Virginia outgained Maryland by 135 yards and limited the Terps to minus-2 yards on the ground. Kevin Parks ran for a career-high 129 yards against the nation’s No. 7 run defense, and the Wahoos allowed just 2-of-13 third down conversions.
For all it did right Saturday, UVA managed to find a way to lose its fifth consecutive game, a 27-20 Homecomings loss before a less-than-capacity crowd. If Virginia falls to Wake Forest next week, the losing streak would match its longest in 30 years.
“I understand that we live in a culture of wins and losses and things like that,” UVA coach Mike London said. “It’s not from a lack of effort or a lack of trying. I understand that. I am more resolved and resolute to help these young men experience success on the field, as they are in other areas of their life.”
Maryland’s Stefon Diggs – a former UVA recruiting target – returned the game’s opening kickoff 100+ yards for a touchdown. A Phillip Sims interception on the ensuing possession led to another score, and Virginia trailed 17-0 at the end of the first quarter (after surrendering the final 28 points to Duke a week ago).
“We want to play well on the field, and we will play well on the field,” London said. “We’re going through some adversity here on the football field. That’s what happens. The worst thing we could do now is start pointing fingers and blaming and things like that.”
Virginia’s weakest link Saturday was its special teams. The unit allowed the game’s opening score, committed penalties on returns and coverages, regularly lost the field position battle, and had a short field goal blocked.
Said London: “Those are the things that continually have to be evaluated by our coaches: Who’s doing it and if they’re doing it well. If they’re not doing it, we need to make sure we can give an individual an opportunity to play well and give us a chance. It will be no different looking at this tape again to see if there’s something scheme-wise or something player-wise that has to be addressed. We will do that.”
The Cavaliers’ quarterback play has been inconsistent, no matter the signal caller. Sims completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for just 139 yards against Maryland. He added a touchdown and an interception before giving way to Michael Rocco in the fourth quarter. The junior led Virginia on an 81-yard touchdown drive that pulled the team to within 7 points with 4:10 remaining. But Rocco missed a wide-open Khalek Shepherd on the Wahoos’ next possession, a play that very well could have gone for a game-tying touchdown.
“It’s tough whenever it’s so open,” Rocco said. “If I could have it back and put it right on his numbers I would. It’s a game of inches, sometimes it goes your way sometimes it doesn’t.”
UVA’s defense, which has now held its last four opponents below their season averages for total offense, turned in its best performance to date. The Terrapins netted just 3 points on drives that started on their end of the field.
“Coaches just keep telling us to stay positive, and that if we think it, it will happen,” said freshman defensive end Eli Harold, who finished with 3 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. “You have to speak things to existence. I often struggle a little bit with that, but the defense just needs to keep it up. We can’t give them a lot of opportunities. We didn’t get what we wanted, but we fought and we got on the ball a lot. That’s big, and we did what we could do.”
Virginia’s matchup Saturday against Wake Forest will likely be the final time the Wahoos are favored to win a game in 2012.