Cavaliers Falter Against VT

Coach London and the Hoos suffered a tough loss against Virginia Tech on Saturday.

In a season where the Cavaliers exceeded expectations and went on a streak-busting spree, they couldn’t shake one final demon in the season finale on Saturday. The Virginia football team dropped a painful 38-0 decision to Virginia Tech in the game for the ACC’s Coastal Division title, marking the program’s eighth straight loss to the rival Hokies. It’s the first time Virginia was shut out in 61 games, dating back to the 17-0 loss to VT in 2006.

It’s the second time in five seasons that the Hokies won a showdown with the Hoos where the winner would play for the conference title. This season Virginia Tech advances to the ACC Championship Game to take on Clemson. UVa, which ended a 13-game November losing streak, a 3-game Duke losing streak, and a three-year streak of losing seasons in 2011, awaits its postseason bowl fate with an 8-4 record.

“I told them it’s okay to be disappointed because it is disappointing. To have worked hard to get yourself in a position to play in a big game, to represent your side of the conference in the big game, and then to have a game get away where you get beat on the field offensively and defensively is disappointing,” Cavalier coach Mike London said. “That disappointment can’t be overshadowed by the fact that there were a lot of achievements that happened this year. There’s a lot to be proud of. We’re disappointed because we didn’t win this game. But, for where we were last year and going into the chances of winning this year, and the games that we won, how we won, I’m proud of the team. We have a lot of work to continue to do, and continuing in this process, yes we do [have work to do]. You get that with recruiting. You get that with developing your players and making them better. You get that with the chance of playing in bowl games where you now have extra practices to get your younger players ready for spring practice. Something we haven’t had in a long time is the opportunity to continue to develop players because you have an opportunity to get ready for bowl games. We’re disappointed, but at the same time, 8-4 and the chance to be 9-4 for this program? I’ll take that.”

While the turnaround this season provided excitement and renewed hope for the long term outlook of the program, the loss to the Hokies will still sting for a while for many. After all, Virginia Tech erupted for 17 fourth-quarter points to rub salt in the wound as Virginia stumbled in the in-state showdown once again. VT has won the eight meetings in this streak by a combined score of 260-79, an average of 22.6 points per contest. Only 2008’s 17-14 outcome was decided by less than one score.

In this game, Virginia Tech capitalized on big plays and Cavalier miscues to slowly pull away to a comfortable win. On both of its first-half scoring drives, VT had at least one play of more than 30 yards to spark a march to the end zone. On the first play of the Hokies’ opening drive, they hit Marcus Davis for a 36-yard pass that eventually led to a 14-yard touchdown run for Logan Thomas . On the second touchdown drive in the second quarter, a 52-yard pass play to Davis set up a 16-yard scoring catch for Jarrett Boykin .

For Thomas, those big throws to Davis were part of a strong night at Scott Stadium. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 187 yards and 2 TDs; he added 27 yards and a touchdown on the ground too. Running back David Wilson added 153 rushing yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns (27 yards and 38 yards). Wilson’s 27-yard score opened the second half and pushed the visitors’ lead to 21-0.

Virginia coach Jim Reid said Thomas handled the pressure sent his way well and that made a big difference for Tech’s offense and in the final outcome.

“The strategy was to try to put a little bit more pressure on Logan Thomas to try to get him to get the ball out quicker, but they did a very nice job of addressing the blocking schemes. … We changed and went back to a little bit more of what we had done the previous week [at Florida State] and we hit a place where I think we got them off the field on third down either two or three times in a row,” Reid said. “I tell you Logan Thomas did a very good job reading our coverage today and getting the ball to the receiver that was open. I haven’t seen the film, but I don’t think we had coverage breakdowns. I think it was the fact that he made some really good throws and the receivers ran some very good routes and they pass protected very well.”

UVa, meanwhile, couldn’t capitalize on its chances in the early going. On three of its first four drives and five times total in the first half, Virginia moved the ball into Tech territory but stalled without points. One of the most critical of those drives came late in the first quarter as the Hoos got the ball inside the opposing 10-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert a 4th-and-2 situation.

London said that turn of events did affect the game’s momentum.

Michael Rocco fumbles on this sack, one of four sacks allowed by the Cavaliers.

“It was the opportunity to send a message to our guys up front if you’re going to win championships, if you’re going to win games, you’ve got to be able to knock people off the ball and gain a yard, particularly with your favored run plays” London said. “They did a good job of defending it, and we didn’t get it. It set the tone for them to go the other way.”

“I thought that was a big play even though it left us deep in our territory. I appreciate their philosophy that they want to hammer you but I also appreciate that we want to hammer them back,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “[Jack] Tyler did a great job right here and that was a big, big play in the ball game.”

All in all, that drive was part of a tough day for the offense. UVa mustered just 241 yards of offense as Virginia Tech’s defense smothered the running game – Virginia had a paltry 30 yards rushing at game’s end. The Hoos’ longest run of the night was a 12-yard reverse to Darius Jennings . Kevin Parks led the hosts with 17 yards on 7 carries, while Perry Jones added 13 on 6 carries.

Though the Cavaliers did complete some big plays in the passing game, they were too inconsistent through the air to punish the Hokie defense. UVa starter Michael Rocco finished 16-of-27 passing for 211 yards with 2 interceptions. He was sacked four times after the Hoos allowed just 11 in the previous 11 games. Once things became one dimensional and the scoreboard became lopsided, VT’s defense brought relentless pressure to put the game away for good. Rocco also fumbled on Virginia’s final drive of the first half when Tech blitzed with two players from the left side of the defense.

Four turnovers (tied for the season high, while the defense did not force a turnover for the first time this year), no running game, and an unbalanced attack aren’t how this offense is designed to work. All of it combined with an 0-3 night in the red zone was simply too much to overcome.

“I thought they finished the drives better than we did. They kept us out of the end zone. We had some opportunities in the first half when we drove the ball down the field and we had a chance to be in the game and they did a really good job stopping us,” Virginia offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “I thought they played just like we’ve seen them play – they played fast and they played tough and they stopped the run. For us right now where we are, we’re at our best when we can do both and they took part of that away from us so it hurt us.”

Kris Burd grabbed 7 receptions for 100 yards.

“We just couldn’t finish. We got down to the red zone a bunch of times, but it was just little things,” Rocco said. “Either we had a penalty or a dropped ball or a bad pass – we didn’t finish. We talk about being finishers all year and didn’t finish in the red zone today. It hurts. It doesn’t feel good.”

Senior receiver Kris Burd proved to be one bright spot for the UVa offense. He hauled in 7 catches for 100 yards. Burd has made at least one catch in 35 of the last 36 games for the Cavaliers, including 27 straight. Burd’s eighth career 100-yard receiving day, the fourth time he landed in that category in 2011, gives him 2,087 career receiving yards. He is sixth on Virginia’s all-time list, just 55 yards behind Germane Crowell (2,142, 1994-97) and 66 behind Tyrone Davis (2,153, 1991-94).

Otherwise, Senior Day at Scott Stadium turned out to be a game to forget. That’s something the Hoos will try to do as they wait to figure out what postseason bowl will invite them to play. Ultimately, that carrot is the only thing that makes this year’s defeat to Virginia Tech more bearable than the past three years that ended with the rivalry loss.

“Last year at this time, I was packing it up and putting it away for the season. For us to have an opportunity to go in a bowl game and play is another opportunity for us to step on the field,” Burd said. “It’s my last game coming up. It’s going to be an emotional game and I’m looking forward to it.”

Final Stats