By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — In UVa’s spring football game, a scrimmage divided into 10-minute quarters Saturday afternoon at Scott Stadium, Michael Rocco threw 32 passes. Ross Metheny threw six.
Don’t read too much into the disparity in the sophomores’ attempts, says UVa’s offensive coordinator.
“That’s just the way the scrimmage worked out,” Bill Lazor said after practice Monday morning. “It seems unfair by the numbers, but that’s how football goes.”
Heading into Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage, UVa coach Mike London and his offensive staff planned for Rocco and Metheny, the only quarterbacks on the roster who have taken snaps in a college game, to play about the same amount of time.
Both later switched sides, but Rocco started for the Blue squad, which included the first-team offensive line, running backs, tight end and wide receivers. Metheny started for the Orange, which included the first-team defense.
With the Blue, Rocco completed 10 of 22 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. When he played for the Orange, Rocco was 7 for 10 for 57 yards and another TD.
Metheny, 1 for 3 for 9 yards with the Orange, completed 2 of 3 attempts for 51 yards, with one pick, for the Blue.
Rocco, a 6-3, 210-pound right-hander, was sacked only once in the scrimmage. Metheny, a 6-2, 200-pound left-hander, was sacked five times, which skewed his statistics, Lazor noted.
“Some of the passes turned out to be sacks,” Lazor said. “So you call a pass and it’s a sack, and that doesn’t show up as an attempt.”
Turnovers by Metheny’s team also cost him some repetitions, Lazor said, and Rocco was part of more extended drives.
“And that was the one thing we said going into the game: ‘If we play this like a game, the longer your drive goes, the more opportunities you’ll get,’ ” Lazor said. “At times it just worked out that way [for Rocco].”
Virginia’s other quarterbacks — redshirt freshman Michael Strauss and true freshman David Watford — played less than Rocco and Metheny. But Strauss attempted 14 passes. He completed 6 for 85 yards. The 6-2, 210-pound right-hander also threw an interception that cornerback Dom Joseph returned 65 yards for a touchdown.
Watford, a 6-1, 180-pound right-hander, finished 1 for 5 passing for 6 yards. He was sacked once, as was Strauss.
When he reviewed videotape of his quarterbacks’ play in the spring game, Lazor said, “I saw guys who were not 100-percent comfortable in there, but some of them got a little more comfortable as they went.”
The Cavaliers will practice three more times this spring: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. How many snaps each quarterback takes will be determined in part, Lazor said, by their play in practice.
“Daily it changes, and it will continue to as guys earn more [reps],” Lazor said. “I’d hate to say anything to put them in any kind of order without talking to Coach London. But daily it changes, and we’ve tried to make that part of the competition, to put pressure on them to earn it.
“For the quarterbacks, they came into the spring knowing it was a competition, and they know that nothing has been decided.”
The 2010 season was Lazor’s first at UVa, and much of spring practice last year was devoted to the installation of his pro-style system. Marc Verica, who was a fifth-year senior, started every game at quarterback for the Wahoos last season, but Rocco appeared in six games and Metheny in five.
Are they better for the game experience they gained?
“Absolutely,” Lazor said. “I think we’re much further ahead right now than we were last year at this time, just because these guys know the offense, they understand the language. When I make a quick comment about what an alert is or a sight adjust, they understand exactly what it is. It doesn’t take as long to get the point across.
“What Marc had last year was just more game experience, so more comfort level in the pocket, and that is a hard thing [to gain]. You can talk about it all day with a quarterback, but he’s kind of got to earn that over time. And so that’s where we’re behind what Marc had. And it’ll come. I thought Saturday helped those guys develop that, because they got bumped around a couple times. They had to move around. They just need to keep playing football, and they’re on the path.”