‘Hoos lose heartbreaker to Hokies in frustrating fashion


QB Michael Rocco threw for a touchdown and an interception against Virginia Tech. The Hokies won, 17-14. Photo: Matt Riley/UVa Media Relations QB Michael Rocco threw for a touchdown and an interception against Virginia Tech. The Hokies won, 17-14. Photo: Matt Riley/UVa Media Relations

Antone Exum’s interception of Michael Rocco proved to be Virginia’s final offensive play of the game – but it didn’t have to be.

Tied at 14, UVA had two timeouts when Tech’s ensuing possession began at the Cavalier 24-yard line with 3:21 on the clock. The Hokies ran six plays before calling their own timeout to set up the game-winning field goal with only four seconds remaining. UVA still had two timeouts.

Mike London twice attempted to “ice” kicker Cody Journell, a tactic proven statistically ineffective. Journell made the 29-yard chip shot as time ran out.

Realistically, Virginia’s offense would have had roughly one minute to tie or win had timeouts been used effectively. Shortly after the game, London was caught off-guard – and provided no discernible explanation – when asked by radio sideline reporter Jay James about his clock management.

Moments later, Times-Dispatch writer Michael Phillips asked the coach if he had considered stopping the clock in the game’s final minutes.

“Not really,” London responded. “Again, I thought we were playing well defensively. You just have to make the decision, if you try to save timeouts with seconds on the clock, or hopefully your defense will get a crack at maybe causing a turnover or maybe knocking them back a little back. That didn’t occur. You try to play the game so you can get into it in the last second.”

Daily Press columnist Dave Teel then asked for further clarification on the decision to let time elapse.

“I’d have to go back and look at that again,” London said. “I’m trying to remember the sequence of the events and the information that I’m getting from upstairs and all that. When I do, and if I do, then I’ll definitely talk to you about how that played out.”

Given the benefit of time and reflection, London text messaged Teel from the team bus:

Getting back to you. 40 sec left thought process.

1. PK missed previous one.

2. Make them run/handle FB.

3. did not want expend the last two TO and concede 3 pts. Even with poss 30/25 secs left.

4. They would be kicking off with the wind. All kickoffs from the opp end to our locker room were ALL touchbacks.

Aspect of down 3 pts – ball on our 25 no time outs, 3-14 for 3rd downs, and drive the field to tie or score Td to win against the wind?

Anyway, out of respect to your question and your right to disagree. You deserve a proper answer. If you want to discuss further, let me know.

Thank you,

Mike London

To London’s first two points, Tech would have had to handle the football and kick a field goal regardless of whether Virginia used its timeouts or not. The final point appears to be an indictment of his offense: “Aspect of down 3 pts – ball on our 25 no time outs, 3-14 for 3rd downs, and drive the field to tie or score Td to win against the wind?” In other words, a game-tying or game-winning drive was so daunting that the coach would rather have lost or gone to overtime on the game’s final play of regulation.

It is worth noting that UVA’s only offensive scoring drive of the afternoon covered 50 yards in 1:31 and went into the wind. Under the hypothetical scenario that London eschewed, 50 yards would have put Virginia within field goal range, down 17-14. Had London not burned his first timeout with the clock stopped at 3:43, the Wahoos would have had even more time than the certain minute they gave away.

Indeed, Virginia had the game’s opening 59 minutes to put itself in a different position. The offense, however, could not take advantage of a stellar defensive performance. The Cavaliers produced season lows in passing yards, rushing yards, and first downs, and the special teams unit failed to convert a fake field goal. The would-be 38-yarder would have given UVA a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter.

Virginia finishes the 2012 campaign 4-8 and has now lost nine in a row to Virginia Tech.

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