ACC: Charlottesville 081

Virginia's Groh disappointed in everyone, including his QB

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich sat slouched in his chair and avoided eye contact with just about everyone. He spoke slowly and cautiously, being careful to say the right thing.

When asked what might have been his easiest question -- "When did you find out you were starting today?" -- Lalich looked at the floor.

"Um, that's ... I'm not allowed to talk about that," he said.

Whether it was five minutes before the start of the game or five weeks ago, it's irrelevant now.

"Our quarterback turned the ball over too many times today," coach Al Groh said.

For a guy who was so secretive about Lalich for almost six months, it sure didn't take long to call him out.

Lalich completed 18-of-35 passes for 155 yards and was sacked twice, but the rookie line in front of him couldn't hold off the pressure barreling down from USC. Even standout left tackle Eugene Monroe made a few mistakes. Lalich said the time his line gave him was "adequate."

"A lot of times it seems like it might be the linemen's fault, sometimes it's the quarterback's fault," he said. "We have different types of protection. Sometimes it's five men blocking, sometimes it's six men blocking."

Lalich's 155-yard performance is the most by a UVA quarterback in his first start since David Rivers threw for 228 yards against Georgia Tech in 1999.

Still, Groh said, "It wouldn't be right for me or anybody to say that anybody played well today."

Groh knew what he was getting the Cavaliers into when he scheduled them to play the No. 3 team in the nation.

He expected more, though, from his own team, despite the fact that there were 11 Cavaliers who made their first start today against a team contending for the national title.

Virginia was held to 32 rushing yards. It was 2-of-12 on third-down conversions. The Cavaliers fumbled four times, and lost the ball three times. USC punted twice. The numbers go on and on ...

"We knew it was going to take a lot on our part to be able to pull this off," Groh said. "To play as poorly as we played and to have lost is not acceptable. ... Our attitude about our team is it's not OK to play like that."

He can change the attitude. But Groh is going to be hard-pressed to find a better quarterback right now. And after Saturday, it's no secret.

USC ready to prepare for the Buckeyes

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- USC coach Pete Carroll has been reluctant to talk too much about Ohio State's visit to the Coliseum on Sept. 13, and he had some more fun toying with reporters about it again on Saturday.

"We play them two weeks from now, right?" he asked.

After a bit more prodding, Carroll acknowledged the fact their staff will begin preparing for the Buckeyes "a week from now."

"I'm thrilled to be coming back to the Coliseum and getting a home game," he said. "It's going to be exciting for everybody. There's a ton of hype about it and all that. We'll get to work on that a week from now. It's a terrific chance for us to get a great challenge again. ... Ohio State is a great program, they are a great program. We'll try to get ourselves ready to play them."

His players are ready to start preparing.

"When we get back to school we definitely have to start watching film," receiver Vidal Hazelton said. "I'm sure they're going to bring it just like we are. They're a real good team. We just have to continue to watch film and prepare."

One reporter asked Carroll if he knew Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells got hurt.

"He did?" Carroll asked, raising his eyebrows.

"You weren't aware he got hurt?" the reporter asked.

"Yeah, somebody told me," he said with a wry smile. "They stuck it on my chair when I came in."

USC's Sanchez '100 percent'

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

 AP Photo
 USC quarterback Mark Sanchez led the Trojans in a convincing 52-7 win over Virginia on Saturday.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The soft black Bio Slim brace protecting USC quarterback Mark Sanchez's left kneecap looked more like an accessory on Saturday than it did a necessity.

It certainly didn't prevent him from completing 26-of-35 passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Sanchez , who dislocated his kneecap earlier this month, he felt "100 percent" following the Trojans' 52-7 drubbing of Virginia.

He looked it, too. Sanchez was able to move around in the pocket, get the ball downfield, and manage the offense.

"That was the big question mark coming into the game," Sanchez said. "... When the first news came out four weeks, (the doctors and trainers) didn't want to hear it. That's the kind of attitude I like and I'm glad they got me back out. I moved when I needed to and was really happy out there."

USC coach Pete Carroll said Sanchez has been ready since he was cleared to play on Tuesday.

"He was fine," Carroll said. "The recovery was extraordinary. The guys working with him ... those guys did a great job. Every step of the way they knew what they were doing, they took care of him. Mark was diligent about working and it wasn't a factor. It just wasn't. Once he was back, he was back. He had to prove it to himself as well. He moved around beautifully in the pocket. His resourcefulness back there is what gives you that second chance."

Not that USC needed one.

"USC was a big, powerful, fast team with superior quarterback play today," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "We were anything but big and fast and our quarterback turned the ball over too many times."

So much for Groh's surprise element at quarterback.

Peter Lalich completed 18-of-35 passes for 155 yards and one interception and he was sacked twice -- something Sanchez didn't have to worry about.

