Kris Burd ‘s 112 receiving yards helped the Hoos reach bowl eligibility.
The Virginia football team opened the second half at Maryland on Saturday like a team on a mission. The defense shut down the hosts and the offense repeatedly ripped through the Terrapins en route to a dominant 31-13 win.
The victory accomplished several things in one fell swoop:
- It snapped a 13-game November losing streak that dated back to the 48-0 win over Miami in the Orange Bowl in 2007.
- It gave UVa three straight wins in College Park.
- It produced back-to-back conference road wins for the first time since October 2009. It is also the first time the Hoos have won back-to-back ACC games under coach Mike London.
- It pushed Virginia to at least three ACC wins in a season for the first time since 2008.
- It ended a three-season drought of bowl eligibility.
Needless to say, the Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2 ACC) returned to Charlottesville as a happy group.
“It feels great. They came into our place last year and left us with a bitter taste,” UVa senior Kris Burd told the Virginia Sports Network. “We came out here with the revenge attitude, the don’t-quit, put-it-away type of attitude. We did that today.”
“Four years, this is what I’ve been waiting for and this is what you always want as a college player is to go to a bowl game. Right now we’re at six, but we’re going to keep going. We’re hoping to get nine or 10 or however many wins we can get,” senior captain Rodney McLeod told the Virginia Sports Network.
“I just think these guys and the spirit of never quitting and the spirit of believing in each other … know that there’s a lot of believers in that locker room right there. They believe in a lot of things,” Virginia coach Mike London told the Virginia Sports Network. “It’s great to see a summer of preparation, a game week of preparation come to fruition when it could have went the other way and it has in the past. Hopefully, with two road wins now and playing a really dominant second half, we’re truly on track. But you have to show up and play every week because everyone wants to win.”
The Hoos turned the important road win into a rout at the start of the second half.
The defense shut down Maryland’s first drive and the offense followed that up with a 94-yard touchdown march that appeared to break the Terps’ spirits. The drive finished with a fourth down run from Perry Jones as the Hoos went for it inside the five. On the play, Jones took the ball to the left behind his blockers and then bounced it outside for a 1-yard touchdown virtually untouched. The TD pushed Virginia’s lead to 21-13.
UVa wasn’t done. McLeod snared the first of his three interceptions to give the ball back to the offense quickly. Virginia again mixed up the plays and drove 66 yards for the score. Senior Max Milien capped off the drive with a 17-yard touchdown catch. On the play, quarterback Michael Rocco zipped the ball into the flats to Milien, who paused as he moved up field in order to cut back inside of a block from Tim Smith . Robert Randolph later added a field goal to make it 31-13 before a fourth quarter turnover exchange between the two teams left the final score at the 18-point margin.
“It was like a tale of two halves. The first half we didn’t play as well as we could have, particularly on offense,” London told the Virginia Sports Network. “We came back both sides of the ball just playing lights out. My hat goes off to the defense – three or four fourth down stops and in the red zone, instead of giving up touchdowns, we gave up field goals. That’s huge when you’re on the road.”
Those two drives were part of an impressive wire-to-wire showing for the offense. Virginia, after all, opened the game in similar fashion. Khalek Shepherd ‘s kickoff return gave the offense great field position and one play later Jones burst up the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown. Other than a few penalties and a fumble in the first half, the rest of the game followed a similar script. In the end, the Hoos piled up 527 yards of offense (220 rushing, 307 passing).
Jones led the way on the ground with 139 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns; he averaged 6.3 yards on 22 carries. Kevin Parks added 67 yards on 14 carries. In the receiving game, Virginia had two players surpass 100 yards for the first time since 1998 when Terrence Wilkins (141) and Kevin Coffey (111) did it at Virginia Tech. Kris Burd hauled in 9 balls for 112 yards, while Smith added 5 catches for 101. Tight ends Paul Freedman (2-18) and Colter Phillips (1-8) also had three catches.
Michael Rocco and the Hoos cruised to a win at Maryland.
Rocco had an efficient afternoon in the pocket where he completed 23 of 36 passes for 307 yards. He tossed 2 TDs and 1 INT. After starting the season with 1 touchdown pass and 8 interceptions in the first four games, Rocco has thrown 7 touchdown passes with just 2 interceptions in the five games since then. UVa has posted a 4-1 record in those five games.
“As you can mature as a sophomore quarterback, he’s doing it. He’s making some great throws, making the reads, he’s audibling and doing a lot of things that you want a seasoned quarterback to [do],” London told the Virginia Sports Network. “As a young guy, he’s really picked up the mantra as far as putting the offense on his back It was great to see him, great to see Perry, great to see Timmy catch a few balls, Kris Burd . When it clicks, it really clicks.”
Defensively, the Cavaliers allowed just one touchdown drive and it followed a first-half fumble. Two big runs put Maryland (2-7, 1-5 ACC) in striking distance and C.J. Brown found Devonte Campbell for the 13-yard touchdown pass. Otherwise, the Terps struggled to crack the UVa defensive code for most of the afternoon. The hosts managed to accumulate just 353 yards of offense and they committed 5 turnovers. The rushing game, which entered the game ranked fourth in the ACC at 172.8 yards per game, produced just 84 yards. Virginia has held back-to-back opponents to less than 100 rushing yards for the first time in the London era.
In addition to his three interceptions, McLeod led the Hoos with 7 tackles and had 1 pass breakup as well. Linebacker Aaron Taliaferro posted 6 tackles with 1 Tackle For Loss to lead the front seven. Demetrious Nicholson , Corey Mosley , Steve Greer , and LaRoy Reynolds all added five tackles each.
“We just made some halftime adjustments and said to ourselves if we come out and play our type of defense that we’ve been playing all year, we’ll come out victorious and if we shut them out, we’ll win because we were up at the time,” McLeod told the Virginia Sports Network. “Coach [Jim] Reid had a great plan for us, made some great adjustments, and we just executed.”
Executing is exactly what the Hoos have been doing during most of the ACC games following the bye week. Other than the hiccup to NC State as a matter of fact, Virginia has controlled the flow of the game and dictated the style of play on both sides of the ball against Georgia Tech, Miami, and Maryland. The results have been encouraging.
Of course, the results have also pushed the Cavaliers into bowl territory for the first time since the 2007 season’s run to the Gator Bowl. More importantly, however, the Hoos remain in contention for Coastal Division title and a spot in the ACC Championship game in December. Not that Virginia is talking about any of those things. London continues to preach the quality vs. quantity message as he’s concerned more with how his team plays than the eventual number of wins in 2011. That’s why the focus has turned to Duke for next weekend’s game and not the potential destinations for the future.
“Coming into this game we tried not to think about [bowl eligibility] too much. We didn’t want to let the past two or three years effect now. It’s good that we are bowl eligible, but we are still trying to look for more wins,” Jones said. “The bowl is secondary right now; our primary goal is to continue to get wins.”
“The key is to do whatever we can to block better, tackle better and minimize mental errors. That’s the most important thing in particular,” London said. “[We have] to learn how to win and learn how to win and come back and win another game. Those are the steps that this program has taken and all we see now is the next step and that is the next game.”