A Dismal Day for the Defense

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It’s back to the drawing board for Al Groh and Al Golden.

As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard today at Byrd Stadium, the Maryland students chanted, “Over-rated! Over-rated!” at the #19 (and soon to be unranked) Virginia football team. Thanks, guys. Tell us something we don’t know.

Maybe the Cavaliers are a top-20 team at full strength, though that’s debatable. What’s obvious right now is that this team isn’t top 50, not with so many injured stars, so many problems on defense, so many issues and concerns and question marks. That may change as the season progresses, but it will take better health, better coaching and perhaps a lot of soul-searching to turn things around.

In a way, you could see this 45-33 beatdown coming after shaky performances against Western Michigan, Syracuse and Duke. Those opponents, while inferior in talent, exposed some UVa weaknesses that a decent team like Maryland could exploit. But from a defensive standpoint, I don’t know if anyone imagined things would be this bad.

The Terrapins have some good, young talent on offense, so give credit where it’s due. But they aren’t Southern Cal. They shouldn’t have been able to gash through the middle of UVa’s defense with the running game and absolutely pick apart the Cavalier zone for 42 points and nearly 600 yards.

As Al Groh acknowledged, Maryland ran the same two running plays all day – a draw up the middle and an option outside. Lance Ball, who entered the game with 130 career rushing yards, ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns as the recipient of those draws. Keon Lattimore , Jo Jo Walker and Sam Hollenbach rushed for nearly 100 more yards on the options. Same plays, same results, almost every time.

“We tried four or five scheme changes to try to alleviate that problem,” Groh said. “None of them really worked.”

The Cavs even switched to a 4-3 defense at the start of the second half, but to no avail. Didn’t matter whether it was a 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, nickel or dime package, the defense wasn’t