Cavalier Call-In Highlights ’08, Show 4

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Koehn began this week’s show by welcoming Groh and asking if it was a disheartening loss in light of the “tough weekend” the Cavaliers experienced. Groh responded by saying that in competition you are “not allowed to get disheartened.” Koehn then steered the conversation to UConn by asking about the performance of Tyler Lorenzen, the Huskies’ QB, and how that changed the Cavaliers’ defensive plan. Groh said that all defense, “revolves around the quarterback,” and defending becomes all the more difficult when he is both mobile and accurate. He said that Lorenzen gave them a lot of trouble early on with his “pin-point accuracy.”

Koehn then asked Groh how the Cavaliers could bounce back from such a loss. Groh answered that the only thing that can be done is to go back about your work. “It’s the same every week, the challenges renew themselves,” he said.

Rob from Norfolk kicked off the call-in portion of the show by first welcoming Koehn to the Virginia family and asking Groh what the team will be doing in the bye week to prepare for Duke. Groh said that the bye week has three main functions. First, it serves as a period of self-assessment, a time for the team to look at what they’ve done right/wrong. Groh stated that he watched 13 hours of offensive tape from the first three games [Monday] and he’ll do the same [Tuesday] with the defense and he’s looking for the specifics of what worked, what didn’t work, and “trying to analyze what the opponent was thinking.”

Second, he said they will begin to look at Duke, which is a unique challenge this season because of a new coaching staff and a complete overhaul of schemes on offense and defense. Third, coaches will be out recruiting; he noted, however, that they are only allowed 42 days total of recruiting in the fall. Groh specified that this doesn’t mean 42 whole days saying that [Monday], when six coaches were out recruiting, counted as six days. Rob asked if Lalich will play against Duke. Groh quickly responded: “We’ll have to see how things play out.”

Koehn jumped in asking Groh if after the tough loss, he’d rather have the week off or get right back on the field. Groh replied that they knew at the beginning of the season that they had this date off and whether they were 3-0 or 0-3, they would have adjustments to make, because of the largely inexperienced nature of this team.

Coach Al Groh has two weeks to get his team ready for Duke.

Next up was Bruce from Richmond who started off his question by saying he was “sick and tired of watching our football team become what it’s become.” He referenced Jeff White’s article in The Richmond Times-Dispatch and asked Groh why he had not outlined his criteria for playing earlier this season and why isn’t it just always whoever is playing best at the moment? He mentioned the team’s poor performance in road games and asked what the big preparation differences are. Groh responded by saying that while he had not read the article, his criteria were the same as they had been every week and every season since he arrived. Playing time has always, he said, been decided by who’s playing well currently taking into account game performance and practice preparation. In regard to the question about away games, Groh said that while there are some differences they aren’t significant. Groh said that all coaches and players realize that it’s not about home or away but about the competition and “it’s what goes on between the lines.”

Beth of Lynchburg began by voicing her unconditional support for the Cavaliers and then asked about the team’s morale after the loss. Groh said that game results like what happened Saturday are “disappointing and hurtful,” but there wasn’t much time to “wear that on your sleeve.” He said the team began practice again Sunday after returning home at 3 a.m. Saturday night. Without a game this week, he said, “it seemed like a good thing to get going again.”

Steve, a Staunton resident, expressed his disappointment at being continually “let down” despite being a long-term Hoo fan. He questioned the administration’s level of involvement both with the team and specifically with regard to Peter Lalich . Groh said that with regard to Peter, in situations where communication and collaboration are necessary to undertake a team goal, it was important to know that those in a top position have your back. That’s why, Groh said, in response to team issues, the team appreciates that he won’t give them up publicly. That doesn’t mean, he stressed, that the issues may not be addressed quite differently when they are dealing with it “as a family.” Groh concluded by saying that “Things aren’t as good as I’d like to see them and I’m sure you’d like to see them,” and took personal responsibility for that.

Koehn then addressed Duke, saying that next week’s episode would have much more in terms of scouting reports of the Blue Devils.

