The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890


Three interceptions, four fumbles lead to debilitating defeat; three quarterbacks prove equally ineffective in spread attack

"It takes a lot of really good plays to win a game," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "It doesn't take very many bad plays to lose a game."\nTry seven abysmal plays.\nCollectively, the seven turnovers Virginia committed Saturday against William & Mary probably cost the Cavaliers the game. But there is a story behind each one of the carefully crafted fiascoes, and they are worthy of discussion.\nSituation: Virginia ball on its own 36-yard line, 4:57 remaining in the first quarter. The score is tied at 7-7.\nAfter two consecutive three-and-outs, Groh pulls senior Vic Hall from the game, inserting senior Jameel Sewell in at quarterback. The drive begins with an ominous bad snap, which Sewell fumbles but eventually recovers for a loss of nine yards. Sewell completes his first pass to sophomore wide receiver Kris Burd down the middle for 25 yards, breaking into Tribe territory. After suffering a sack on first down, Sewell drops back to pass and heaves the ball 27 yards downfield, about five too far for Burd to haul in, but just right for William & Mary cornerback B.W. Webb to grab his first of many interceptions in the game. This mistake is relatively understandable, however, considering this is Sewell's first series since 2007. The fact that the Tribe failed to translate the turnover into points further diminishes its significance.\nSituation: Virginia ball on its own 26-yard line, 5:34 remaining in the second quarter. Virginia leads, 14-7.\nIn the previous possession, Sewell orchestrated an 84-yard drive which resulted in a Cavalier touchdown, courtesy of an eight-yard rush by the quarterback himself. Eager to move the ball downfield once again, Sewell attempts two passes. The first is completed to Burd for four yards. The second hits senior tight end Joe Torschia in the chest and bounces into the hands of Webb in Cavalier territory, marking his second interception. One minute and 11 seconds later, William & Mary kicker Brian Pate converts a 40-yard field goal. Clearly, this turnover falls on the shoulders - or hands, rather - of Torschia, who simply dropped a very catchable ball.\nSituation: Virginia ball on its own 32-yard line, 3:21 left in the second quarter. Virginia leads, 14-10.\nGroh pulls Sewell after his second interception and reinserts Hall into the game. The move merely maintains the status quo, resulting in another Virginia turnover of a different variety. On third-and-three, Hall is stripped of the ball and dives forward. He emerges from the fray empty-handed, the memory of his 34-yard touchdown run all but forgotten.\nSituation: Virginia ball on its own 25-yard line, 1:12 remaining in the second quarter. Virginia leads, 14-10.\nGroh stays with Hall at quarterback, hoping to advance the ball quickly downfield before halftime. Junior Mikell Simpson breaks a 20-yard run to midfield, inching the Cavaliers closer to field goal range. Two plays later though, junior center Jack Shields snaps the ball to the ground, practically handing the ball to the Tribe.\n"The ... ball never really got off the ground," Groh said. "How can that happen? It's as befuddling to me as it is to you. I can see - couldn't accept it - but could understand maybe snapping it over the quarterback's head - at least the ball became airborne. It's hard to understand why the ball didn't become airborne."\nAfter a couple completions by quarterback R.J. Archer and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, William & Mary is primed for another score on the Virginia nine-yard line. Pate converts a 26-yard field goal as time expires in the half, narrowing Virginia's lead to one point.\nQuick interlude: The Cavaliers have committed a turnover on three consecutive possessions.\nSituation: William & Mary ball on its own 46-yard line, lined up to punt on fourth down. 7:51 remains in the third quarter; Virginia still leads, 14-13.

Hall muffs the punt on the Virginia five-yard line, and the Tribe recovers the ball on the nine.\n"We've caught hundreds of punts," Groh said. "We catch 'em every day in practice; there's a right way and there's a dangerous way. It wasn't where the player caught the ball - it was how the player caught the ball. He caught it in a very dangerous way - that the odds are almost always that something bad is going to happen."\nA couple of reflections: After the game, Hall said the team's punt return policy allows the returner to catch any ball outside the five-yard line. Even if this is the case - which seems to be a fairly risky policy considering most balls which drop inside the five tend to bounce into the end-zone for a touchback - Hall probably should have called for a fair catch, given the onslaught of Tribe special-teamers closing in on him. In addition to this mental error, it is unclear whether Hall even touched the ball. The play likely warranted a challenge from Groh, as a turnover virtually guaranteed that William & Mary would take the lead, which it did.\nSituation: Virginia ball on its own 20-yard line, 8:43 remaining in the fourth quarter. Virginia trails, 16-14.\nNewly instated quarterback Marc Verica completes four consecutive passes, advancing the ball to the Virginia 47-yard line. Stranded in an empty backfield, however, the junior is hit from behind and the ball comes loose as he continues his throwing motion.\n"It's just one of those things where you wish you had it back," Verica said. "There's nothing really I can do - the ball just slipped out."\nIt seemed that Verica was on the cusp of executing a comeback in a scenario few predicted ever would arise. But without a formidable pass-block to protect him from the Tribe pass-rush, Verica was left wondering what-if. With the clock dwindling and another field goal posted by the Tribe, this may have been the Cavaliers' most crushing turn of fortune.\nSituation: Virginia ball on its own 40-yard line, 3:50 remains in the fourth quarter. William & Mary leads, 19-14.\nGroh turns to Sewell to answer Virginia's prayers. Webb has a higher calling. Having apparently foreseen each and every Jameel Sewell muscle movement, Webb flies to the sideline, jumps in front of the Cavalier receiver, and dashes down the field for a touchdown with his third and final, game-sealing interception.\nThese seven turnovers translated into 19 points for the Tribe, bringing into question the viability of offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon's new spread offense. Groh insists these problems are entirely independent of the so-called "new system."\n"There are certain things that transcend any system that you're in," Groh said. "Being able to snap the ball properly, carrying the ball high and tight so that you don't fumble it, catching punts properly - those things - it doesn't make any difference what your system is - you did that in the previous system."\nWhether the turnovers were a product of a team adjusting to new schemes or not, the result - a 26-14 defeat to William & Mary - is cause for concern. The Cavaliers are currently a 12-point underdog to their next opponent, Texas Christian University. In the words of Groh, it will probably take "a lot of good plays" to win that game.\nAbout seven fewer turnovers also might help.


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.