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The defensive end admits he hasn't responded well to the frustration he's encountered during his recent slump.
Andrew Shurtleff | The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress
Virginia defensive end Eli Harold (right) had 11 tackles and two sacks in the Cavaliers' season-opening win over BYU. Since, the sophomore has a total of eight tackles combined in four games.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The signature win of Virginia’s 2013 football season had Eli Harold’s name written all over it.
In a season-opening 19-16 victory over Brigham Young, Harold had 11 tackles, including 3 1⁄2 for loss, and two sacks.
Problem is, you can total Harold’s stats for the next four games and they don’t add up to his numbers in the opener.
Over the last four games, Harold, a sophomore defensive end, has a total of eight tackles.
“He has to play better,” said UVa coach Mike London, whose Cavaliers (2-3, 0-1 ACC) visit Maryland (4-1, 0-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Harold had some big plays in Virginia’s 47-28 loss to visiting Ball State but they were accompanied by yellow flags.
On an afternoon when UVa was penalized 13 times for 93 yards, Harold was whistled for a personal foul, unsportsmanlike conduct and a facemask penalty.
The unsportsmanlike penalty came on a play when linemate Brent Urban had stopped the ball-carrier for a 3-yard loss.
“Those 15-yarders, whether it’s inadvertent or whether it’s pressing and playing till after the whistle, they are not excusable,” London said.
“When you’re a rusher and you’re rushing the quarterback, you have to know where you’re at and what you’re doing because the referees are [watching]. We just have to be smarter.”
Harold’s frustration may have begun in the second quarter, when he was rushing Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning and was penalized for making contact with Wenning’s head, according to the report submitted to ACC officiating supervisor Doug Rhoads.
“It was really frustrating,” Harold said. “It was a screen play, so my job on a screen is just to kill the quarterback. He kept backing up, so I was like, ‘OK.’ I was just going to push him, but he ducked his head.
“It looked like I hit him in the head with my hand. I didn’t even see the guy. I was just running and he just ducked when he came right to me. I didn’t mean to do it.”
The day had gotten off to an auspicious start for the Cavaliers, who forced Ball State to punt on its first offensive possession. The Cardinals had scored on their first series in all five of their previous games.
However, after the Cavaliers had gone up 3-0, Ball State went on a five-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that lasted one minute, 33 seconds.
“That really got us down and we never got back up as a unit,” Harold said. “It was a blow because they did it so quick. We were hanging our heads. A couple of guys got beat and, over the course of the game, the guys who were getting beat were hanging their heads.”
A Scott Stadium crowd of 38,228, the second-smallest home turnout in London’s four seasons as head coach, didn’t help matters.
“The energy was horrible,” Harold said. “I don’t know what it was. There was not that many people at the game. The crowd behind us was yelling at us. They’re our fans and it’s like they were for the other team. That all comes into play.”
Penalties had not been a major problem for Virginia in its first five games, or for Harold in the past.
“I’ve got to personally man up when things don’t go my way,” he said.
UVa didn’t respond well to Ball State’s no-huddle offense, jumping offside on three occasions.
“We knew they were going to hard-count us,” Harold said. “Being in your stance for so long, waiting for the quarterback to call out his cadence, you get a little tired and you mentally break down. I think that’s where it all started.”
Harold, rated the No. 1 prospect in Virginia as a senior at Ocean Lakes in Virginia Beach, played 463 snaps as a true freshman in 2012 and started in UVa’s 33-6 victory over North Carolina State.
Many predicted a breakout season this year for Harold, who weighed 220 pounds when he arrived at Virginia but was up to 235 by the start of preseason drills in August.
Harold doesn’t believe he is behind schedule.
“I don’t want to make this all about myself,” he said, “but me, personally, I don’t think I’ve hit a bump at all. I was in the backfield a lot. I had an opportunity to get a lot of sacks. I was just an inch away a couple of times. I feel I’m right there.”
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