The “White Out” was mostly a success off the field, but wasn’t enough to overcome Florida State.
The Cavaliers got a bitter taste of football reality on Saturday, as the Florida State Seminoles rolled into town and dealt the football team a crushing 34-14 defeat. Virginia underperformed on both sides of the ball, allowing FSU 428 yards of total offense while only accumulating 25 rushing yards on 26 carries. The Seminoles were bigger, faster, and stronger; their offensive and defensive lines managed to manhandle their Cavalier counterparts throughout the game. The UVa fans that came out mostly donned their “White Out” t-shirts, but the support and enthusiasm didn’t translate to extra production on the field.
“I’m disappointed for our players. I’m disappointed for the fans,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “That wasn’t the type of effort that is indicative to the type of team that I think we have here.”
The Hoos came out flat in the first half, giving up 27 points and letting the Noles control the time of possession. The defense had Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder rattled early, nearly sacking him while forcing a fumble on the first FSU play from scrimmage and coming close to two interceptions on the same drive. Early in the first half, including that same drive, video reviews on back-to-back series confirmed Seminole possessions, while Virginia fans howled in indignation as the replay aired on HooVision. But, in the end, FSU’s veteran signal caller regained his composure and was effective with his arm and his feet for the remainder of the game. The visiting offense took full advantage of poor containment in the backfield and shoddy tackling across the field in piling up yards and points.
“Our tackling today is something we have to fix. To be a good defense you have to be able to tackle,” junior cornerback Chase Minnifield said. “I don’t really know what happened. I think we played hard. We realized some things just don’t go the right way. We’ll be back tomorrow working hard and getting ready for next week.”
The entire team stepped up its play in the second half, and outscored Florida State 14-7. So one good thing to take from Saturday’s game is Virginia’s “won’t quit” attitude, a far cry from last year’s demoralized 3-9 squad.
“We are going to play until the end of the game every game, we are never going to quit,” junior wideout Kris Burd said. “We had a good offseason and we pride ourselves on being a family. A family is never going to quit on its brothers.”
Still, as a whole, Virginia showed its youth and inexperience, making silly mistakes and committing foolish penalties. Holding calls abounded, preventing the offense from getting in a rhythm, while fouls like facemask penalties pushed the Seminoles ahead while holding the Cavaliers back. Overall, the Cavaliers committed 9 penalties for 86 yards. Florida State, which also languishes near the bottom of the ACC in penalties committed, had 4 for 42 yards.
“Florida State did a great job. I said all along that they are a fast, very athletic team. I think that is a top 20 team right there,” London said. “That’s a very, very good team. Their quarterback is good. Their defensive front four did a good job today.”
To make matters worse, Virginia’s running game, the foundation of the offensive plans, sputtered throughout the entire match-up. Sophomore tailback Perry Jones got the majority of the carries this weekend, netting 28 yards on 11 carries. His efforts were negated in a couple of ways by the superior play of Florida State’s front four, which as London noted, played well in the game. The Seminoles controlled the trenches, and got to quarterbacks Marc Verica and Ross Metheny . Verica was sacked four times and Metheny twice, for a total loss of 27 yards. Overall, the speed and size of the Florida State line proved to be far too much for the Cavalier offensive line.
“That’s the number one team in the country in sacks and we added to their stats today,” London said. “Tremendous effort by their defensive ends to speed rush and get on the edge. We have to look at how we are going to protect the quarterback and how we’re going to do things in order for him to get the ball down the field.”
With the line struggling to consistently protect the pocket, Marc Verica was 14 for 30 on the day for 211 yards and one touchdown. Verica’s touchdown pass to Kris Burd was a 76-yard beauty that took full advantage of blown coverage in the Seminole secondary.
“The thing about that play is that that’s not even part of the progression, that route is designed to clear out the coverage,” Verica said. “I saw him out of the corner of my eye and they busted a coverage. He was open and we were able to make a big play.”
Ross Metheny threw this TD pass to Colter Phillips.
Verica, however, was sacked four times as mentioned and he threw two interceptions. One of his picks, midway through the third quarter, completely killed any hopes of a miraculous comeback. At that point, the Cavaliers still trailed 7-27 but a comeback was not impossible if they could have found the end zone on that drive to cut the lead in half. Verica and receiver Dontrelle Inman had a bit of miscommunication; Verica lobbed a pass toward an end zone fade route while Inman turned it inside as a post pattern. The pass found Seminole defensive back Greg Reid in the end zone for a touchback.
With the score out of reach, many offensive reserves took the field late in the fourth quarter. Redshirt freshman quarterback Ross Metheny led the unit, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor had every intention of working in true freshman Michael Rocco as well if time permitted. The coaching staff is still trying to solidify who the back-up quarterback will be behind Verica. Metheny finished 7-9 for 68 yards and one touchdown. Colter Phillips scored his second TD of the season on an 11-yard pass play from Metheny to cap the drive. Several players, including Torrey Mack , Jared Green and Ray Keys, saw time as the game clock wound down.
“I am proud of all of the guys who were out there at the end of the game,” Phillips said. “For a lot of them it was their first series of the game and I am proud of them for staying motivated and staying focused.”
The Wahoos will need to be motivated and focused this week as they try to bounce back from the loss in preparation for a familiar foe. Virginia takes on Georgia Tech next weekend in a Coastal Division match-up that will feature former UVa head coach Al Groh as the Yellow Jackets’ defensive coordinator.