Jake Snyder said for the players to stay at Penn State is “pretty honorable.”
When Virginia released its football schedule earlier in 2012, it knew that Penn State would be playing its first road game of the season in Charlottesville. When the NCAA handed down sanctions for the Nittany Lions’ program in July, however, it became clear that the visitors would have a much different look than expected.
That’s because the NCAA’s penalties included a section that “any entering or returning player is free to transfer without restriction (such as sitting out one season). Others can maintain their scholarship at Penn State and choose not to play.” Nine players, including three regular starters, left the program. Those who moved on to other schools were tailback Silas Redd (USC), quarterback Rob Bolden (LSU), linebacker Khairi Fortt (Cal), safety Tim Buckley (NC State), tight end Kevin Haplea (Florida State), defensive tackle Jamil Pollard (Rutgers), wide receiver Justin Brown (Oklahoma), kicker Anthony Fera (Texas), and Ryan Nowicki (Illinois).
Virginia coach Mike London said his program decided not to pursue any current Penn State players. London cannot comment on recruits per NCAA rules, but the Hoos have added former Penn State commitment Zach Bradshaw to the current recruiting class.
“Not particularly, because of the way you to go about to get them in and how they count against your scholarship numbers. I’m quite sure there are some teams that did some counting and high risk calculations that they’re probably going to lose some players or get rid of some players in order to make room for some of these transfers,” London said. “The scenario for us wasn’t one that we were going to entertain. The only issue for us was guys that perhaps we had been recruiting, and that was it.”
The players that remained at Penn State – and more than 90% of the roster did – have been impacted by the other NCAA sanctions. That’s because there is a four-year ban on postseason play, including the Big Ten Championship Game, beginning with this season.
Virginia’s players said on Monday that they had respect for the PSU players that stayed in the program.
“More than anything, it’s pretty honorable with what they’ve done. You know the NCAA made it pretty obvious that they can get out and got to a different school and go play with no hesitation and no problem,” Cavalier defensive end Jake Snyder said. “Those guys stuck by the school and the program that they love and that’s something that’s pretty awesome I think.”
“I think it shows a lot of courage and a lot of heart by those guys to stick with the program from the unfortunate events going down,” UVa offensive tackle Oday Aboushi said. “For them to stick with it and show their alliance to Penn State is real courage on their part and admirable.”
London said the loss of bowl eligibility can be tough on a program due to the lost practices.
“It’s tough, I’m sure, particularly for the juniors and seniors that have enjoyed those opportunities. I know they’re in a bowl game last year. For the younger players not having the opportunity to play postseason. There is no secret these players like the gift of bowl participation,” London said. “I would say it’s difficult. For us being in a bowl game, it gave you those extra practices. So as a coach, that’s going to be tough, because now once your season is over, there is no ‘get ready for 25, 30 bowl practices.’ The next time you practice will be in the spring. There is an advantage for having an opportunity to practice during the Bowl week and get your players better.”
Still, that time of year is a long way off. The focus this week is for Penn State to play its first road game of the season. That, of course, will bring quite a bit of media attention to this contest from around the country. From Virginia’s perspective, however, the goal is to start 2-0 for the second straight season and treat this like any other game against a quality opponent. London said the Hoos won’t put much time into worrying about the fans’ reactions or the media scrutiny this week.
“Some of it you can control – some of it you can’t control. The numbers, as far as crowd, I would hope that this game is close to being sold out because of the implications of us having a chance to be 2 0. I know at Penn State there is a lot of prestige and a lot of tradition, but we’re getting ready to play a football game and play a football team – not the prestige and tradition,” London said. “I understand they travel well on the road, so I’m sure there will be a well represented crowd for them, but our main focus is playing a game and making improvements from this past Saturday to show this Saturday to get us ready for the following Saturday. We all understand it’s a 12 o’clock ABC game – national TV. There are opportunities, and we’ve been on national TV before, so we’re excited about the challenge that brings this Saturday. ”
The outside perception of Michael Rocco has trended toward ‘good game manager’ as a description of his quarterback style. Reporters asked London if he viewed that portrayal as a positive.
“Absolutely. Every player has their own style and a way they play the game, and that’s what Michael does. He manages the game and makes the throws and the checks and he calls plays at the line of scrimmage. He directs the pass protection. So it’s easy to see a player that can scramble and run and looks ‘oh, wow, and all that.’ But you want to know can he run? Can he control the offense? Can he make the throws and make the decisions? That type of player is the type of player Michael is,” London said. “It’s a positive for us, as long as we continue to keep winning and moving the ball. Every player, every receiver, every DB has their own plus and minuses. So despite those things, they still play, and we understand what their limitations are but we try to use their strengths to the maximum ability. I think Mike’s been taking advantage of that.”
UVa’s Billy Schautz provided pressure on the QB vs. UR.
Schautz Returns With Strong Game
Virginia defensive end Billy Schautz broke two bones in his leg last season at Florida State and needed emergency surgery when he returned to Charlottesville. After a long rehabilitation process, Schautz’s return to action came Saturday against Richmond. In talking with Schautz after the game on Saturday, he said there were “definitely some jitters” in his return but he was glad to be back on the field.
