Tuesday Press Conference Notes ’08 – UConn

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Mikell Simpson lost 20 yards on 7 carries Saturday against Richmond.

Virginia running back Mikell Simpson scored the team’s only offensive touchdown against Richmond on Saturday, but the rest of the day probably can be filed in the “uncharacteristic” category for the explosive junior. Uncharacteristic at least for what Cavalier fans were used to seeing in 2007 when he piled up 570 rushing yards and 402 receiving yards to go with 10 total touchdowns.

Against the Spiders, he gained just 36 yards rushing on 23 carries, an average of just 1.6 yards per carry. Simpson didn’t have a single reception. Plus, he lost 20 yards on 7 of those carries; on an eighth, he got back to the line of scrimmage but no farther.

“Some decisions on his part, sometimes the play wasn’t blocked as well as it should be, one of them was a bad call by me,” Virginia coach Al Groh said Tuesday. “It had the formation set opposite the side to which the play was going and it wasn’t an offensive lineman’s fault or Mikell’s fault, it was my fault that I didn’t match the formation with the play correctly.”

While the offensive line’s problems have been discussed frequently and play calls can explain some of the numbers, some the issue still boils down to Simpson’s play-making style. Unlike fellow back Cedric Peerman , (who had 60 yards on 10 carries against Richmond and didn’t lose any yards), Simpson is going to make cuts sometimes that don’t work.

Groh said it’s part of coaching running backs in general and that you can’t nitpick on every carry. After all, there are going to be times when that same cut produces a much different result. He compared it to a 3-point gunner in basketball that takes some shots where the coach is thinking no, no, no … good shot.

“Cedric’s a bore it in there guy; that’s his style,” Groh said. “Mikell is … I’m thinking of the one that he hit for about 45 yards or so at Maryland. Where he went backdoor with the ball, probably Ced would have never gone. Sometimes when you go back there even in practice the coach is like ‘Oh what’s he doing?’ What he was doing on that one is he saw something that most of us don’t see. That’s why he is who he is.”

Lalich’s Case

Peter Lalich

Last week, The Daily Progress reported the following about UVa quarterback Peter Lalich :

“Starting University of Virginia football quarterback Pete Lalich admitted to court officials that he used marijuana and alcohol while on supervised probation for an underage drinking charge, according to Charlottesville General District Court documents.

Lalich is being charged with failure to obey a court order while on probation, based on his admission, the documents show.” (Read the entire article here.)

At Virginia’s weekly media gathering on Tuesday, a television news reporter attended the conference and asked this question to Lalich:

Mr. Lalich would you please comment about your response to the idea (allegation) that you have smoked marijuana while on probation?

Lalich’s answer: “I have not smoked or done any drugs while on my probation.”

The follow-up question from a sports reporter: With that statement, you must have been upset to have statements to the contrary come through the press?


Lalich is scheduled for a hearing on the charge on Friday, Sept. 26 court records from the Charlottesville General District Court show.

Burrell’s First Start

Denzel Burrell made his first career start on Saturday, breaking up this pass against Richmond.

When linebacker Aaron Clark suffered a season-ending knee injury against Southern California, it elevated Virginia’s Denzel Burrell on the depth chart. He made his first career start last week against Richmond. The New Jersey posted two tackles and a pass break-up on the official stats chart.

Fellow linebacker Clint Sintim said Burrell played well.

“He seemed excited. He performed really well out there,” Sintim said. “I think he got one of the higher grades of the linebackers. He was in every spot he was supposed to be and he got his hands on a couple of balls. He was very effective. If he continues to get better like that then we can really benefit from him being out there.”

Phillips In The Spread

Virginia’s shotgun sets early in the season have featured single backs, double backs, and multiple wide receivers at different times. As a result of these new-looking spread sets, one player that is lining up in new places this season is senior tight end John Phillips . Early in his career, he was a three-point stance, lineman-like tight end. Now, he’s split wide from the line and standing up to the inside of two receivers.

What’s the new view like for Phillips?

“When you stand up, you get to see a lot more different things. You can see the blitzes, see the defense. You can just read it better,” Phillips said. “The defense has to adjust when you spread out like that. They can’t just leave everybody in the box so they’ve got to adjust. That way you put defenses in certain situations and make them change their mindset.”

Quotes On Connecticut

“He’s very talented. I thought he was one of the better quarterbacks we played last year. He’s a very capable thrower. He scrambles when he has to. He’s able to make plays with his feet as well as his arm. I thought he was very talented. We watched a little bit of tape on him from last year’s game and I remember how high our coaches were on him and his ability so we expect the same thing from him this year.” – Clint Sintim on Connecticut quarterback Tyler Lorenzen

“At most of the positions, I didn’t really even have to go to the depth chart to look up the players. Frankly, at this point there’s quite a few positions where I don’t know the player’s name, but I know his number because I remember the number from last year. I know the tailbacks are 2 and 34, I know the fullback is 49, I knew the quarterback was 4 before I ever put the tape on; I know the left tackle is 64. You know what I mean? I just remember them all. It makes it a little bit more like a conference game. When you play a non-conference team two years in a row, you begin to build up your familiarity with them as opposed to this is a one-time shot say like when we played Middle Tennessee last year. What systems do these guys run? What’s the name of their players? Before we ever put the tape on, I had an idea basically of what systems we were going to look at.” – Al Groh on facing UConn again this season

Fun With Numbers

  • Virginia has won 5 straight games at night while Connecticut has won 9 straight games at home. UConn has won its last 4 night games at Rentchler Field.
  • Against teams that were Big East members at game time, UVa is 13-10. UVa is 6-3 against the Big East under Al Groh.
  • Connecticut is 3-8 all-time against active ACC schools.
  • Since 2001, Virginia averages just 44.9 penalty yards per game. Last week against Richmond, the Cavaliers were flagged for 103 penalty yards.
  • In its last 66 games, UConn has outgained its opponent 44 times.
  • UVa receiver Kevin Ogletree has posted 2 games with at least 100 receiving yards in his career – 103 last week against Richmond and a career-high 133 in 2006 against Maryland.
  • Connecticut running back Donald Brown recorded 36 carries and 214 rushing yards against Temple, both career-high marks.

Worth Quoting

“We really like him. He’s tough. He’s got vision. He’s got all the skills. He clearly likes football. Everything that we had seen on tape in our extensive review of Torrey, we have seen with our own eyes for the last five or six weeks.” – UVa coach Al Groh answering a Connecticut reporter’s question on true freshman running back Torrey Mack , who is from Stratford, Conn.

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