By HANK KURZ Jr.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. —
Virginia’s offensive problems are found in the numbers.
The Cavaliers (2-5, 0-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) are averaging nearly 500 yards over the past three games, a figure that would rank in the top 20 nationally over a full season. They lost all three.
There have been defensive and special teams breakdowns that contributed to all three losses, but for all the yards the offense is putting up, it has averaged just 25 points in those games. That figure would rank 84th in the nation.
How to make the yardage translate into more points remains a focus and source of frustration for coach Mike London and his team as it prepares to face Wake Forest (3-3, 1-3) this weekend.
“It’s very frustrating,” said quarterback Phillip Sims, who made his second start last weekend in the Cavaliers’ fifth straight loss, 27-20 to Maryland. “As a quarterback, scoring points is your job. That’s how you stay around. If you don’t produce, the offense doesn’t produce, somebody else goes in. End of story.”
Sims, the transfer from Alabama who replaced Michael Rocco as the starter two games ago, had a miserable day against the Terrapins, completing just 13 of 28 passes for 139 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
He was replaced by Rocco in the final quarter, and Rocco led a touchdown drive, then threw four consecutive incompletions when the Cavaliers got the ball near midfield with just under two minutes left.
Sims will remain the starter when the Demon Deacons arrive, London said.
He also expressed his support for offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, whose playing calling was considered conservative late in the game with Virginia trying to rally.
More than once, fans booed the play selection when it didn’t pan out.
“I support my coaches. That’s important,” London said. “I know that the plays that are called are called to be successful. What happens when they’re not successful, then everyone knows it. I think that Bill, on a couple of occasions, if he could, maybe he would do it over again. But these guys go into the game with the best plans available, best options, best opportunities. They look great when they work. When they don’t, they’re up for discussion.”
Tight end Jake McGee, who caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Rocco with 4:10 left to pull Virginia within a touchdown of the Terrapins, said the scoring numbers in recent weeks are disappointing because the yards are there.
Virginia gained 625 yards against Louisiana Tech, which had 385 yards and won 44-38. The Cavaliers had 461 yards to Duke’s 394 two weeks ago, but the Blue Devils won 42-17. Virginia also outgained Maryland 386-235, but lost again.
In all, the Cavaliers have lost five straight.
“You get enough yards and move the ball enough where you should have a chance to win some of these games,” McGee, who leads Virginia with four TD catches, said. “But we’ve got to fix the small things to come out on top.”
McGee wouldn’t say that members on the offense are pressing, but said playmakers are well aware of the issues.
“We haven’t finished drives as well as we should have,” the 6-foot-5 sophomore said. “As an offense, our job is to get seven points on the board. Three’s okay, but we want to score, we want to try to score touchdowns every possession.”
Or at least more often than the opponent.