Sunday, October 07, 2012
Long ball no help for Cavaliers
Duke's Jamison Crowder (3) battles Virginia's Demetrious Nicholson (1) at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C., on Saturday.
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Aaron McFarling's blog
DURHAM, N.C. -- One of the reasons behind Virginia's quarterback change this week was Phillip Sims' ability to deliver the long ball.
Sims' longest completion Saturday in a 42-17 loss at Duke came on a crossing pattern to Dominique Terrell that went for 38 yards, but Sims' repeated attempts to throw long were in vain and seemed at times to stifle the UVa offense.
"When you go with the long ball - [running back] Perry Jones threw one also - it's high-risk/reward and we didn't come up with the big plays that we had hoped to," UVa offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said.
The Cavaliers were without Sims' one-time high-school teammate, Tim Smith, who entered the season as Virginia's ranking deep threat. Smith had suffered an apparent hamstring injury in a 44-38 loss to Louisiana Tech last week.
Sophomore E.J. Scott started in Smith's place and finished with five catches for 98 yards. UVa freshmen Canaan Severin and Adrian Gamble were both the targets of long balls - Severin in the end zone - but could not come up with the ball.
Duke senior Conner Vernon, on the other hand, had touchdown receptions of 37 and 45 yards. On the first one, he outbattled UVa cornerback Demetrious Nicholson for the ball. On the second, cornerback Drequan Hoskey and safety Brandon Phelps were step for step with him.
"The long passes that were thrown, our defenders are right there," UVa head coach Mike London said, "but [the Blue Devils] made great catches. On the other side, the balls were just over the fingertips or just off the hands."
Virginia was 4 of 16 on third-down conversions for the game and, on several occasions, Sims seemed to have the running room to pick up a third-and-1 or third-and-2 but would throw the ball downfield.
"You like your quarterbacks to have an awareness of the sticks," said London, who added that the receivers are expected to stay downfield in case the quarterback does decide to scramble for first-down yardage.
Michael Rocco, who had started 18 consecutive games before Saturday, entered the game following Duke's final touchdown with 2:48 left and completed two of four passes for 7 yards.
Rocco had passed for 1,116 yards in Virginia's first five games but had been intercepted eight times, compared to six touchdown passes.
Sims had a 5-to-0 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio before Saturday but was picked off twice by the Blue Devils and did not throw a TD pass.
By the numbers
Virginia, already last in the ACC in turnover margin, now sits at minus-12 for the season, including minus-5 with no turnovers forced in the past two games. â? The scoring margin in Virginia's past six losses (over eight games) is 38, 19, 36, 20, six and 28, an average of 29.5.
A 95-yard first half enabled UVa senior Perry Jones to finish with 19 carries for 100 yards, the first 100-yard game by a Cavaliers' running back this season. â? Sophomore Clifton Richardson made his first appearance in three games and finished with five carries for 15 yards.
Odds 'n' ends
Virginia's loss was its third in a row at Wallace Wade Stadium and its fourth in the past five meetings with Duke, although the Cavaliers lead the overall series 33-31. â? The Cavaliers had gone 16 quarters without a rushing touchdown before Kevin Parks' 1-yard run in the first quarter. â? Steve Greer's 10 tackles put him over the 300 mark for his career at 309, good for 12th place in school history.
Virginia next week
The Cavaliers (2-4, 0-2) will celebrate homecoming at 3 p.m. against Maryland (3-2, 1-0). The Terrapins surpassed their 2011 victory total with a 19-14 victory Saturday over Wake Forest in College Park, Md.