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Vandals visit Scott Stadium

After two straight close losses, London eyes four consistent quarters

The Virginia football team enters Saturday's matchup against Idaho seeking four strong quarters of football.

One week removed from a closely-contested loss to Southern Mississippi, the Cavaliers (2-2, 0-1 ACC) welcome the Vandals (1-3, 0-1 WAC) to Scott Stadium and hope to rectify the slow starts which defined their past two losses. During those games, Virginia trailed by eight points or more going into the half, leading to sloppy and hectic plays which created more problems than solutions. This weekend, Virginia's top priority is playing high performance football for the whole game.

"Certainly play calling, certainly the players' initial emphasis on the first couple plays - all those things are important," coach Mike London said. "I think sometimes we start playing that way third, fourth quarter and are trying to catch up. We need to play that way from kickoff until halftime and then play like we continue to play from the third and fourth quarter on."

The change starts with defense. Facing Idaho's veteran quarterback, redshirt senior Brian Reader, Virginia will try to prevent the big plays which marred last week's loss to the Golden Eagles. Reader comes in with eight touchdowns and only one interception for the season, posing a challenge for a Virginia defense that has been unable to force turnovers.

"Defensively, we have to create more turnovers because I think it boils down to the possessions again," London said. "When you have turnovers or create those type of turnovers and you're on the plus side, then a lot of times it reflects your record because you have more opportunities to score, so we need to create more turnovers."

Despite its strong aerial attack, Idaho does have glaring weaknesses. Opponents score an average of 32.8 points against the Vandal's defense, and the offensive line has allowed 12 sacks in just four games. After losing its past two games by a combined 58 points, the Vandals are undoubtedly struggling to keep pace in a state where college football headlines are dominated by Boise State.

Virginia also has some wrinkles to iron out. After sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco tallied three interceptions and a rib injury last Saturday, freshman quarterback David Watford took the reins of the offense and nearly orchestrated a comeback against the Golden Eagles. London, however, quickly subdued any rumors of a quarterback switch.

"The quarterback is Michael Rocco," he said. "I'll find out what's wrong with him physically, and then after that, we'll talk about if he can perform. I'm worried about the young man's health right now. If he can't go, then obviously that question is, 'Who's going to be the quarterback for this upcoming game?' Right now, there's no controversy."

While potential questions surround the Cavaliers' passing game, the rushing attack has become the Cavaliers' backbone, as they have run for at least 150 yards during each contest this season.

Virginia offers a one-two punch at tailback with redshirt freshman Kevin Parks and junior Perry Jones - a tandem which has accumulated more than 500 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Jones highlighted an otherwise dreary loss to Southern Mississippi with 131 total offensive yards. Still the team struggles to find positives in a 30-24 defeat, believing consolation can only come from a better performance against Idaho.

"Whenever you take a loss like that, there's always a feeling like everything you did just wasn't right and you want to just get better," junior linebacker LaRoy Reynolds said. "That feeling of hurt, that feeling of pain that we have is going to motivate us to do better next week."

After Saturday's game, the Virginia football team will play only ACC teams for the rest of the season, facing three nationally ranked squads in their final seven games. A win Saturday would provide the Cavaliers a needed morale booster before going into the toughest part of the regular season.

"I think the guys are doing the right things," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. "The most frustrating time is when you're close, and I've got to believe that's where we are right now"

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