By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — He completed 15 of 23 passes for 139 yards Saturday night. That part of Marc Verica’s stat line wasn’t bad.
The problem, of course, was the fifth-year senior’s decision-making. Verica threw three interceptions, the last of which North Carolina linebacker Kevin Reddick returned for a touchdown at Scott Stadium.
Mike London and his assistants spent part of Sunday breaking down videotape of UVa’s 44-10 defeat. When Verica threw from the pocket, London said, he “actually did a nice job doing that part of it … The thing that obviously got him into trouble is when [he had to] move around and scramble and made a couple ill-advised throws.”
For the season, Verica has thrown as many interceptions (6) as touchdown passes, many fans would like to see a change at quarterback, with redshirt freshman Ross Metheny or true freshman Michael Rocco taking over.
Such a change does not appear imminent. UVa (2-4) hosts Eastern Michigan (1-6) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Scott Stadium. Asked on his Sunday night teleconference if Verica would start against the Eagles, who ended an 18-game losing streak over the weekend, London said, “That’s the plan right now.”
London noted that Metheny had his only pass intercepted against UNC and struggled to cleanly handle the snap. Rocco was 3 for 8 passing for 45 yards. Like Metheny, however, Rocco threw a red-zone interception, and he also had trouble getting the offense lined up in the correct formation.
“So it wasn’t like anyone came in and did anything outstanding over the other,” London said.
“But I think one of things I think we’ve got to continue to do is, those guys have to prepare and perform in practice, I mean all of them. All three of them. We’ll go again here Tuesday and take it day by day as far as who’s going to get the significant reps.”
The players are off Monday. In Tuesday’s practice, London said, “Marc’s going to start out getting the [first-team] reps, because he knows the offense the best right now, but obviously those other two guys need to have some sort of separation from [each other] to decide who’s going to be the second guy or perhaps, maybe, the guy to go in the game [as the starter].”
Not since Nov. 14, 1981, had UVa thrown five interceptions in a game. That was against UNC, which won 17-14 that day at Scott Stadium. The Tar Heels lost their next 14 games in Charlottesville before breaking through Saturday night.
There were cheers when Metheny replaced Verica in the third quarter, and No. 6 has become a target for fans unhappy with UVa’s play this fall. In their first season under London, the Wahoos have yet to beat a team from the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision.
“It’s a tough deal,” London said. “It’s tough when things start going bad for you and then people get on you and stuff like that. But [Verica has] got to be resilient, and he’s learned how to be resilient over the last couple years. It’s just unfortunate that you throw interceptions like that.”
SOLID DEBUT: In his first start as a Cavalier, 6-6, 350-pound true freshman Morgan Moses played every snap at right offensive tackle. Oday Aboushi, the No. 1 right tackle in the first five games, moved to the left side to replace Landon Bradley, who broke his hand Oct. 9 at Georgia Tech.
“I think Morgan had maybe two or three mental errors out of the snaps that he took,” London said. “Over 60 snaps. He did a nice job … He’s going to be a good player, and it was a great opportunity for him to play against a very good team, good position players and all that. We’re pleased with him and his development. He’s got a bright future.”
London said he’s not sure if Bradley will be available this weekend. Moses began training camp at tackle, but he played guard against Georgia Tech, and that might be his position when Bradley returns.
GROWING PAINS: After nine seasons in Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, the Cavaliers are playing the 4-3 this season, and the transition hasn’t been seamless. Of the 120 FBS teams, UVa ranks 77th in total defense and 80th in scoring defense.
In its two most recent games, Virginia has given up 536 and 479 yards, respectively.
There has been “no lack of effort … no lack of desire,” defensive coordinator Jim Reid said Saturday night. The problem has been the execution: missed tackles and blown assignments.
Not surprisingly, UVa’s starting outside linebackers, sophomores LaRoy Reynolds and Ausar Walcott, have had rough moments. Each was a safety who played primarily on special teams last season. Moreover, starting middle linebacker Aaron Taliaferro was in for only five plays on defense last year, all in the opener.
“I think we’re adapting OK [to the 4-3],” London said. “The pace of adapting for our linebackers is not as quick as probably I’d like, because in the transition from being a safety to a linebacker, there are run-fit issues, there’s coverage issues, there’s all those things.
“It is what is right now. Our guys are having to learn to be a linebacker. You’ve got to be a run-stopper, and you also have to be a guy that can play the passing lanes.”
Of Virginia’s linebackers, only Darnell Carter is a senior.