Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 2, 2012

Cavaliers ‘Roc’ the Spiders


AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Michael Rocco threw for 311 yards and a touchdown and Virginia beat Richmond 43-19 in the season opener for both teams Saturday.

The game marked the start of Danny Rocco’s career as the Spiders’ coach, but his nephew and the Cavaliers had their way pretty much all afternoon.

Rocco finished 25 for 37 with a touchdown on a short pass that Darius Jennings took 51 yards for a score. Kevin Parks ran for two touchdowns and Perry Jones ran for another for Virginia.

The Cavaliers took a 16-0 lead in the first 6:27, had to settle for two field goals in the second quarter and put the game away with touchdown runs by Parks in the third quarter and Jones early in the fourth.

Heralded Alabama transfer Phillip Sims, who replaced Rocco with the score 36-12 in the fourth quarter, was 5 for 6 on Virginia’s final scoring drive.

The Cavaliers outgained Richmond 523-201 in the first three quarters, and much of the Spiders’ yards came after the game was well in Virginia’s control.

Rocco looked sharp and made few mistakes for the Cavaliers, who are trying to build on last season’s 8-5 record and first bowl appearance since 2007. He just didn’t make things easy on his uncle, who is trying to help Richmond rediscover its recent success.  Richmond won the Football Championship Subdivision national title in 2008 with Virginia coach Mike London as coach, but has had four coaches in the past four seasons.

Michael Rocco led touchdown drives on Virginia’s first two possessions, and the Cavaliers had a 22-0 advantage before Richmond scored.

The Spiders’ first touchdown came late in the first half when Michael Strauss, a former Virginia backup, came on for one play at the Virginia 3 and hit Kendall Gaskins at the goal line.  Strauss made the throw with linebacker LaRoy Reynolds in his face, and Gaskins caught the ball in heavy traffic. A missed extra point made it 22-6 at halftime.

The teams alternated scoring drives in the third quarter. Parks ended a 63-yard march for Virginia -- set up by Rocco’s 44-yard pass to Tim Smith -- with a 1-yard dive. Richmond then got first downs on four consecutive plays and marched 75 yards in nine plays, capped by John Laub’s 4-yard pass to Seth Fisher, making it 29-12. But Jones scored early in the fourth quarter, and Khalek Shepherd’s 1-yard run on the Sims-led drive made it 43-19.

The Spiders added a touchdown in the closing minutes.

Richmond did little right early, going three-and-out without gaining a yard on their first two possessions. As if that wasn’t bad enough in Rocco’s first game as coach, the Spiders also snapped the ball over punter Nick Hicks’ head on the second punt, and he kicked the rolling ball out of the end zone for a safety to make it 9-0. They also had an early shotgun snap go awry, costing them a 13-yard loss as Laub fell on the ball.

Two plays after the free kick, Rocco hit Jennings on the left sideline and he juked his way past several defenders on his scoring run, making it 16-0 after just 6:27.

The Cavaliers outgained Richmond 149-7 in the first quarter, and added field goals of 45 and 23 yards by Drew Jarrett in the second quarter. The second was set up by Jake McGee’s first career reception, a spectacular sprawling one-handed, 17-yard grab to the Spiders’ 25.

The Spiders finally got on the board late in the half, driving 88 yards. Laub twice converted third and long plays with long passes, and Strauss’ pass finished it off.

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