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[RYAN M. KELLY | The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress
Virginia running back Kevin Parks (left) gains yardage against Georgia Tech on Saturday. Parks has scored nine rushing touchdowns this season and has 23 for his career.Virginia running back Kevin Parks (25) rushes for a gain as Georgia Tech defensive tackle Euclid Cummings (99) dives for the tackle in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Ryan M. Kelly)]
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE - With Halloween quickly approaching, here's what's haunting Virginia's football team:
Second- or third-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
The Cavaliers' inability to score touchdowns in goal-line situations was a major issue in recent losses to Maryland and Georgia Tech.
This past Saturday, junior running back Kevin Parks got the call on second-and-goal from the Georgia Tech 1 with six seconds left in the half. Time expired as Parks was stopped for no gain.
The Cavaliers went into halftime down 14-10 and lost 35-25.
Two weeks earlier, Virginia twice kicked short field goals at Maryland after Parks was unable to score on third-and-goal from the 1. UVa lost that game 27-26.
"It's frustrating; I don't know what other way to put it," said junior tight end Zach Swanson, who usually is in the game when Virginia runs the ball. "Those are must-have situations. You've got to punch it in right before half.
"You're not always going to score on long throws. Situations come up and that's a situation that's persistently plaguing us. I remember the UNC game last year was the same situation and here it is again this year."
North Carolina was leading Virginia 20-13 late in the third quarter in 2012 when Parks got the call on fourth-and-goal from the 1. The Tar Heels stuffed him and pulled away for a 37-13 triumph.
"Maybe it's different play-calling or maybe it's assignments within the play," Swanson said, "but I think that needs to be the next thing that we start focussing on because I feel we've moved forward in a lot of aspects of the offensive game."
No one is questioning Parks' determination. After all, he has scored nine rushing touchdowns this year and has 23 in his career, good for eighth place on UVa's all-time list.
Parks has not exhibited any reluctance to run inside, but at a listed 5 foot 8 and 205 pounds, he is not the prototypical short-yardage back.
"I don't know if he weighs 205," said UVa coach Mike London, leaving the impression that 205 might be a little high. "That's probably what it says in his bio."
London then referred to statistics that show Virginia is second among 14 ACC teams in success percentage on third-and-1, 2 and 3.
"When you look at it overall, we've been successful," London said. "It is frustrating, in the big moments, that it hasn't occurred for us."
Virginia doesn't have a big back in the mold of 6-3, 255-pound Keith Payne, who had an ACC-leading 14 touchdowns for London's first UVa team in 2010. Behind Parks are Khalek Shepherd (5-8, 185) and Taquan Mizzell (5-10, 185).
Odds 'n' ends
London said he has spoken to Doug Rhoads, ACC supervisor of football officials, and is sticking by his statement that he attempted to call timeout with 11 seconds remaining in the first half Saturday against Georgia Tech. Officials stopped play with six seconds left prior to the Yellow Jackets stopping Parks.
n Junior safety Anthony Harris said he didn't know until he checked Twitter on Sunday morning that he was tied for the Football Bowl Subdivision lead in interceptions. Harris' two interceptions gave him five for the season, tying him with four other players, including Virginia Tech freshman Kendall Fuller.
"He is one of the toughest players on our team," London said of Harris. "He gets guys lined up and does a great job of running the defense, along with ... he's involved in a lot of tackles" (62, two behind team leader Henry Coley).
Still an issue
Virginia's four kickoff returns Saturday went for 13, 18, 12 and 10 yards and did not total the 59 yards that Georgia Tech's Lynn Griffin gained on the kickoff return that led to the Yellow Jackets' second TD.
"We talked about this game [with Georgia Tech] having to have a special teams play or plays in it to help us win," London said, "and we did not get that.
"When you have a returner in Darius Jennings that was doing a pretty nice job in the return game and not having the opportunity to extend the field because of a [missed] block or two, that's not good enough."
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