Denial gave way to acceptance Saturday at Scott Stadium: Virginia is a bad football team, and its problems are systemic. The Wahoos lack confidence, discipline, and leadership and have now matched the school’s longest losing streak in 31 years.
It was Khalek Shepherd’s muffed punt that ultimately handed Wake Forest a 16-10 win before a crowd of 41,167.
“You would like to think that as a team you are learning from your mistakes the previous weeks,” said quarterback Phillip Sims.
Unfortunately, UVA has continued to make the same mistakes week in and week out during its six-game skid. Saturday, the Cavaliers committed three turnovers and forced none. The offensive line struggled mightily against the nation’s 102nd run defense. The defensive line failed to pressure the quarterback. And the special teams play was horrid.
UVA’s punt team allowed a 60-yard return two minutes into the game (Wake scored a play later). Kyle McCartin and Henry Coley committed two costly special teams penalties that led to two field goals in a game decided by six points. And Shepherd saw Alex Kinal’s final towering punt glance off his facemask and into the waiting hands of a Demon Deacon.
“I love [Khalek],” said special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter of the usually sure-handed Shepherd. “This man is great. No one outworks him. No one catches more punts at practice. He didn’t cost us the game because there were 80 plays before it in the game that affected it. It wasn’t just that one play.”
Virginia’s defense limited Wake Forest to just 213 yards of offense and one third-down conversion, but Bill Lazor’s group produced only 10 points against a Deacon defense that was allowing 31 per game.
UVA (2-6, 0-4 ACC) has now lost to Georgia Tech (which has since dropped three of four and fired its defensive coordinator), a Duke team ravaged by injuries, and pedestrian clubs Maryland and Wake Forest. Mike London’s team is off Saturday before it tackles the meat of its schedule – a sobering thought.
“That losing taste lingers in your mouth for a while and the only way you can get rid of it is to play another game,” London said. “Obviously we won’t play for a while, but you can go back and do things while you wait. We can dedicate time toward improving our fundamentals in blocking, throwing, catching and all those things. It’s not going to be about the schemes of who we’re getting ready to play, but taking care of ourselves and eliminating some of the things that we do that continue to keep costing us. That’s what the open week will be dedicated to, is fixing ourselves.”
The ‘Hoos will not be favored to win another game this season, as trips to NC State and Virginia Tech sandwich home dates with Miami and North Carolina.