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Football searches for answers

The Virginia football team is analyzing every aspect of its play following an overtime loss to Duke that dropped the team's record to .500, marking the first time the Cavs had lost back-to-back home games since 1992.

"I don't think we showed up Saturday in the right frame of mind, and I think it took us a half to get going," Cavalier coach George Welsh said. "We were a much better offensive team in the second half, but we've got to play a full game. You have to be focused on the opposition -- otherwise you're not going to play well."

Following a Duke touchdown in the second overtime, Welsh said he thought the Cavs had struck back after quarterback Dan Ellis hit wide receiver Ahmad Hawkins in the corner of the end zone. However, officials ruled Hawkins had been out of bounds.

"It's a catch by what I see," Welsh said. "It's a tough call, though. To me it's a catch. His foot's about that far from the endline, and he has the ball. His foot's down. The officials need to be accountable too, over the course of a year anyway."

Ellis has come under fire in recent weeks following uninspiring performances against Virginia Tech and Duke.

"I made mistakes, and I've got to overcome that," Ellis said. "I don't think I've gotten worse, but I haven't gotten better, and that's the problem."

"It's not all Ellis," Welsh said. "I don't think he's regressing. I tell you -- it's tough to play in this league as a quarterback for the first time. It's just not easy. The teams that we've had to play are a lot of veteran defensive football teams."

Ellis completed 21-39 passes for only 164 yards Saturday, leading many to question why the offense didn't throw deep more often.

"I don't think anything's wrong with our deep ball," Hawkins said. "If we were connecting, then we wouldn't have the skeptics. We just haven't completed any yet, or completed them for scores. I feel as the season progresses that we'll start throwing deep more."

"We tried to throw deep, but maybe not enough," Welsh said. "We're not getting open when we do run deep."

The defense also has come under fire for allowing Duke to score following a Thomas Jones touchdown with 1:24 remaining.

"We're just shooting ourselves in the foot, and we can't afford for that to happen," cornerback Tim Spruill said. "We don't have enough bodies to just go out there and play. If we rely on Thomas [Jones] to make a play, then we're not going to win any more games."

Welsh suggested players need to rise to the level of last year's team.

"We don't have a wideout like [Terrence] Wilkins right now," Welsh said. "A lot of guys have to step up. Lots of them."

Cavalier special teams also had a mistake-filled game Saturday, from a penalty that nullified an Arlen Harris punt return for a touchdown to a bungled snap to punter Donnie Scott that gave the Blue Devils the ball deep in Virginia territory.

"We're not a good special teams," Welsh said. "We're spending more meeting time on it, but we're not getting it done. All the things we did were not good."

Players also said they thought the team played listlessly Saturday.

"We were just going through the motions," Hawkins said. "It took us too long to start up."

"It was just one of those games where we couldn't complete a pass over 10 yards," Ellis said. "Everything we completed, guys were getting tackled."

The team now needs to focus on next week's contest at N.C. State, Welsh said.

"This is North Carolina State week, and that's all we're talking about," he said. "We're not talking about seven wins or eight wins or five wins. We're talking about North Carolina State -- that's the only way to do it. They're all crossroad games now."

Although the team will try to put Saturday's debacle behind them as they travel to face the Wolfpack, the embarrassment of losing to the previously winless Blue Devils will stay with them as they try to regroup.

"It was just a frustrating game to be a part of," Ellis said.