Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 18, 2012

Virginia Cavaliers defense must move on

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia coach Mike London said a short memory is a necessity this week.

The Cavaliers (2-1) need to put Saturday’s 56-20 loss at Georgia Tech behind them because it conjures up bad memories. The Yellow Jackets had touchdowns of 70 and 77 yards and a 60-yard run — all in their first four plays from scrimmage — and finished with 594 yards of offense.

If Virginia doesn’t forget about the blowout, No. 17 TCU could hand the Cavaliers another on Saturday.

The Horned Frogs (2-0) are led by quarterback Casey Pachall, and he leads the nation in passing efficiency. He’s missed on just six of 39 passing attempts this season, had a string of 16 consecutive completions end earlier in the year and has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Still, forgetting the game against the Yellow Jackets might be especially hard for Virginia’s secondary. The unit consists of four sophomores, three of whom are learning on the job, getting the first significant playing time of their careers.

“When you’re back there, you have to have a short memory and move on to the next game because if you tie your identity into a particular game, it’s a long season,” London said Monday.

“That was game three.”

It was also against a triple option, something the Cavaliers won’t see again until next season. The defense will be reminded this week that it has fared much better against more traditional offenses.

The Cavaliers held Penn State to 330 yards in Virginia’s 17-16 victory; Richmond had just 266 as the Spiders lost 43-19 to the Cavaliers in the season-opener for both teams.

“We just have to keep the positive mindset,” defensive end Ausar Walcottt said. “Coach is always talking to us about staying positive. It’s only the third game. We have a whole season to play still, so we’re going to just continue to practice with excitement and play every day like we want to play.”

The older players will make sure the young ones get the message.

“We definitely have to show the younger guys how it’s supposed to be done,” Walcott said. “As a senior, we could hang our heads and things like that, but then the younger guys are going to just look to us and think that’s the way it’s supposed to be done, so we definitely don’t want to do that.

“We want to keep our heads high and let them know that it’s only the third game. You’ve still got to keep fighting.”

Georgia Tech got a 70-yard touchdown pass from Tevin Washington to Zach Laskey on its first offensive play, a 77-yard touchdown run by Orwin Smith on its third offensive play and a 60-yard run by Washington on its fourth offensive play, setting up Washington’s touchdown run that made it 21-7 after 12 minutes.

It was 35-7 by halftime, and 42-7 entering the final quarter.

“They just played harder than us. We just weren’t ready as a defense,” Walcott said. “We just weren’t ready to play. I mean, every team goes through it once in a while, and we went through it on Saturday.”

Free safety Anthony Harris and the rest of the defensive backfield — which includes three freshmen and a junior on the two-deep depth chart — won’t be allowed to dwell on their shortcomings.

“You have to go look at the things that need fixing, but you have to build the kind of mindset that you’re going into another environment, going into another place that they’re capable of putting up as many points as they put on anybody else when they’re playing well,” London said. “You have to have confidence.

“That’s all I’ll talk about to these guys about — letting that one go and then moving on.”

It is a learned way of thinking, Harris said, and essential to success.

“You have to be strong mentally, overcoming different adversities and things like that,” he said.

“The captains, they’ve been talking to us, the coaches as well. We just want to come out here and show people that we can compete at a high level. This is a new challenge for us.”

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