“I was extremely happy to be back out there,” Schautz said. “I think I had a good day. It was tough to get a good, real pass rush going just because they had an unconventional offense. They had a lot of screens, a lot of draws, a lot of cut blocks. The defensive line never really had an opportunity to get a drop-back pass rush opportunity, but when we did, we got a lot of pressure on them. I had three or four pressures. No sacks, though. We’ll improve on that next week.”
The senior made an immediate impact for the defense, earning the team’s defensive player of the week honor. He made three tackles and added a pass break-up, but was disruptive well beyond the official box score.
“He knocked a couple balls down. We’re a zone pressure team, and the quarterback tried to dump one off to the tight end. He did a great job deflecting the pass. He caused three pressures. Pressures make the quarterback throw the ball under duress, which leads to an incomplete pass,” London said Monday. “He had harassed the quarterback, and though the sacks didn’t occur, some of the things that he did in the passing game were those that were recognized by us as a great effort, and I think that’s probably the biggest thing.”
A Penn State Candidate?
When Penn State went through its search for a new coach during the offseason, Mike London’s name popped up at one point as a potential candidate for the job. When reporters asked London about that at Monday’s press conference, he laughed before question even finished.
“Thanks to Desmond Howard for throwing it out there like that. No, I love the job that I have. I love this place, I love this community and I love the players here and what this University stands for. That always happens. There are always people throwing your name out there and then it grows legs, and all of a sudden, it’s a centipede and you have all kind of people talking about it,” London said. “Flattering, perhaps, being mentioned. But at the same time my focus is here, and this is where I want to be.”
One Yard Short
Miranda Mason catches up with senior tackle Oday Aboushi .
The Cavalier scored on 5 of 6 trips to the red zone on Saturday against Richmond. The one drive that did not score from there featured a failed fourth down conversion attempt on 4th-and-1 at the UR 20-yard line. The Spiders stuffed Kevin Parks for a one-yard loss on that play. UVa converted two other fourth down tries in the game.
The one that got away still bothered the Hoos on Monday.
“The only thing is that the red-zone chance on that 4th-and-1 and not getting that, and that’s something that 4th-and-1, we’ve got to get it. Even if you say, we’re going to run the play over here and everybody knows it – I’ve been bragging on the offensive line, so that’s probably … one of the biggest disappointments. We scored five of the six times down in the red zone and that was one that stood out.”
“Every time we’ve got a chance to impose our will on people, especially on 4th-and-1 and to run the ball and not get the yard that we needed, it’s definitely upsetting,” Aboushi said. “We put a lot of it on ourselves and we know what we’re capable of doing. To not get that one yard is unacceptable.”
Worth Quoting Too
Coach London on whether any thought to give Phillip Sims time at quarterback earlier in the game: “We haven’t thought about any of that yet. We’ve thought about how to put the game plan together and where Phillip and Michael fit into this – we’ll continue to finalize that. Phillip has taken a lot of reps in practice along with Michael. They’re the only two now taking reps. As we continue the game plan going into tomorrow and Thursday, then we’ll talk about strategies as far as the who is concerned.”
Kwontie Moore nearly blocked a punt against the Spiders.
- Oday Aboushi graded out at 97% for Saturday’s game against Richmond; he had 7 knockdown blocks. The coaches selected Aboushi as the offensive player of the game.
- The coaches selected Khalek Shepherd as the special teams player of the game.
- Early lines for the game with Penn State this week indicate Virginia is a 10-point favorite. Neither side seemed to put much weight into that during Tuesday’s talks with reporters.
- UVa quarterback Michael Rocco’s father Frank Rocco Jr. was a member of PSU’s 1982 National Championship team.
- Virginia faces a Big Ten opponent for the second straight season. The Hoos won at Indiana last season, 34-31.
- UVa coach Mike London is 1-0 against the Big Ten, but the last time the Cavaliers faced Penn State, they fell 35-14.
- With the Cavaliers’ plan to redshirt David Watford , Greyson Lambert , and Matt Johns this season, London was asked who the emergency No. 3 mop-up duty type of quarterback would be for the Hoos. “Trusty old Kyle McCartin,” London said. A senior, McCartin has trained previously at quarterback but now plays tight end.
- Coach London anticipates different teams trying different kickoff styles, particularly with Khalek Shepherd ‘s success back there. He said the team will practice against all kinds of kicks – deep into the end zone or sky kicks for example – in order to be prepared.
- If you missed it, nine true freshmen made their Virginia debut Saturday. They were Demeitre Brim (OLB), Maurice Canady (CB) Trent Corney (LB), Anthony Cooper (DB), Adrian Gamble (WR), Eli Harold (DE), Kwontie Moore (LB), Mike Moore (DE), and Canaan Severin (WR).
- One true freshman on the two-deep roster for Richmond was C.J. Moore , but he didn’t get into the game. London said: “He’s the next closest of all of the ones that haven’t gone in. C.J. is taking reps with the twos. If it presents itself we’ll get them in the game. We’d like to get him in the game.”
- Depth chart notes: Michael Mooney , a true freshman, is no longer listed as a left tackle back-up, but he is listed as the back-up at right guard. Conner Davis , who had been listed as the right guard back-up, is now listed as the starting left guard with Cody Wallace as the back-up. London said Davis, Wallace, and Sean Cascarano are all considered starters at guard, though.