Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Season recap: Virginia
By Heather Dinich
With a new staff, new schemes and new philosophies, first-year coach Mike London knew his team would be a work in progress this year, but he still had hoped for a better finish. The Hoos surprised almost everyone with their upset of then-No. 22 Miami, but couldn’t build on it and ended the season with four straight losses. There were still individual highlights, as formerly unheralded players like running backs Keith Payne and Perry Jones emerged as dependable options, and Chase Minnifield was a major factor with standout corner Ras-I Dowling injured most of the season. Turnovers and penalties were a problem the entire season, though, as was Virginia’s defense. The Cavalier ranked No. 101 in the country in turnover margin, allowed an average of 28 points per game, and ranked 117th in the nation in fewest penalties per game with 98. Virginia has now lost 13 straight November games, including a seventh-straight loss to rival Virginia Tech in the season finale. London wasn't able to change the postseason fate of Virginia in one year, but he did change the culture.
Offensive MVP: Running back Keith Payne. He led the ACC in scoring at 8.7 points per game with a league-best 16 total touchdowns. His 14 rushing touchdowns ranks No. 3 all-time at UVA and second-most since the end of World War II. He led the team with 749 yards and had three 100-yard games, including 114 yards in his 2010 debut against Richmond - his first action since 2008. Payne also equaled the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game during the modern UVA era with four.
Defensive MVP: Cornerback Chase Minnifield. He finished the regular season No. 2 in the ACC and No. 6 nationally with six interceptions. Twice during the season he was named honorable mention for the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week honor. He also shared ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors on Nov. 1 with teammate Corey Mosley after two interceptions in Virginia’s 24-19 upset of Miami. He finished the season No. 8 on the team with 48 tackles. He also broke up four passes and recorded 0.5 sacks.
Turning point: London had to start over, and he had to start at the beginning by doing something that hadn’t been done at Virginia in five years – win the season opener. It was an important win because it came against London’s former team, Richmond, and Virginia had lost to an FCS team in 2009. In order for things to be different, it had to start there.
What’s next: The staff will get to work in recruiting and try to build on the early success it has already had. Virginia has lured in two ESPNU 150 prospects and three four-star athletes for the No. 18 class in the nation. With at least 17 starters returning, and some depth built through redshirting, a foundation has been laid. Quarterback Marc Verica is graduating, though, so developing his replacement will be critical.