Press Conference Notes 2010: Duke

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The Virginia offensive line was an integral part of the win over Miami.

The offensive line took an early spotlight at Monday’s press conference. Last Saturday, the Cavalier O-Line managed to hold the nation’s No. 2 tackles-for-loss defense to zero sacks in a thrilling 24-19 win over Miami. The No. 22 Hurricanes were missing their starting quarterback, but remained defensively stumped by the big men up front. It almost seems as if this production came out of left field, but the Hoos and their coaches knew it was bound to happen soon. The O-Line was a constant work in progress, and all the hard work finally paid off last week.

“I think it’s been more gradual progress. We’re trying each and every week to get better,” offensive guard Austin Pasztor said. “When we’re watching film it was always one block away, it’s always one missed assignment away from being a big play instead of just a two- or three-yard gain. Once everyone was on the same page and we all made our blocks and did our jobs, we knew we would be able to have explosive plays.”

Offensive tackle Morgan Moses had a big game matched up against top NFL prospect Allen Bailey. It was true freshman vs. stellar senior, and Moses held his own against one of the better defensive ends in the nation.

“There are some things that just by sheer strength that Morgan had to contend with. For the most part I thought he did a nice job. [Bailey] is probably going to be a first-round draft pick. All-ACC performer. Morgan’s best football is way ahead of him. The weight room, all the things he’ll learn to match that massive size will catch him up to being a really good player himself,” coach Mike London said of his gigantic diamond in the rough. “Morgan, I tell you what, he’s a confident guy. When you talk to him, I mean, he’s like, ‘Coach, I got him on lock, don’t worry about it.’ Okay, Morgan. I don’t know about on lock. But he is a very confident player. He’s going to be something special here.”

It’s A Celebration!

Saturday’s victory was an emotional one for fans, players, and coaches alike. It was the team’s first ACC win this season, and Coach London’s first ACC win as Virginia’s head coach. Not only was it a win, but it was a game in which the Cavaliers executed at times in every facet of the game. There was a whole lot to celebrate, and just about everyone got in on the festivities.

Coach London is now famous nationwide for falling to his knees in thanks after the clock ran out. He can always be found pacing the sidelines and reacting to every play. London’s emotional involvement with the team is uplifting and inspiring to both his players and the fans.

Marc Verica and the Cavaliers came together to knock off Miami.

“It’s great to have an emotional coach like that; it really gets you fired up,” Pasztor said. “It’s funny to watch on the film after the game.”

Not only did London and the team express their jubilation, but the Virginia students ran onto the field to celebrate after receiving some strong urging from the players.

“Winning the game, and the students storming the field, that was awesome right there, too. That was pretty neat to see something like that. I thought they were going to tear down the goalposts. I think they fixed them so they don’t go down there anymore. Having them out there, that was neat,” London said. “I hope I don’t get in trouble by saying having the students out there was something special. We don’t want people coming out of the stands, but for a moment I thought it was nice celebrating with the players.”

Pasztor echoed his coach’s sentiments, and enjoys the increased interaction between the students and the team.

“It’s great to have good student support. We started a new tradition after winning games, going to shake their hands. I think it’s great,” he said. “The students have been really supportive this year around campus and after games.”

Give And Take

Coach London knows that the key to getting support is giving it, and so he made a special appearance last Saturday at the Delta Sigma Phi Pig Pickin’ event to benefit Habitat for Humanity. A certain Sabre intern (yours truly) was present as well, and witnessed London shaking hands and exchanging greetings with excited students for a few minutes on Friday afternoon.

“I went there to show my support for the group because they’re raising money for Habitat for Humanity. So I went there, stayed a couple minutes, shook some hands and everything like that, because I wanted to show the students that they’re important to me. Going out to some of their events, even though it was a Friday, means a lot,” he said.

It’s not just about stumping with the various alumni associations, a strong fan base begins at home, and London is making himself visible and accessible to everyone enthusiastic about the program.

“To me, that’s what it’s all about, is getting out there among the students. It’s great just walking across grounds, ‘Hey, coach, good game,’ giving high fives, all those things. We’re going to work on continuing to do that, to get people to come out to support us,” London said. “Those that were there, we appreciate it, want to keep everybody coming back. That’s the work in progress part that I’ve been talking about.”

Road Tested

Zane Parr and the Hoos will try to get an ACC road win this week.

