While filling out my All-ACC ballot and experiencing some not-so-infrequent computer issues, I missed a Mike London conference call this afternoon, but I’ve listened to the playback twice.
Nothing particularly earth-shattering came out of it but I was interested in London’s comments on a running game that produced a season-low 30 yards in a 17-14 loss Saturday at Virginia Tech.
“I think if you asked [offensive coordinator] Bill [Lazor] and the offensive staff, going into the preseason it looked like one of the strengths of the team would be the offensive line as far as being able to run the ball,” London said. “That didn’t come to fruition the way we thought.”
Ironically, the Cavaliers also rushed for 30 yards against the Hokies in 2011, when Tech won in Charlottesville 38-0. But that UVa team had four games in which it rushed for 200 yards or more and averaged 162.1 yards per game on the ground.
This year, the Cavaliers rushed for more than 200 yards only once, in a 33-6 victory at North Carolina State. They averaged 128.5 yards per game on the ground.
UVa rushed for 30 yards as a team against Tech, 32 yards against Penn State and 48 against Wake Forest.
Hopes for a punishing running game were based on the return of two running backs who had rushed for more than 1,600 yards last year, Perry Jones and Kevin Parks, as well as three starting offensive linemen.
One tackle, senior Oday Aboushi, was a second-team All-ACC pick in 2011. The other tackle, 6-foot-6, 335-pound junior Morgan Moses, was entering his third season as a starter.
Junior Luke Bowanko was moved from guard to center, but going into the ninth game of the season, Miami coach Al Golden said Bowanko was the best center he had seen all season.
So, what was the problem?
One thing you can say was that graduated guard Austin Pasztor was probably better than even his first-team All-ACC selection in 2011 would have suggested. And the combination of 2011 honorable-mention center Anthony Mihota and Bowanko was better than the combination of Bowanko and any of 3-4 guards who received ample playing time this year.
On today’s conference call, London cited UVa’s inability to convert third downs (3 for 14 overall, 0 for 5 in the second half) as a big problem.
Maybe so, but I tend to agree with Lazor, who said Saturday that third downs wouldn’t have been a big problem if the Cavaliers had been a little more successful on first and second down.
I’ve felt for some time that the Cavaliers have become too predictable on first downs, running the ball on 21 of 25 first downs against North Carolina, with only one of the runs going for more than 9 yards.
UVa wasn’t quite as predictable in its playcalling Saturday but FIRST DOWNS were clearly a problem.
Virginia had a total of 11 yards on its first eight first-and-10 plays at Tech and, if you deduct a holding penalty, the net gain was 1 yard.
The Cavaliers passed for more than 3,000 yards as a team — the first time in school history that UVa has had 3,000 passing yards in three straight seasons. That just makes we wonder if the Cavaliers wouldn’t be more successful if they tried to set up the run with the pass and not vice versa.
London said on the conference call that five players had X-rays Sunday: defensive tackle Chris Brathwaite (knee), defensive end Brent Urban (knee), safety Brandon Phelps (knee), quarterback Phillip Sims (hand) and wide receiver Tim Smith (ankle).
When asked about possible changes to the staff, London responded, “We’;re going to evaluate everything. That’s my responsibility — to look at the program in its entirety.”
Nobody asked about clock-management decisions at the end of Saturday’s game but I will seek London’s comment on that in coming days.