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Charlottesville, VA — The Virginia football team hosted its annual Spring Game Saturday afternoon at Scott Stadium in front of a sun-soaked crowd. Preceded by the annual Football Festival and team awards ceremony, the event also offered the Cavalier fans in attendance a glimpse of new head coach Mike London, patrolling the sidelines for the first time since his December hiring.

“At the beginning of this process, we had to start from scratch, and to this point where we are now, I’m very pleased,” London said. “We’re still trying to find our identity and work out some of the kinks, but I think we’ll be okay.”

“Everybody was flying around, and everybody looked real energetic out there,” junior defensive tackle Nick Jenkins said. “I think it was great for the fans to come out here and see our new look for the 2010 season.”

Rather than follow the format of past spring games that pitted the offense against the defense, London instead elected for a controlled scrimmage between the Orange and Blue teams. The two squads played five 15-play series, each of which began at a different point on the field. Concluding with a special “Beat the Clock” segment from the 40-yard line, the scrimmage saw the Orange side top the Blue, 30-3.

Regardless of the seemingly lopsided score, London seemed pleased with the team’s overall performance.

“I thought that we made such an improvement from the first practice to this practice,” London said. “These guys want to play hard, they want to win, they give good effort, so I continue to look for the positive and understand we still have a long ways to go.”

“We practice game situations everyday, but this was a little different because it was live and we were tackling,” added junior quarterback Marc Verica. “It was good to get out here and practice those kinds of situations. Overall, this spring’s been really positive for us.”

Verica, named a 2010 team captain before the game, completed 8 of his 23 passes on the day for 83 yards and two interceptions in his first game-like appearance under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s system.

“I think we really established some great timing between the receivers and quarterbacks over the spring,” Verica said. “We still have a long ways to go, but we saw a lot of flashes of some good things.”

Those positives extended to the play of rookie quarterbacks Ross Metheny and Michael Strauss, each of whom threw for a touchdown in their Cavalier debuts. While Strauss went 3-of-4 for 39 yards, Metheny connected on six of his 10 passes, compiling 140 yards and completing a game-long 57-yard pass to wide receiver Ray Keys.

Senior tailback Keith Payne led the Cavaliers in rushing with 29 yards on six carries, and sophomore safety Corey Lillard recorded a team-high eight tackles. Kickers Robert Randolph and Chris Heinkebein each added points to the scoreboard, making 43-yard and 24-yard field goals, respectively.

“It was fun-that was the main thing,” Metheny said. “It was fun just to get out there and play football-just cut it loose and not think too much. Coming into the stadium, there was a different vibe, a different energy with the people in the stands.”

That energy is something London has tried to stress in his first 14 practices as Virginia’s head coach.

“He obviously brings a lot of energy and passion to the field,” Verica said. “He’s like a hands-on coach out there on the field. He’s very involved in every facet, so it’s really exciting to be around. There’s definitely a new sense of optimism surrounding the program.”

“He’s 110 miles per hour out there, and it makes us go 110 miles per hour,” Jenkins added.

While the team’s spring campaign and adjustment to the new coaching staff might be considered a success, London knows his Cavalier squad is still an unfinished product.

“There’s a lot of parts we still have to change, but the attitude has changed,” London said. “Winning breeds success, and we’ve got to taste some winning around here.”

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