The Trojans dominated every phase of the game, and it all started up front, where USC's offensive line had no problem blocking against a defensive line that struggled to replace Chris Long and defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald.

"These guys played beautifully," Carroll said of his offensive linemen. " There were a number of times in this game when Mark had forever back there."

How much time?

"A lot," Sanchez said, laughing. "A lot. That's good. Coach (Pat) Ruel always calls it, in practice he says, 'We're cooking steaks back there because we've got that much time,' and that's the way it felt. The whole line takes pride in that, not letting me get hit and me having ample time to make the right decision and get the ball out of my hands. It felt good. I love that feeling."

Sanchez played conservatively against Virginia, and will speed up the offense in coming weeks. Odds are, he'll have less time to think against the Ohio State defense. But yes, how smoothly everything went for Sanchez and his knee today will only help with his confidence and preparation for the Buckeyes.

"I can keep doing my rehab, that rehab stuff never stops it's going to go all season long," he said. "The doctors and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's exciting to know I've got one under my belt with this whole knee deal and I'm back to 100 percent. I feel good and we're ready to start preparing for Ohio State."

Locker room report on USC win

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The media wasn't allowed to wait for coach Pete Carroll in the visitors' post-game interview room immediately after the game in fear that the walls might be too thin, and we could hear what was being said in USC's locker room across the narrow hallway.

There was no way to quell the booming baritones, though, as the Trojans sung the USC fight song moments after pummelling Virginia 52-7.

You probably could have heard the Trojans banging on the lockers and celebrating from the 50-yard line.

Meanwhile, down the hall, Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim hung his head, barely looking up over his glasses, and quarterback Peter Lalich wrung his hands so tight they turned red as he spoke to reporters.

As was expected, their postgame demeanors were as polar opposite as their performances on the field.

USC at UVA: Halftime update

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- I'm sure most of you are watching this game on ABC and yes, it's as bad as it looks in person.

So much for USC having to adjust to this 3-4 defense. Quarterback Mark Sanchez has had way too much time to make his throws and isn't in too much danger of getting sacked today. A fourth-down attempt early shows they're confident against the Cavs. USC, though, is bringing some heat.

The Trojans' defense is much faster and for the most part stifling Virginia, which looks like it has three new starters on its offensive line (it does). They've got no ground game going, which obviously makes it even tougher to get the passing game going.

Considering he's the only one with any game experience, it's no surprise that Peter Lalich is the starting quarterback for Virginia, and he has gotten better under pressure as the game has progressed. Still, Virginia's lone points so far were aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on USC.

Since 2007, Virginia has been one of the luckiest teams I've ever seen. Even as they're losing here, they're catching breaks. Like the fumbled punt that long snapper Danny Aiken recovered. Didn't matter, though. Yannick Reyering, a soccer star in his college football debut, ended the drive with a missed 46-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide right.

The fans booed Al Groh's decision to punt on fourth-and-four with 44 seconds left to go in the half. They might want to wait until Virginia improves upon its 1-of-7 third-down conversions first.

First Quarter Update: USC 21, Virginia 7

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The first 12 minutes of the first quarter was like watching a basketball game, with USC constantly driving and dunking on Virginia.

USC beat the Cavaliers around the edge. Up the middle. Downfield. And 21-7.

The Trojans' depth at running back, plus their playmakers in the passing game have overwhelmed Virginia's defense, and for the most part, USC's defensive line has manhandled Virginia up front. Virginia had nine plays for minus-5 yards on its first three drives.

One of Virginia's best plays of the quarter was a direct snap to running back Mikell Simpson. They finally got some good blocks by left guard Zak Stair on a scoring drive, and some help by careless USC penalties.

It's getting a little chippy on the field, with some pushing and shoving after plays.

Tiki and Ronde Barber in the house

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- First, Peter Lalich started.

Second, right before kickoff, Tiki and Ronde Barber rmade a surprise appearance to raise Virginia's "Power of Orange" flag, a new game-day tradition here. They'll feature a surprise flag raiser every week. This was the first time the Barbers have been together at Scott Stadium since 1996, their last football game when they were seniors.

Former defensive end Chris Long is also here today.

Greetings from Charlottesville

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Whew. Finally. I'm here. Let's get to it:

Al Groh is redefining game-time decision. A school spokesman said we won't know who Virginia's starting quarterback will be until the first snap of the game against USC. The depth chart has Scott Deke listed first, followed by two "OR"s -- Marc Verica OR Peter Lalich.

It's a million degrees out here, but that hasn't stopped the UVA fans from sporting their long-sleeved button-down shirts and khaki pants, long ties and bow ties. And, of course, there are numerous ladies in their sundresses -- most proper attire for a football game.

I only saw one "Al Groh Must Go" T-shirt.

The hill under the scoreboard is starting to fill up and the student section is nearly packed already. Lots of tailgaiting going on but not many USC fans appear to be here.

Check back for quarterly updates.