Two weeks ago, the Virginia Cavaliers stood at 4-2, 2-0 in the ACC. Given how bad the rest of the Coastal Division seemed to be, there was optimism that UVA would at least finish above .500 on the season, perhaps make a bowl game, and if everything broke right, stay in contention for the Coastal Division title and a berth in the ACC Championship Game.
However, a 20-13 loss at Duke last week slowed that momentum, and Saturday’s 28-27 home loss to North Carolina not only ended any optimism, but it squarely turns the heat back up on head coach Mike London and his coaching staff.
Virginia wasn’t drastically outplayed today, and actually led the game 24-21 at halftime; however, as was the case for much of the second half — and several times over the last few years — a simple mistake cost the Cavaliers big time. With 1:17 to play and exiting a timeout, North Carolina lined up for a field goal that would have made it 31-27, leaving UVA at least a chance to win.
Instead, Virginia came out of the break with 12 men on the field. Carolina got a first down on the penalty and subsequently ran out the clock.
Such mistakes are the type you see when teams are led by rookie coaches, and while London is young, he isn’t a rookie. As fans streamed out of Scott Stadium in the final minute, with Virginia resigned to the type of befuddling loss that the Cavaliers seem to suffer at least twice a season, it became clear that this isn’t going to change.
The 8-5 season in 2011 was a mirage. Other than that, London is now 14-30 in Charlottesville. Despite his well-earned reputation as a top recruiter, he and his coaching staff either don’t use their talent properly, or don’t manage the fine points of the game that can cause a team to win or lose.
The penalty for too many men on the game’s most crucial play proves that the more things change, the more things they stay the same in Charlottesville. And with games left against Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, finding a reason to believe is going to be difficult for Virginia fans moving forward — if they pay attention at all.