After Virginia turned a six game losing streak into a two game win streak, the Hoos met UNC in a nationally televised Thursday night game, with fans wondering which UVA squad would show up. Though the team kept the game close early, the answer became clear in the fourth quarter: It was the "six-game losing streak" Hoos that had taken the field. Despite playing the Tar Heels about evenly for three quarters, UVA's barrage of errors allowed Carolina to run away with a 37-13 win.
Despite the final score, the Hoos came within 18 inches of tying the game in the 4th quarter. Trailing 20-13, Mike Rocco drove the Hoos down the field, converting one fourth down, and bringing his team to a 4th and goal from inside the 1. The Carolina defensive line blew up UVA's o-line, Kevin Parks was stuffed short of the goal line, and the Tar Heels didn't look back.
Virginia struggled on both sides of the ball. The offense was anemic against a UNC defense that gave up 68 points just four days ago. The defense showed no ability to stop a short-passing game that saw Quinshad Davis tie the ACC record with 16 catches. (Rather than allowing the running clock to hit 0:00. the UNC coaching staff, in a move of questionable integrity, ran him onto the field to attempt to break the record. To Davis's credit, he made no effort to make the catch).
With the loss, Virginia falls to 4-7 and is out of bowl contention; their season will end next Saturday in Blacksburg. Here are some notes on another disappointment for the Hoos
QB rotation not the answer: After two wins in which Phillip Sims and Mike Rocco alternated possessions at the quarterback position, the rotation plan flopped. In these two prior weeks, the fact that both QBs had good games made the rotation look good - not vice versa. Tonight, neither seemed on target, and switching between the two didn't seem to put Sims or Rocco at ease. In a key stretch before halftime, Sims threw a touchdown pass across his body to bring the score to 14-10. Rocco came in the next possession and threw an interception that UNC returned for a touchdown. Rocco and Sims finished a pedestrian 11 for 16 for 155 yards and 8 for 17 for 50 yards, respectively.
Sim showed his potential by airing out a pass that travelled 40 yards, hitting a wide-open Darius Jennings in stride. But Jennings dropped the easy touchdown pass and sealed the Wahoos' fate. The plan for the quarterback position at Virginia Tech is anybody's guess, though it is likely that a rotation continues.
Thin in the secondary: With Maurice Canaday out with a concussion, the Hoos were even thinner at CB than before, and it showed. Davis's 16 catches were mainly short passes and screens; Virginia stayed in base defensive formations all game, not pressing the receivers or bringing pressure on the quarterback. QB Bryn Renner took advantage of the large cushions, completing 29 of 36 passes for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns. Though the defense held the dangerous Giovani Bernard to just 57 yards rushing, UNC was able to move the ball at will through the air.
Red zone inefficiency: The turning point of the game was Virginia's failure to pound the ball into the end zone to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. Despite the gaping final score, if the Hoos had picked up a foot and a half on fourth down and goal, the outcome may have shifted. Though it's tough to fault the play call of a run for KP Parks, who had been effective along with Perry Jones the whole drive, UNC was more than ready for it and blew the play up in the backfield. It's difficult to convert many third and fourth and shorts without some type of misdirection, a wrinkle we haven't seen this season.
"Special" special teams: In our weekly feature on this struggling unit, the special teams logged another poor performance, though it lacked some of the disastrous elements of previous weeks. An offsides call erased a missed UNC field goal, and Khalek Shepherd fumbled a kickoff, which was recovered by North Carolina. Alec Voznelik did a good job of keeping the ball from Gio, but a 28 yard punt from deep in UVA territory was a poor trade-off.
Thank you seniors: Sixteen fourth and fifth-years played their final game at Scott Stadium. Senior night is always an emotional one for student-athletes who have poured their lives into the Virginia program, and we salute all their hard work and accomplishments. Oday Aboushi, Steve Greer, LaRoy Reynolds, and Perry Jones are just a few of the Hoos who will be moving on.
Thank you Scott Stadium it's been a pleasure and an honor. Wahoo for life— LaRoy Reynolds (@Rampagee9) November 16, 2012
What's next?: The battle for the Commonwealth Cup. The Cavaliers have lost 8 straight and 12 out of 13 against Virginia Tech, and are coming off a 38-0 home loss. I tell you this so that all could accept this fact, and now ignore it. The Hokies are currently 4-6 and cannot be bowl eligible without beating UVA. It's a new season, it's a new team, and we are bound to win one of these at some point, right? Virginia has a lot left to play for, and they must give a complete effort to win in Blacksburg. We'll have TONS more on this showdown over the next week.