College Football: Virginia sees silver lining

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 27, 2011

Associated Press
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — It was strength against strength, and Virginia coach Mike London was trying to give his No. 24 Cavaliers a sense very early in the game that they could play with No. 6 Virginia Tech.
But on a fourth-and-2 play from the Hokies’ 6 and with Virginia looking to keep alive a touchdown drive to answer one by Virginia Tech, Kevin Parks gained only one yard.
Call it a momentum swing.
“The strength of our team is our offensive line,” Cavaliers guard Luke Bowanko said. “There’s a lot of things that go into a play. It was well blocked. There are one or two guys that get edged and Virginia Tech made a great play on their side of the ball. That changes a lot of things that happen during the game, but we expected to get that and we need to do better.”
Instead, the Hokies took over, and after an exchange of punts, a 96-yard touchdown drive doubled their lead to 14-0. Add another to open the third quarter, and the Cavaliers never recovered in a 38-0 loss — their worst shutout loss at home since a 55-0 drubbing against Clemson in 1984.
Gone was their chance to play Clemson for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship next week.
But unlike the past three seasons, when a loss to the Hokies ended their season, Virginia (8-4, 5-3 ACC) has another chance to end on a better note in a bowl game.
“We have to turn the page and watch the film and get better,” Michael Rocco said after throwing two interceptions and fumbling. “We have done a good job after a loss of coming back and playing better, so I have faith that we’re all going to study hard and come back and redeem ourselves.”
Logan Thomas threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and David Wilson scored on two long runs in the second half as the Hokies (11-1, 7-1) won their eighth in a row in the series and 12th in the last 13 meetings. They earned the league’s Coastal Division title and a rematch with No. 18 Clemson in next weekend’s conference title game in Charlotte.
The Cavaliers had won four straight and seemed ready to finally challenge their in-state rival, but never got their running game going. Virginia came in averaging better than 177 yards on the ground, but gained only 30 on 26 carries — enabling the Hokies to apply plenty of pressure. Rocco had been sacked just 11 times coming into the game, but was thrown for a loss four times.
The Cavaliers gained just 241 overall yards.
Wilson capped the third-quarter drive with a 27-yard burst to the left side. He added a 38-yard run up the middle for another TD in the fourth quarter to send fans heading for the exits.
Wilson finished with 153 yards on 24 carries and tied the ACC record with his 10th 100-yard game of the season. Thomas was 13 for 21 for 187 yards and ran for 27 yards on seven tries.
The 6-foot-6, 254-pounder got started right away, too.
He hit Marcus Davis for 36 yards on the Hokies’ first play from scrimmage, and Wilson broke off a 17-yard run on the next play. A 5-yard run by Wilson and 15-yard facemask penalty on Chase Minnifield moved the Hokies to the Virginia 14, and Thomas ran it in from there.
Virginia tried to answer, but Parks was stopped on fourth down.
The Cavaliers also drove to the Hokies’ 10 in the fourth quarter, but Rocco was sacked by James Gayle for an 11-yard loss on third-and-3, and Robert Randolph missed on a 38-yard field goal attempt.
Following an exchange of punts, which forced the Hokies to start at their own 4, Thomas twice converted third down plays with first-down runs, then hit Davis again, this time for 52 yards.
On third-and-8 from the Virginia 16, he hit Jarrett Boykin over the middle for the TD.