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Virginia hasn’t won in October since 2011 and three defensive starters are out with injuries.
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack has turned around the Yellow Jackets football program.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Virginia will seek to avoid a second straight October 0-fer when Georgia Tech visits Scott Stadium today for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Cavaliers (2-5, 0-3 ACC) haven’t won a football game in October since their 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl team beat Miami 28-21 in a Thursday night game televised by ESPN.
Since then, the Cavaliers have lost six straight games in October, four of them as a favorite and a fifth as a one-point underdog.
It seems the oddsmakers have finally cooled on Virginia, a 10-point underdog to a Georgia Tech team that has lost nine of its past 10 games in Charlottesville.
In fact, the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2) had lost three straight games this season before they pummeled ACC newcomer Syracuse 56-0 last Saturday in Atlanta.
It was the first time that Georgia Tech and Syracuse had met since 2004 and the Orangemen had no answers for coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack.
“I got outcoached,” first-year Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said. “I’m disappointed in myself. I really am. We thought we had a really good game plan but we really got our butts kicked today.”
The Cavaliers know what it’s like to have had their butts kicked by Georgia Tech, having dropped a 56-20 decision last year in Atlanta, but at least they have a little more knowledge of Johnson’s scheme.
First-year UVa defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta was an assistant at North Carolina State when the Wolfpack and Yellow Jackets split two games in 2010-2011.
Before its game at Georgia Tech, Syracuse switched to a 3-4 defense, an alignment favored by one-time Virginia head coach and Georgia Tech assistant Al Groh.
In hindsight, Shafer said, the scheme was sound. But, don’t look for the Cavaliers to make the same switch.
Virginia’s base defense is a 4-3, although the Cavaliers frequently add a fifth defensive back in place of the third linebacker.
Georgia Tech’s run-oriented offense may preclude that, as would the absence of three UVa defensive starters.
Out for the fourth game in a row is junior cornerback Demetrius Nicholson, who was on the field for 1,654 of 1,699 defensive snaps in his first two seasons.
Defensive tackle Brent Urban, injured early in the second quarter at Maryland, will miss his second straight game.
“It’s a huge loss,” said Vincent Brown, who coaches the UVa defensive linemen. “Brent Urban has developed into a very, very good player [who is] on the verge of becoming a dominant force inside.”
A second starting cornerback, Maurice Canady, will be out of uniform as well.
“There are not too many other names to go to,” said UVa coach Mike London, who has been practicing former starting safety Brandon Phelps at cornerback.
“We have to match and identify what the threats are, then put the best players in position to minimize those threats.”
Virginia’s biggest problem of late has been a propensity for fading in the second half. UVa held a lead or was tied at some point in the second half in consecutive losses to Ball State (48-27), Maryland (27-26) and Duke (35-22).
“We talk about it and bring it to the players’ attention and bring it to the leadership’s attention about, ‘Hey, listen we need that energy,’ ” London said. “We can only do so much from the sideline looking out there. A lot of it has to be self-motivated.”
The recent losing streak has left Virginia with a 6-15 record over its last 21 games, including a 4-15 record against Football Bowl Subdivision competition, and prompted speculation that London might be on a “hot seat” in the second half of his fourth year.
London didn’t use that term specifically this week but alluded to his job status when he said, “I believe that I’m the right man for the job.”
Johnson said it only feels like he’s on the “hot seat” is when he’s losing, which, if he’s lucky, is still going to be 30 or 40 percent of the time.
“I think that sometimes people build all that stuff up,” Johnson said. “You can’t worry about it. You’ve just got to do your job and do the best you can do.
“I’m sure that’s what he’s [London] doing.”
Weather JournalMidday update: More ice likely later