The Cavaliers come off a thrilling win against Miami and the ACC Rookie of the Year frontrunner Duke Johnson last week. The Hoos face a strong Carolina team that boasts a Heisman candidate in Giovani Bernard. Virginia Head Coach Mike London offers his early thoughts on the game.
A tall order is on hand this week, with both the Virginia Cavaliers and North Carolina Tar Heels coming off short weeks to prepare for a Thursday night game in the national spotlight. The Heels are banned from the post-season, so their only role at this point is the ruin the lives of Wahoo fans everywhere, as Virginia tries to win out its season in hopes of earning a bowl berth.
Head Coachspoke with the media earlier this week on what they did to prepare for this game.
"It's challenging," London said, "because normally on a Sunday when you come in, you watch the opponent tape, and then you may do some scouting report stuff, then you go out on the field and you do corrections of what just occurred."
"We didn't look at the Miami tape because we went right to the Carolina tape and the scouting report of the who and the what - because there's so many different facets that they have with formation - that you just have to be on top of. We did show some highlights of the Miami game and obviously did some correction there that we have to make note of, but we spent more time talking about and worrying about what Carolina does."
While Monday is typically a day off, Virginia nonetheless held practice, and treated yesterday as a combination of Wednesday and Thursday practice. On Wednesday night, if you're in Charlottesville, you'll find the team practicing under the lights at Scott Stadium to simulate (More like SIMS-ulate, if Brian Schwartz were writing this) the night game feel and the funny effects that the lights and the shadows can do to the ball. Virginia also has the benefit of a little extra practice time, since the Tar Heels will have to spend just about a full day on Wednesday traveling to Charlottesville.
When asked whether he looked at last year's Southern Miss team, where Carolina Head Coach Larry Fedora had just come from, London said, "Coach Fedora was successful at Southern Miss and what he did there, and he brought [a] large part - if not all - of his coaching staff to Carolina and implemented that scheme and that system that was productive for him. So we have looked at some of the Southern Miss tape, particularly when we played them. But when you look at the games that they've played this year, you see a Southern Miss philosophy. You see how many games, seven, eight, nine games now, so that's been part of the evaluation"
Virginia will have their hands full with Giovani Bernard, who leads UNC with over 1,000 all purpose yards and 11 touchdowns.
"Bernard, he's an excellent player in all facets. As I said, he's No. 1 in the country in punt returns. He is No. 3 in the country, I believe, in rushing yardage and in the top five, I believe, in total yardage. So he's a dynamic player that they have that you have to know where he's at all the time. He's won games for them."
"He's a phenomenal talent. ... our approach will have to be to know where he is at all times and how we kick it to him and how we defend him. It's going to be crucial for guys to be running to the ball, particularly we've seen him break through some arm tackles because it looks like he's so strong lower body wise, he runs through would be tacklers. He's a phenomenal talent for them for sure."
Sounds like Miami's Duke Johnson from last week, right?
"I think [facing Johnson last week] definitely makes you more aware of the capabilities of a guy like [Bernard] ... that is going to require attention by the entire defense. We've played against some pretty dynamic running backs this far through the course of the season, but definitely Johnson and I would say Bernard is one of those guys ... So definitely a dynamic player that you're going to have to know where he is at all times. Our work is cut out for us."
Work is cut out for the Hoos no doubt. Virginia opened as six point underdogs at home on Thursday. The line has since shifted to +3.5 today.