CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. —
Virginia’s players can only hope that what Wake Forest expects to happen will happen.
The Demon Deacons (3-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) visit Scott Stadium on Saturday. They are coming off an open week, and anticipating the Cavaliers will be better than their five-game slide suggests.
“I’m surprised they’ve lost five straight, seeing them play on film, just because of how good they looked,” Demon Deacons linebacker Brandon Chubb said. “We are prepared, because we have noticed that.”
The problem for Virginia (2-5, 0-3) has not been moving the ball, but putting points on the board. The Cavaliers have emerged from a slow start and averaged nearly 500 yards in their past three games — losses to Louisiana Tech, Duke and Maryland — and have still lost those games by an average of 12 points.
“I definitely know that they’re tired of losing,” Chubb said.
So are the Demon Deacons, who also have lost their last two games to Duke and Maryland. They have also had their share of turmoil with coach Jim Grobe suspending six players before the game against the Terps for violating team rules, and banning safety Duran Lowe and tackle Devin Bolling for this week.
The break, though, came at a good time, Grobe said. The time off allowed several players who were banged up to get healthy, and gave the Cavaliers extra time to prepare for what the coach expects will be a determined opponent.
“We’ve got to go up there to play and take care of the football. We just haven’t played great football the last couple times out, and we’ve got to play better,” Grobe said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”
The game will mark the third start for Phillip Sims at quarterback for the Cavaliers. The transfer from Alabama replaced Michael Rocco as the starter after rallying Virginia against Louisiana Tech, but he was disappointed with his inaccuracy against Maryland and hopes that proves a one-time thing.
He finished 13 for 28 for just 139 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Sims, however, knows it can’t all fall to him to fix the offense.
“Do I feel like a lot of people look at me? I do,” he said.
“I never put pressure on myself to say that I have to lead this team, to say that I have to do this and I have to do that. I’m not going to put that on myself because no one man is going to win a football game. ... It’s just not going to happen.
“You can’t do that on any team.”
The Cavaliers know it, too.
“I think we’re all just frustrated in the sense that we’re moving down the field, having all these big plays and we’ll have these big plays and we’re not producing anything from them,” guard Conner Davis said.
“We’re just not scoring enough points. It just comes down to finishing our blocks, finishing the drive.”
Stopping the opponent more would help, too.
Virginia ranks 99th in scoring defense out of the 124 teams in the Bowl Subdivision, and 88th in scoring offense.
They are 123rd in turnover margin at minus 1.86, having forced just four giveaways, and 100th in penalties, getting whistled for 68 yards per game, including numerous personal fouls.
Cavaliers coach Mike London remains optimistic that things will change.
“You have to show these young men that adversity is going to happen in life. We’ve experienced our fair share,” he said. “At the same time, on the other side, I’ve always said I feel we’re a few inches from making a catch or making a play, tipping a ball, whatever it may be, to start or ignite a spark.”
Entering the stretch drive with hopes of securing a bowl berth, the Demon Deacons are seeking the same, and wary of becoming the team that finally got to see the Cavaliers put everything together.
“Any weekend, any given Saturday, a team can have a few bad weeks then just start clicking,” wide receiver Terence Davis said of Virginia. “It’s just a matter of time before everything gets rolling on all cylinders.”
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