Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 2, 2013

Virginia hoping good break is first of many

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia coach Mike London and his players hope that a dramatic season-opening against BYU is a sign that some game-changing bounces might finally go the Cavaliers’ way this year.

Though they didn’t get many bounces in 2012, Virginia will need to keep those positive fortunes coming when it hosts No. 3 Oregon on Saturday.

The fast-paced Ducks present a challenge like almost no other. They are coming off a game in which they gained 772 yards, including 500 on the ground, and didn’t punt in a 66-3 victory against Nicholls State.

Virginia trailed BYU until Anthony Harris intercepted a tipped pass in the final minutes, lateralled it to Henry Coley and the linebacker took it to the 13 yard-line. Kevin Parks ran it on the next play in the 9-16 victory

“We always talked about (this) this summer, the games that we have lost the past year, but we always talk about making big plays,” left tackle Morgan Moses said. “Anthony Harris and the defense came through with a helluva play. I commend the defense because they played lights out on Saturday for us. Just being able to be a part of a moment like that is special.”

It’s also the kind of victory that can set a tone for a season, Coley said.

“I’ve seen how the first game can definitely determine how that whole season will go, and for us to be resilient and make the adjustments that we needed to make throughout the game in order to come out with the victory, it definitely showed how our team could be and how we can respond to adversity,” he said.

After London made wholesale changes to his staff in the offseason, bringing in new offense, defensive and special teams coordinators, and an associate head coach for offense, things have changed.

“I think the outcome of this game kind of shows how we’ve retrained our mindset,” said wide receiver Darius Jennings, who scored Virginia’s first TD. “We’ve tried to retrain our team the whole offseason.”

The retraining included playing more up-tempo in practice, in part to get prepared to start the year against the Cougars and the Ducks, two teams that try to play at a blistering pace.

Rallying at the end “showed our toughness,” Jennings said.

Doing it against Oregon would be another matter entirely.

The Ducks have ranked in the top 10 in total offense in six of the last seven seasons, while the Cavaliers’ revamped offense led by sophomore quarterback David Watford managed touchdown drives of just 19 and 13 yards against the Cougars.

The 19-yard was set up by a blocked punt, also by Harris.

Virginia cornerback Maurice Canady said the offensive numbers for the Ducks are eye-opening, but noted that Nicholls plays at the Championship Subdivision level, one notch below the Bowl Subdivision level.

“It’s very impressive,” Canady said, “but we’ll see when they get here.”

But London said his message to his team this week will be about opportunity.

“That’s what college football is all about, having the opportunities to play on those days that a lot of people say that you can’t win,” he said. “A lot of people said we wouldn’t be able to beat BYU. And I know, no disrespect to BYU, I know Oregon is number two or number three in the country right now.

“So our mindset has to be one of we’re playing at our place, we’ve got to bring energy and passion because we know they’re an excellent football team. But instead of asking ‘Why?,’ we ask ‘Why not?”’

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