Before the Hoos return to Scott Stadium for their final home game of the 2010 season next week(already?!?), they will take their show on the road to Durham for a grudge match against the Duke Blue Devils. Duke has beaten Virginia two years in a row, and the team is hungry to get their first ACC road victory. The Blue Devils are coming off a win, which snapped a six-game losing streak this season, against Navy. Redshirt sophomore Sean Renfree was 28-30 for 314 yards and rushed for two touchdowns last week.

“Going 28-for-30, that’s really, really good. But you have experienced receivers. They run an offense, pistol offense, then sort of a spread offense, then sort of ‘we’re going to throw the ball type offense.’ They spread the field and attack you not as much vertically but horizontally,” London said. “They make you defend a lot of areas from sideline to sideline and try to poke holes in your defense by throwing the ball, running the ball, quick passing games, use the quarterback, the other young man that comes in to play, he’s a runner, so they use him to run. They have a neat little offense, for sure, and a good defense.”

Donovan Varner and Connor Vernon lead the Blue Devil receiving corps. They have combined for 1,226 yards and five touchdowns. However, the Cavaliers have a bit of an inside scoop on Duke’s dynamic duo.

“Interestingly enough, [freshman quarterback] Michael Strauss played with both of those receivers. So, of course, I’ll be asking for tidbits on each guy,” London said. “But that was a couple years ago when they were teammates.”

Triumphant Return

One recurring theme of the 2010 season has been the increased contributions from players that had been written off under the previous coaching staff. Keith Payne and Dontrelle Inman have had breakout senior seasons on offense, and Darnell Carter has seen a resurgence of his career in his last year as a Cavalier.

“I just felt like I was given a chance to show people that I could play,” Carter said.

The senior linebacker cracked the starting line-up this year after missing the entire 2008 season due to academic ineligibility. Carter (who has tallied 32 tackles, 2 sacks, and one interception thus far this season) is determined to make the most of his final year in the classroom as well.

Darnell Carter

“Now that I’m older and I see what the importance is academically, graduating from this school means a lot,” he said. “That’s my goal, to graduate.”

Of course, Carter has goals on the field in addition to his dream of graduating.

“I take pride in every day in practice. The season’s almost over, that’s why we’re trying to win the rest of the games and go to a bowl game. That was one of our team goals at the beginning of the season,” he said. “We want to keep playing. Four games aren’t enough, we want to keep playing some more.”

Worth Noting

  • Virginia leads the all-time series against Duke 32-29.
  • Duke’s pass offense is ranked No. 2 in the ACC, while the Cavaliers’ pass defense in No. 2 in the conference.
  • Keith Payne leads the ACC in rushing touchdowns with 12, while Chase Minnifield is tied for the FBS lead in interceptions with 5.
  • The Hoos have lost 10 straight November games, dating back to the 2007 blowout of Miami at the Orange Bowl.

Worth Quoting

“Mo is a big guy; I was a little surprised about how big he was. Some other teammates had seen him before I did and told me how big he was, and I was like ‘Yeah, whatever.’ When I saw him I was like, ‘Sheesh.'” – Austin Pasztor on Morgan Moses.

“I think really the only way to have confidence is to win games. Even if you’re practicing well, if you don’t win it’s hard to have a lot of confidence. I think winning these two games have given us confidence going into the third game. The Eastern Michigan win gave us confidence for the Miami game.” – Austin Pasztor

“He was actually my first friend I met here at UVa. We’ve been friends for a while and we definitely have a bond. We were always in the situation where we just felt like ‘What are we doing wrong that everyone else isn’t doing?’ We still sit here and wonder,’What were we doing wrong that they didn’t have confidence and didn’t want to play us?'” – Darnell Carter on his relationship with teammate Keith Payne .

“The coach says ‘Go to class’ you go to class. He’s only trying to help you out. You might learn something, too, if you go to class.” – Darnell Carter

“This Duke team has beaten Virginia two times in a row. One time they ended the streak, an ACC streak of consecutive losses. Their students stormed the field. There are some memories there that our guys can’t forget. You can’t take anything for granted regardless of what the record says. This is another team that’s capable of beating this team. But if our team plays the way that it can play, because every game is a battle in and of itself, then we’re going down to Durham to play a good football team and we’re going down with the attitude and mindset that this is game number three for us for the second season.” – Mike London

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