While the opening slate of four difficult non-conference games was hardly expected to be a cakewalk in the preseason for the Virginia Cavaliers, head coach Mike London and his staff find themselves at a crossroads heading into the bye week in the wake of the Hoos' 56-14 loss to Boise State in Charlottesville last Friday. There will be no rest until the end of the season, as the Wahoos likely need to find a way to win at least five of their remaining eight games in order to save London's job.
At his weekly teleconference Wednesday, London got a bit introspective when asked what he learned about himself as a coach coming out of the stretch. "Well, you're always learning about yourself, about how you prepare the teams, the mindset, how you go into a game, and you just keep evaluating from players' recovery to -- there's so many different things about how you approach it, when you go out west and you come back and you get ready for a Friday game and how you prepare when another team has two weeks to get ready for you," he said.
"You have a great staff of guys that are former head coaches here and collaboratively talking about things to do and improve upon, and that's what we're looking on right now as we go into this bye week, as well, doing whatever we need ... We're going to do things that are going to help this football team perform and execute, and that's some of the things we've looked at thus far, we'll continue to do that and help us find ways to become a better football team," he said.
London also mentioned that defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will remain with the team on the field during games rather than in the press box, where he'd spent the first two years of his tenure in Charlottesville.
London takes solace that three of the four teams they've played so far were all ranked in the preseason, but admits that it's not enough at this point. "[T]his team has learned a lot about trying to -- you have to raise a level of play that's going to allow you to compete against teams that are in such a high level, and every mistake, every error is magnified, and we have to worry about ourselves and take care of ourselves, look at what we do as players and as coaches and improve upon it," he said.
London also spoke at length about the opportunities he and the team have during the week off.
Very positive about the young men that we've had say yes to us, and looking for some good news here from some mid-year guys here pretty soon. Again, it's important to improve as a football team, to continue to recruit for this great university, to continue to have the type of young men that can come in and help this program and be invisible. I'm not going away from anywhere. I'm going to be visible, be out front, and then keep talking about I believe in this program. We talked about the early games. Now it's time for the early games to pay off for us as we go into the conference games.
Some teams are very banged up right now. It's unfortunate. I just heard the news about Fuller at Virginia Tech. It's very unfortunate when a young man who does so much and means so much to a team, when you lose him like that. Sometimes guys, when you're off, they have a chance to come back. But it just kind of depends on where you are health-wise, depends on where you are in terms of your development, depends on if you have younger players that you can use this extra week before you really get into the meat of the season, that they can take some extra reps to get ready to play. Every coach would answer that differently, but for us, it's the right time for us right now.
Somehow. UVa has not had a takeaway all season through five games. That was one of their calling cards last year, especially early on. Case in point:
Now, the Cavaliers are one of two teams (Wake Forest being the other) that hasn't been on the good end of a turnover since the season began. London acknowledges that a bit more work in that area could go a long way.
"There's been a couple plays where the ball has been on the ground and our guy has been there and their guy wrestled it away from us or we weren't aware enough to fall on the ball where it needed to be, a pass breakup that's in the hand of a defender where we need to come down with it," he said. "You just keep harping on it, you keep practicing it, you talk emphasizing it in cut-ups, practice drills, and all those things. I believe it will come, and sometimes it comes in floods, and obviously we need, as I just said before, to be in the plus category to give yourself a chance to win football games when it comes to those possessions."
The first game out of the bye week is at Pitt on Saturday, Oct. 10 at 12:30 p.m. on the ACC Network.