At the end of the game, Mike London put it best: "This one's on me" No argument here, as a comedy of errors (that was not at all funny) led to the season's first loss in Scott Stadium. Our previous matchup with the Golden Eagles in Hattiesberg resulted in a heartbreaking finish, and this one was no different as David Watford couldn't quite lead the Hoos back. Here's a few thoughts running through my (not yet cooled off) head:
Coaching: I love Mike London - he is a great guy, fantastic representative of the program, and obviously a capable recruiter. But today makes me seriously question his ability to manage a football game. Going for two after the first UVA score was one of the more asinine decisions I have seen. While this choice is ultimately up to the holder, it was the coaching staff that instituted the play. I'll talk a little more about QBs, but Watford should not have been thrown into the fire when the Hoos took possession at their own 1. On the possession immediately before halftime, I don't think Rocco should have been in any position to throw his second pick. After UVA recovered a fumble around midfield, we went for it on 4th and 2, killing our field position and putting the defense in another terrible position. During the endgame, London failed to use all of our timeouts on defense, a baffling decision that allowed the Golden Eagles to run an extra 40 seconds off the clock. Together with a strange QB rotation and plenty of bonehead mistakes, these coaching miscues cost us the game.
Hoos our QB?: Michael Rocco started the game pretty well. He moved the ball nicely in the first quarter, leading to two quick touchdowns, and was in a nice rhythm was his receivers. The only problems were the three unacceptable interceptions he mixed in. He finished 16 for 24 for 140 yards and no TDs. David Watford entered after Rocco's third pick. At first, the offense stagnated; Southern Miss stacked the box against the run, and Watford's few passing attempts were off-target. Just as my head hurt from screaming for Rocco again, something seemed to click; UVA marched down the field for a 10 play, 76 yard touchdown drive. With the ball and a chance to win, Watford pulled off an impressive 15 yard scramble before turning the ball over on downs. There will be lots of questions about who the starter will be next week, and I'm not positive what the coaching staff will decide. Ultimately, I think Rocco gives us the best chance to win right now; while Watford had an impressive drive, it was against a prevent defense and still featured some poor passes that receivers made plays on. Hopefully Rocco comes out next week, as I don't think a QB controversy helps anyone.
C'mon Fans: Lots of students were observed leaving at halftime today. While people have homework, drinking, and fratting to do...the heavy exodus was unacceptable. I've always been a huge defender of our students as sports fans but was pretty disappointed today. The crowd that hung around was rowdy, and Scott was rocking in the end. Would've been nice to have a full house then.
Other Mistakes: This is becoming a recurring theme. While the number of penalties was down to 4 for 40 yards today, they came at awful times. Most damning was Chris Hinkebein's kickoff out of bounds after our late touchdown. Southern Miss caught our punt team napping and converted a fake punt on 4th and 15 from their own 8, a huge momentum swing. Special teams definitely was a major factor in this loss. The unit was a strength for us last year, and today was an unwelcome step back.
What it Means: This was a game I had counted as a win in my mental "Path to a Bowl." Now, next week's game against Idaho remains a must win, and the Hoos will have to go at least 3-5 in the ACC to qualify for a bowl. The disappointing aspect is that I think we are a better team than Southern Miss and blew a winnable game. More of our questions will be answered this week...and hopefully our QB situation is set before the rest of the ACC schedule gets underway.