Sloppy Penalties Doom Hoos

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Coach Mike London battling with officials.

No excuses. That was head coach Mike London’s message following the Hoos 42-23 loss to Maryland to close out the 2010 home slate. Virginia committed 16 penalties for 145 yards and had numerous offensive miscues on Saturday. Silly mistakes and mental errors commanded the game, giving the Terrapins an easy edge and leaving many broken hearts behind in Scott Stadium.

“I’m very disappointed in the lack of better effort -particularly in the fourth quarter. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to have 16 penalties,” London said. “That’s directed on us coaches – what we teach and how we teach it, getting it across to the players about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. You can’t have that many penalties.”

The Wahoos were one more penalty away from setting the school record for penalties during a single game, a most ominous feat. Virginia now averages more than 77 penalty yards per game, a statistic that doesn’t do much to help a struggling, rebuilding team. Although Maryland gained four easy first downs off Cavalier defensive penalties, the penalty bug struck in all facets of the game, most noticeably on special teams, where it seemed like an illegal block in the back nullified almost every other kick return.

“When you’re in certain positions to carry out plays and to carry out blocks, I’d rather you not carry the block out than carry the block out and block in the back,” London said. “That’s got to be created in practice.”

Although special teams accounted for 4 penalties, the unit also provided arguably the two brightest moments of the evening. Holder Jacob Hodges became the fifth Cavalier to throw a touchdown pass this season on a masterfully executed fake field goal. Hodges set the ball down, and then pitched it forward to running back Terence Fells-Danzer , who took it 16 yards for a touchdown.

Junior placekicker Chris Hinkebein hit his first career field goal, a low driving kick from 52 yards that would have easily been good from 60. Hinkebein has been handling kickoff duties this season, and has quite a leg, but has struggled with accuracy on his other two field goal attempts this year.

“From that far, what you try to do is just kick it as strong, as hard as you can. Sometimes it’s a low trajectory; that one was ugly but it went through,” London said. “You don’t want to get too high because then the ball drops. You want to put leg swing into it.”

Marc Verica finished his home career with one 1-yard touchdown pass and 2 INTs.

The Cavalier special teams unit has often chipped in to aid a struggling offense that can’t seem to execute from week to week. In the first half alone there were 6 dropped passes by the Virginia wide receivers. Senior quarterback Marc Verica threw for 265 yards, moving into seventh place on the school’s all-time passing yards list, but his efforts were negated, as they often have been throughout his career, by two unfortunate interceptions. Verica made a poor throw into the vicinity of four Terrapin defenders for his first, and the second was the result of a heads-up play by Adrian Moten, who read the route perfectly and ripped the ball away from Kris Burd .

“We’ll look at [Verica] and see what happened on everything,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “I have a sense of what happened on a couple, but I think as a whole our offense didn’t have enough, we didn’t finish enough drives with touchdowns.”

Maryland certainly had no trouble finishing its drives; the Terps were a perfect 6-6 in the red zone, all for touchdowns. Running back D.J. Adams rushed for three touchdowns, while fellow redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien rushed for one touchdown and passed for two more from under center. The Cavalier defense crumbled in the fourth quarter, giving up 21 points and hemorrhaging yards. The Terrapins accumulated 146 yards in the fourth quarter alone, more than one-third of their total yardage for the night.

“We had a good first few quarters, but we pride ourselves on playing well in the fourth quarter,” sophomore linebacker Steve Greer said. “We are going to have to work on that in practice and improve.”

Greer, in his first start of the season, along with senior linebacker Darnell Carter led the team in tackles with nine apiece. Carter had the team’s best opportunity for a turnover, when a Danny O’Brien pass went right off of his hands. In a rather telling twist, the deflected pass found its way into the arms of Maryland receiver LaQuan Williams. On the next play, Torrey Smith took a pass to the 7-yard line to set up Maryland’s first touchdown of the fourth quarter.

“The team that gets turnovers has a chance to do well, and they got two of them late,” London said. “We had an opportunity, but the ball went through Darnell Carter ‘s hands and the guy caught it. It was unbelievable, but that’s the way it goes. They got theirs, we didn’t get ours.”

Smith, the Terrapins’ prolific wideout and return specialist, finished the day with a team-best 157 receiving yards and one touchdown in addition to 59 return yards. He was always one step ahead of the Cavalier secondary and would have broken for several more big plays had O’Brien not overthrown him.

London sees this game as a turning point for the season. There are two games remaining on the schedule, and he doesn’t expect anything less than maximum effort from his players. Although bowl eligibility is out the window, there are still two more opportunities for wins and the chance for an even win-loss record.

“As I told the players in the locker room, we’ve got two games left. You can take it and go south. All of those that want to do that can come by my office tomorrow, and I’ll excuse them from practice for the rest of the season,” London said. “Anyone that wants to go forward and move forward can show up and we’ll get this thing going and get it in the direction we want it to go. We’re a work in progress; it’s rough, it’s not smooth around the edges, but it is what it is.”

>Final Stats

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