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Maryland 42, Virginia 23: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

First-year Virginia Coach Mike London has had to discuss a wide array of his team's deficiencies during his postgame press conferences this season. He's discussed the run defense after it was porous, the offensive line after it provided poor protection, quarterback Marc Verica after he made bad passing decisions, penalties, injuries and even bad luck.

But until last night, London had been able to avoid including one particular shortcoming when talking about the areas in which his team must improve.

"Obviously, very disappointed in a lack of a better effort, particularly in the fourth quarter," London said following Virginia's 42-23 loss to Maryland.

London previously had said that no matter what, his team always had demonstrated laudible energy and effort while trying to overcome its weaknesses. That, apparently, was not the case Saturday.

Virginia allowed 21 fourth-quarter points, gave up two fourth-quarter interceptions and tacked on four fourth-quarter penalties to go along with the 12 others the Cavaliers had accumulated during the game. With two games remaining in the 2010 season, Virginia (4-6, 1-5) officially has been eliminated from bowl qualification.

Three Up:

1) Special teams trickery. What will they do next? Who knows. Before the game, Maryland Special Teams Coordinator Charles Bankins remarked to Virginia Director of Player Development Steve Atkinson that he had 9,000 fakes to worry about. He was exaggerating. Kind of. The Cavaliers executed a reverse on a kickoff that advanced them all the way to the Maryland 35. Five plays later, holder Jacob Hodges took the snap on what appeared to be a field goal attempt and completed a shovel pass to Terence Fells-Danzer, who ran 16 yards for a touchdown. On the last play of the first half, Chris Hinkebein drilled a 52-yard field goal. That wasn't trickery. But it sure was impressive.

2) Marc Verica's first half. The fifth-year senior quarterback looked pretty sharp in the first two quarters of play, though his efforts weren't helped by his receivers dropping numerous balls. Verica completed 8 of 17 passes for 183 yards in the first half, and that completion percentage should have been much higher. At least six of those incompletions were very catchable balls that were flat-out dropped.

3) Jimmy Howell. This guy has a pretty strong leg. He can boom kicks if he so desires. But on Saturday, Howell was asked to drill low, line-drive, directional kicks in an attempt to limit the effectiveness of Maryland's return game. It worked. Howell was a good soldier for sacrificing his own stats in an effort to bolster the team's chances for success.

Three Down:

1) Penalties. This has become an alarming trend. In the past three games, Virginia has totalled a combined 38 penalties for 353 yards. Yikes. This season, Virginia has received 84 penalties for 966 yards. Double yikes. The school record, by the way, for penalties in a season is 90, set by Al Groh's first Cavaliers team in 2001. The school record for penalty yards in a season? Virginia already sailed by that one. In 2001, the Cavaliers were dealt 831 penalty yards, which had been the previous record.

2) Lack of focus. That's the larger issue here, really. Lack of focus leads to penalties and dropped balls on offense and failure to secure would-be interceptions on defense. And the Cavaliers were afflicted by all of those maladies Saturday against Maryland. There are two games remaining in a season in which Virginia officially has been removed from bowl consideration. Will the deficient focus be corrected?

3) Fourth-quarter defense. As long as we're on the topic of disturbing trends, it should be noted that in the past three games Virginia has given up a combined 61 fourth-quarter points. No matter how much progress the offense has demonstrated in recent weeks, it's mighty hard to stay in contention -- much less win -- when the defense is allowing points so easily late in games. To be fair, it didn't help the Cavaliers defense any that Verica threw two fourth-quarter interceptions that gave Maryland a short field with which to work.

By Steve Yanda  | November 14, 2010; 10:01 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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