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Reeling Virginia football hosts Terrapins in Homecomings game

Homecomings Weekend rivalry contest brings possible redemption; London demands players create turnovers, rectify third-quarter play

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This Saturday marks a day of rich traditions as Virginia continues its storied rivalry against Maryland on the weekend of the 88th Homecomings. The Cavaliers (2-4, 0-2 ACC) play the Terrapins (3-2, 1-0 ACC) for the 55th consecutive year and the 76th meeting. Maryland is currently winning the series with a 42-32-2 record and also boasts a winning record at Scott Stadium.

Virginia (2-4, 0-2 ACC) returns home after an abysmal 42-17 defeat to Duke in sophomore quarterback Phillip Sims’ first start as a Cavalier. Sims tallied 268 yards but completed only 21 of his 42 passes. He threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, failing to cement his position above original starter junior Michael Rocco.

“I’m quite sure there were some throws that he’d like to have back or some decisions that maybe he’d like to have, and he’s just a competitor,” coach Mike London said. “Throwing for almost 300 yards, that’s a positive, but with two turnovers, that’s a negative.”

The offense was not the only unit that proved ineffective against Duke. The Cavalier defense allowed more than 40 points for the second game in a row and was again unable to record a takeaway, giving the unit only one interception and two fumble recoveries in six games.

“We got to start focusing more on turnovers because we haven’t done a good job of that,” junior defensive end Jake Snyder said. “I think turnovers and making plays is something we’re going to be working on, and hopefully [we] get back to it again soon.”

Saturday’s game against Maryland may prove an excellent opportunity for Virginia to begin forcing turnovers. The Terrapins rank 116th in the FBS season with 16 giveaways, including six interceptions by freshman quarterback Perry Hills.

Virginia will also be looking to do a better job of closing out the game against Maryland. In their previous two games, the Cavaliers have entered the locker room holding onto a lead only to let it slip in the third quarter. The third quarter has plagued the squad all season, with Virginia only mustering a total of 14 points all year in the third period and getting outscored 48-0 in the quarter the last four games. In the second half at Duke, Virginia allowed 28 unanswered points.

“Would we like to be playing better [in the second half]?,” London said. “Yes, we would, and we have to play better because ultimately that’s my responsibility,”

The Cavaliers must secure a win against the Terrapins if they wish to finish October without a losing record. After hosting Maryland, Virginia will welcome lowly Wake Forest and enjoy a bye before pivotal ACC showdowns in November against N.C. State, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

London and the Cavaliers are also hoping for a strong homefield advantage, prompted by the combination of Homecomings, a deeply rooted rivalry and a halftime appearance by former Cavalier tight end Heath Miller. This support will be reenergizing for a team that returns home from a deflating road defeat.

“Seeing … our people yelling for us, for our guys, is important,” London said. “We want to put a game together that our fans can be proud of.”

The game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.


Published October 11, 2012 in FP test, Sports

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