Coach Mike London knows that his team needs to clean up its act with regard to penalties.
The theme of the day at Monday’s press conference was penalties. Virginia has been racking up the yellow flags in recent weeks, leaving fans hungry for answers. Cavalier head coach Mike London was busy breaking it down for the press at the John Paul Jones Arena. London said 25 percent of Virginia’s penalties come on holding calls, 15 percent percent are false starts, and 9 percent are defensive offsides.
“You look at things like this and you make sure you address it [in practice] by getting an umpire to stand back there and officiate up front what’s going on. If you see anything close to a hold, throw it. But that’s all part of that process of learning,” London said. “But people say what about the lack of discipline? The lack of discipline would be personal fouls, unnecessary roughness with your head or sideline warnings. I think we have to do a better job of teaching hand placement with receivers, offensive linemen or anyone that’s blocking on the perimeter.”
Some of the Cavalier players attribute the penalty problem to hyper focus, rather than a lack of focus. On the holding calls, it’s hard to realize that you’re beaten, and sometimes letting a block go to avoid the dreaded holding call doesn’t even cross a player’s mind until it’s too late.
“Sometimes you get out of position and you don’t want to let the block go, so you try to hold on as long as you can,” offensive tackle Oday Aboushi said. “We’ve got to work on keeping our feet moving, hand position, and keeping our hands inside of the block.”
Defensive end turned tight end Jeremiah Mathis says that false starts often come as a result of nerves and hyperconsciousness, rather than a lack of discipline.
“False start is – it’s tough to say a lack of concentration because you really don’t – sometimes you’re just trying to concentrate so hard that it’s just like, you end up twitching or you end up making a move,” Mathis said. “Nobody’s going to come out of the huddle going, ‘I’m going to jump offsides’ but sometimes the stadium gets so loud and you’re concentrating so hard to focus on the snap count that it’s over-concentrating.”
The Injury Bug
It’s official: senior cornerback and team captain Ras-I Dowling is done for the season with an ankle fracture. Dowling has yet to undergo an MRI to ascertain the extent of the damage, but the injury was sustained Saturday at home against Maryland. The NFL prospect has been plagued by injuries all season long and hasn’t been at full strength all year with separate hamstring and knee issues; the ankle problem was a hard-luck play and not related to the season’s previous injuries. This is a huge disappointment for both Dowling and the coaching staff, who hoped to see some contribution from the senior during the final stretch of his career as a Cavalier.
“It’s unfortunate because he’s such a great young man, a great captain and a great leader. He still has a bright football future ahead of him,” London said. “I just saw him a few minutes ago, and Ras I was upbeat, I mean, Ras I is prayerful and his faith is very meaningful to him. And he’s looking at this as just a tiny setback as he is moving forward. We wish him the best in his recovery and I know he’ll be ready for Pro Day in April.”
Junior offensive tackle Landon Bradley is also done for the season, and has surgery scheduled for Tuesday to correct his injured knee. Bradley is looking at a long timetable for his return; the Cavaliers hope to have him back to full strength for spring practice in 2011, but he also may need surgery on an injured shoulder, which could set him back.
“What we always do during the season is look at guys that are playing, that can continue to play, and then do postseason surgeries,” London said. “You look at guys that if they need it now – like Tim Smith , a guy that had an opportunity for surgery during the season and will be back by spring – but Landon we’re talking about the summer going into the fall for him being ready to go.”
Keys to the Game
It’s easy to classify Boston College as a very one-sided team. The Eagles have relied heavily on their defense this season in the wake of an unproductive, stagnant offense. True freshman quarterback Chase Rettig has taken over the starting job after erratic performances from sophomore David Shinskie. Rettig gets a lot of help from junior running back Montel Harris. Harris leads the conference and is ranked 11th in the country in rushing yards per game.
“I tell you, he’s an outstanding running back. You talk about seeing the holes and hitting it downhill or being able to jump cut or you think you have him tackled and then all of a sudden he gets out of the tackle or the scrum, so to speak,” London said. “He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He also returns kicks and he’s fast and he’s elusive.”
Sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly , who rose to prominence last season as the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, anchors the Eagles’ fearsome defense. Kuechly leads the nation in tackles, and is the only player in the country to have two 20-tackle games this year. The defense as a whole has only allowed one offensive touchdown during the past three weeks of competition. Boston College doesn’t have any fancy schemes or trickery, just a solid group of guys who hit hard and play fast.
“They believe in keeping the ball in front of them, zone pressuring, making you make a mistake,” London said. “And the linebackers have to run you down and make you have to block those big linemen up front. So I think collectively they’ve done a nice job.”
With two games left on the 2010 schedule, London and the Virginia coaching staff aren’t adverse to mixing in some of the younger players. The Hoos are still in it to win it, there’s still a chance to finish 6-6, but it’s not too early to look toward the future.
“In practice this week it’s going to be a full competition for people who want to play and there’s going to be more opportunities in practice for people to show what they can do, and if they take advantage of those opportunities then they’ll get on the field,” sophomore tight end Paul Freedman said. “It’s not because we’re not bowl eligible; we’re still trying to win these last two games and play the best people, but I think he’s just giving more of an opportunity in practice this week.”
Fear not, Cavalier fans: there definitely won’t be a wholesale burning of redshirts over the next two weeks.
” I want to win, but I want to develop players. I want to win the right way,” London said. “I’m not going to burn redshirts. I’m just going to try to develop guys as we go along.”
Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Mathis made his second-ever appearance at a Monday press conference, following his first career touchdown reception on Saturday. Mathis made the move earlier this season from defensive end to tight end, and brought his signature sparkle with him to the press room.
“They always asked me, ‘What would you rather have, a touchdown or a sack?'” Mathis quipped about his move from defense to offense. “I would always say sack, and as soon as I got the touchdown I came back to the sideline and Joe Torchia asked me again. I was like ‘Touchdown. I would rather have a touchdown.'”
Mathis’ first career score came on a one-yard pass from quarterback Marc Verica . Maybe as important as the touchdown is the celebration and Mathis seems to think he has some work to do before his next trip to the end zone.
“It was pretty, you know, neutral. I didn’t want to do too much, and I didn’t want to get a flag because we were down. I didn’t want to try to help the team then hurt the team, so I just gave a little something to the student crowd then got back in the huddle,” Mathis said. However, the Ochocinco-in-training had a few ideas heading into the game. “We talked about me punting the ball. Some people talked about throwing the ball. Me personally, I was going to do a lot of stuff. When I saw it on film I was saying, ‘Man, where’s my swagger?’ But it’s all good.”
- Coach London was an assistant at Boston College from 1997-2000, and Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani was an assistant at Virginia from 1985-1990.
- Keith Payne leads the ACC in scoring with an average of 9 points per game.
- One more touchdown pass will move senior QB Marc Verica into the top 10 in career touchdown passes at UVa.
- Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo is one of the top NFL O-Line prospects this year, as well as a Rhodes Scholarship nominee.
“I think the first week I had practice on the other side, Corey Mosley just killed me. (laughter) I’ve seen him kill some people out there in practice, and being on the other side of it is not fun. It’s not fun.” – Jeremiah Mathis on the transition to offense.
“When he says he loves you, you know it. When he says that this is a family, he wants this to be a family.” – Mathis on Coach London’s attitude toward his players.
“Don’t overthink it, just go as hard as you can and make a full-speed mistake because sometimes it could end up being better.” – Paul Freedman , who played last year as a true freshman, shares his advice to the younger players.
“These guys haven’t quit in one way, and one player’s not said anything about what to do. They want to learn more. That’s progress to me. I’m seeing progress in the classroom and tremendous progress in the classroom and in the community, things like that. So no one’s quitting. There’s a lot of fight left.” – Mike London on his team’s attitude as the season winds down.