If nothing else, it means Metheny had a better week of practice than did Rocco.

Three Down:

1) Missed tackles. The Seminoles rushed for 256 yards on 42 carries Saturday. That's 6.1 yards per carry. And that's, um, not very good for a Virginia unit that entered the game ranked No. 3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing defense. Obviously, Florida State runners are going to be a little more difficult to stop than those of, say, VMI or Richmond. But the Seminoles leading rusher, Ty Jones, sat out Saturday's contest with an ankle injury, and their starting left tackle, Andrew Datko, missed his third game in a row with a shoulder injury. Much of Virginia's struggles against the run were self-inflicted. The Cavaliers had a slew of missed tackles, some of which directly resulted in Florida State scores. Midway through the first quarter, Seminoles tailback Jermaine Thomas took a handoff to the right side, turned the corner, broke a tackle attempt by sophomore cornerback Devin Wallace and sprinted 70 yards for a touchdown. Thomas finished with 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.

2) Offensive line. Virginia quarterbacks were sacked six times on Saturday. Florida State entered the game leading the nation in sacks, but still, six is a little ridiculous. To be fair, there were times when Verica held onto the ball too long in the pocket, which contributed to some of his pressures/sacks/bad throwing decisions. But especially in the first half, he was getting chased/hit an awful lot fairly soon after the snap. Cabbell said the offensive line's early issues stemmed from miscommunication; London attributed it to the speed of Florida State's defensive line. Whether it was because Virginia's offensive line was confused or not quick enough to keep up, the Cavaliers' pass protection issues do not bode well for an offense thin on star power.

3) Penalties. Two of Virginia's four games thus far this season have been against 1-A opponents. In the first -- a 17-14 loss at Southern California -- the Cavaliers tallied nine penalties for 101 yards. Against Florida State on Saturday, Virginia recorded nine penalties for 86 yards. The Cavaliers registered five penalties in each of their other two games, which were against 1-AA foes. Why is Virginia nearly twice as penalty-prone against tougher opponents? We'll discuss that sometime next week. The fact is that the Cavaliers penalties on Saturday ranged from silly to downright dumb, and they all contributed to Virginia's inability to build/sustain momentum.

By Steve Yanda  | October 2, 2010; 8:01 PM ET
 
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Comments

I'm afraid UVa's offensive problems begin and end with Verica. The guy is a pylon out there: his decision-making is glacial. He constantly holds onto the ball too long, and overthrows his receivers or throws behind them when he finally decides to pass the ball. I honestly believe a lot of the D's issues were from sheer exhaustion over being asked to carry the load for so long due to the O's constant three and outs.

I recognize that Verica is a real team player, but this is a rebuilding season anyway. Why not see what Metheny and Rocco can really do; not just in mop-up duty. Could they be any worse?

Posted by: jburksva | October 2, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

[I'm afraid UVa's offensive problems begin and end with Verica.]

I'm in 80% agreement with you, jburksva. There are other problems with the offense - primarily, timid running backs like Jones who seem incapable of grasping the fact that a running back needs to hit the hole full speed; however, Verica is the overarching problem. I was at the game Saturday. Regarding protection, I thought the O-line did a perfectly fine job protecting Verica. Yeah, he was sacked four times but guess what?...if you hold onto the ball for 5 seconds after the snap, you're going to get sacked alot! Verica appears incapable of checking down his receivers after the snap. If he's under ANY sort of pressure whatsoever - and I mean the normal kind of pressure you're going to face against any decent team - his accuracy borders on the absurd. And when he tries to scramble, he NEVER moves forward for positive yardage...he ALWAYS runs towards his right-side sideline.

In a word, Verica can't handle pressure...period. He's simply not 1-A material.

[I recognize that Verica is a real team player, but this is a rebuilding season anyway. Why not see what Metheny and Rocco can really do; not just in mop-up duty. Could they be any worse?]

Precisely my thinking. Verica is a relic from Al Groh's failed tenure...a relic who's going to be gone next year. Since this is the start of a rebuilding process that's probably going to take at least 3 seasons, London should focus on the future of the program - i.e., players like Methany or Rocco who are going to be around for the next 4-5 years. Make a decision already, even if you just go with your gut feeling, and let one them take the field and get a year's worth of experience under their belt. Use Verica as a mentor who can help them to hone their game but for God's sake, don't waste an entire season on a sub-par player who'll never put on a uniform again after another two months.

Posted by: rvastar | October 4, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

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