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Sunday, October 5, 2008
Virginia deserves credit for not quitting

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Forget, for a moment, that Maryland completely blew it.

Because Virginia, with so many excuses to fold, did not. The Cavaliers, having been embarrassed at Duke and written off as the worst team in the ACC this season, never quit. And if you look strictly at the win-loss column in the ACC standings, Miami is suddenly in a worse position than the Cavaliers were a week ago.

Funny how things changed in a week. Virginia senior linebacker Clint Sintim pressured Maryland quarterback Chris Turner all night, Vic Hall had a fumble recovery, and quarterback Marc Verica redeemed himself after a poor performance in Durham. They got better blocking up front and it opened holes for Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson. They got 100-yard performances from both Peerman and receiver Kevin Ogletree. Heck, they completed their first touchdown pass of the season.

"It was really a great performance," Sintim said. "A lot of guys put a lot into it. After last week we were demoralized by our performance and we came out this week and had a better effort; a lot of guys made plays and stepped up. We put a zero up on the board and that's big."

Just one week ago, Virginia held the dubious distinction of being the team Duke snapped its 25-game ACC losing streak against. Virginia entered the Maryland game having been outscored 128-36 this season and last in the league at 1-3, 0-1. The future was bleak.

"We took a little step forward here tonight," said coach Al Groh.

"All four phases had a good evening: offense, defense, special teams and coaching staff. We have a ways to go yet and we have a lot of things to improve upon but I think we made some progress tonight."

Agreed.

Now, can they keep it up in one of the most unpredictable leagues this season?

"Our challenge is to keep moving forward next week and realize this is one phase in the overall development of our team," Groh said. "We have a ways to go with seven games ahead of us."

Verica has gone from fourth-string and on the scout team to starter. He also went from throwing four interceptions in the second half against Duke to completing 25 of 34 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Verica said he approached this game as "an opportunity to bounce back." Verica said he and assistant coach Mike Groh have been working on his pocket presence, and keeping his eyes downfield while making defenders miss. It paid off. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another against the Terps.

"We have struggled to find our offensive identity up to this point, but tonight everything seemed to click," Verica said. "We ran the ball well, we pass protected, we run blocked and did a great job of executing on offense."

Maryland did not. One week after beating Clemson on the road, the Terps reverted to their form against Middle Tennessee and got the same result. It was exactly what coach Ralph Friedgen had feared, only worse than he probably imagined.

"We thought that since their record wasn't very good that they weren't going to play like they did a couple of years ago," senior Edwin Williams said. "UVa put forth their best effort, and we didn't. We didn't play college football."

And Virginia finally did.

Note: All of the quotes used in this post were provided by Virginia's sports information department.