North Carolina 44, Virginia 10: Three up, three down
After the final whistle had blown, drawing a merciful end to the 44-10 loss Virginia suffered Saturday night to North Carolina, Cavaliers Coach Mike London summoned his players to the middle of the field for a group huddle. Some players already had trudged into the locker room and came jogging back out onto the field when they learned London was addressing the squad.
London said in his postgame press conference that he wanted the moments in the immediate aftermath of Virginia's defeat to soak in with his players. The Cavaliers had not lost at home to North Carolina since 1981. They had won in 14 straight meetings with the Tar Heels at Scott Stadium. Entering the game, they had -- statistically speaking -- one of the top 10 pass defenses in the country.
And then North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates and the Tar Heels changed all of that.
"I wanted them to feel what it feels like to get beat like we did, on our homecoming, with the other team’s fans cheering them on, and to never, ever forget that feeling," London said. "Never forget the feeling when someone else comes into your house and hands it to you like they did. We’re going to win around here. And I told them we’re going to win around here. But the attitude of what may have been, that was then and this is now. This is a learning process for us, but the mind-set of the team that I’m going to coach is not going to forget something like that."
1) Keith Payne. The fifth-year senior tailback recorded his second 100-yard rushing game of the season -- and of his career -- Saturday when he tallied 107 yards on 23 carries. Payne's five-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was his eighth rushing score of the season. His 49-yard gain in the third quarter marked the longest rush of his career. There were a few times tonight when Payne was stopped on first contact, but he continues to be far and away the toughest Cavalier to bring down.
2) Offensive movement. The Virginia offense generated some movement throughout the game. In previous weeks the Cavaliers had struggled in that regard, especially during the first half. On Saturday, it wasn't until Virginia ventured into the red zone that its drives often stalled. The Cavaliers converted on 2 of 6 scoring opportunities from inside the 20 yard line and threw three red zone interceptions. But Virginia also tallied 335 total yards and 19 first downs.
3) Run defense. Two weeks ago, Virginia gave up 256 rushing yards to Florida State. Last week, the Cavaliers allowed Georgia Tech to rack up 477 rushing yards. So it certainly was a mark of improvement that North Carolina amassed only 140 rushing yards Saturday. Granted, the Tar Heels had little need to run the ball given that they threw the ball up and down the field at will. But still, in a game like this, finding silver linings are a necessity for the losing squad.
1) Pass defense. On North Carolina's first play from scrimmage, Yates completed a pass on a short crossing route to Dwight Jones that turned into an 81-yard scoring strike. Virginia Defensive Coordinator said it was a play the Cavaliers had not seen the Tar Heels previously run on film.
"That's one of our basic, basic plays -- our little short passes," Yates said. "They just happened to be there, playing the perfect coverage, and we had some great blocking downfield. Dwight broke a tackle, and he took off. It's the simplest of plays."
Virginia allowed North Carolina to register 339 passing yards. On that first-play score, Jones -- who finished with seven receptions for 198 yards and two touchdowns -- pulled off the longest pass play against the Cavaliers since Sept. 6, 2003 when South Carolina's Dondrial Pinkins connected with Troy Williamson for a 99-yard completion.
Prior to Saturday's game, Virginia had not allowed a pass completion of longer than 40 yards this season. Against North Carolina, the Cavaliers allowed pass plays of 81, 54, 46 and 42 yards.
2) Interceptions. Fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica threw three interceptions Saturday, raising his season total to six. Following his third interception of the night -- which was returned 22 yards for a Tar Heels touchdown -- Verica was pulled from the game. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Ross Metheny, who promptly threw a goal-line interception on the first of his two drives. True freshman Michael Rocco threw an interception in the end zone, as well. Virginia's turnover situation could have been even worse. The Cavaliers fumbled the ball three times, but recovered it on each occassion.
3) Third down conversions and point production. In games against Division 1-A opponents this season, Virginia is averaging 14.8 points per game and converting on 25.9 percent of its third downs. Yikes. This offense may be balanced, but it's sure not very proficient. Not at this point, anyway.
| October 17, 2010; 12:25 AM ET
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