Dave, an “old spider”, called from Richmond and wanted to know why UVa had decided to play Richmond every other year for the next eight years? Groh referenced back to when the NCAA expanded the schedule to 12 games. He said that at that time they hadn’t played any I-AA opponents and thought this would be an appropriate time to do so. Local schools, like Richmond, made sense in terms of fan rivalry and interest, Groh said.

Nathan from Farmville was up next and had two questions. First he asked if the limited action of the tailbacks was due solely to injuries or if there was another factor. Then he asked if the poor performance of the defensive line, whether because of inexperience or lack of talent, required the linebackers to go into attack mode this season.

Groh said that Mikell Simpson is fine but Cedric Peerman took two very hard hits early in the USC game and that has kept him from fully preparing for the subsequent games. At Connecticut, Groh said, they put him through a heavy test before the game but “he really wanted to go; he was insistent.” While they did get some snaps out of him, Groh said it was clear he “wasn’t able to elude” the way he normally does. With reference to the defensive line, Groh said, he doesn’t place the blame on any one position but Nathan was right about the DL. He cited the fact that they expected to have many players this season that they don’t have on the field right now and there are many players with 70 plays under their belt right now that “we only expected to have 15-18. But in comparison to years past, Groh pointed out, “it’s the same circumstance [Chris] Long and [Allen] Billyk went through early in their careers.”

Timothy, a 40+ year Virginia fan, asked Groh if he could wave a magic wand and change one segment of his team – offense, defense or special teams – what would it be? Groh, laughed, saying he hasn’t ever been in a situation where he got such a choice. Groh said that as to not upset all those players at all those positions who know he loves them, he would have to say if the Cavaliers could pick one player, he would pick “a dynamic pass-rusher.”

Next, Calvin from Richmond asked Groh two questions. First, he wanted to know if Groh had considered scratching the “soft 3-4?” Second, he inquired as to why Groh had not recruited more speed to be able to compete in high-profile games.
Groh said that like most coaches, “we prefer slow to speed.” While everyone, he said, would like to be faster, the Cavaliers recruit the fastest players that fit their criteria both overall and academically. With the 3-4, Groh countered that he didn’t think it had been soft last season, citing Virginia’s 8th-place national ranking in sacks last season. It’s not about what scheme is being run, Groh said, it’s just who is putting them into play.

Koehn commented that during the commercial break, he and Groh had been talking about the end of [Sunday’s] San Diego- Broncos game. He reminded fans that Mike Shanahan, coach of the Broncos, was forced to decide whether to go for the two-point conversion to win the game with 24 seconds left or to take the safe kick and leave it to overtime. The Broncos went for two and got it in for the 39-38 win. Koehn asked Groh what he thought of the choice. Groh said “those are the tough situations.” Groh explained that his thinking would have been that in that situation you would only have to go two or three yards for the win whereas if you left it to overtime, you may not even get the ball back and if you do, you still could have to go up to 70+ yards to score. Groh said that as a coach, “to make that decision, you can’t think about reaction.” Groh then complimented Shanahan, saying he has established himself as having a good feel for the game, which makes him a tough guy to face.

Back to the switchboard, Earl wanted to ask about Peter Lalich again. He said he felt sorry for him and felt that it would be resolved, but he wanted to know he didn’t travel and why Groh announced the decision Wednesday night after letting Peter take snaps at Wednesday’s practice. Groh responded by saying, “Actually, I never said he took snaps,” and this was another example of all of the “misinformation” surrounding this situation. He said that the realities of this situation would remain in his heart and mind alone.

Almost out of time, Koehn said he wanted to ask Groh quickly once more what the itinerary would be for the next week. Groh reiterated that the goals were Virginia football improvement, then looking ahead to Duke, in addition to off-campus recruiting.

That’s all for this week’s installation of Cavalier Call-In. Virginia is off this week and will play its ACC opener against Duke on Saturday, Sept. 27, at noon. The game will be televised by ESPNU.

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