CHARLOTTESVILLE — In the main interview room at Scott Stadium, most of the questions Saturday afternoon concerned UVa’s 34-14 loss to Florida State. One local TV reporter, though, flipped the calendar ahead seven days and asked Ras-I Dowling how the senior cornerback felt about facing Al Groh.
There will be many such questions this week as Virginia (0-1, 2-2) prepares to meet ACC rival Georgia Tech (2-1, 3-2) in Atlanta. As most who follow college football know, the Yellow Jackets’ defensive coordinator is Al Groh, who was fired as UVa’s head coach after last season.
Groh’s successor, Mike London, knows what’s coming this week. London coached the University of Richmond in 2008 and ’09 but previously had two stints as an assistant under Groh at UVa.
“For as much as everybody wants to make this into another story, the story is, the University of Virginia’s playing Georgia Tech,” London said Sunday night. “It’s not Coach Groh against his former [team]. It’s not Mike London versus Al Groh. It’s not any of that. It’s our football team against Georgia Tech’s football team, and our opportunity to play well and win our first conference game.”
London said he has stressed to his players the importance of “not being distracted about other things that don’t have anything to do with us playing on the field. We’re looking forward to the game and traveling down to Atlanta and playing an offense that’s tough to defend. But nonetheless, it’s a conference game, our second conference game, and another opportunity to play well.”
Georgia Tech, the defending ACC champion, runs head coach Paul Johnson’s trademark triple-option offense. On defense, Groh installed the 3-4 scheme that was the Cavaliers’ base defense throughout his nine seasons as coach at his alma mater.
“We played VMI [on Sept. 25], and they were kind of a 3-4 team also,” London said, “but there are different kinds of things that 3-4 teams do … Just because it’s labeled the 3-4, it’s not necessarily all cookie-cutter versions of other 3-4 teams.”
Virginia’s starting quarterback, Marc Verica, is a fifth-year senior, so he’s familiar with a defense that’s not especially popular in the college game. Most teams prefer the 4-3.
“I would imagine that perhaps early in camp when you’re going against your own defense, that [Verica saw] a decent amount of 3-4” during Groh’s tenure, London said.
“But as you start to get to late August and into your season, you start to game-plan for the particular opponents that you’re going to play and the defenses that they play. But that being said, I’m quite sure there’s some elements of the 3-4 that he has seen over the course of his career, because that’s what the defense was here. But now it’s another issue. Now he’s [facing] a coach that does a great job game-planning and trying to negate your playmakers and things like that.
“We’ll try to do some things to help Marc out. I’ll talk to the offensive staff as much as I can in terms of just lending advice, but the execution part of it is going to happen with the players on the field, for sure.”