- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The main point of emphasis at Virginia during is bye week: get the little things right.
No more silly penalties.
No more turnovers.
Cut down on the mental errors.
Execute the way you know how.
"I think it comes down to being smart football players," linebacker Steve Greer said on a conference call Tuesday. "When you have a lot of penalties and assignment errors and stuff like that, it comes down to mental breakdowns. That’s why we we're stressing doing the little things right and executing. Those little things, when they show up in games it’s big. That’s what it comes down to, be smart football players, do your job and execute. When you do that, it helps your team out a lot."
Greer and his team know what is at stake. The Hoos (2-6) have lost six straight and must win out to get to a bowl game. A loss would make this UVa team the first to lose seven games in a row since the 1981 squad started its season off 0-7.
They get their first chance to start a winning streak Saturday against NC State, hoping the extra week to prepare will be a huge advantage. But it will not be an easy task trying to win the next four games. Every opponent left on the schedule has a record of .500 or better.
What has been particularly frustrating has been seeing all the untimely mistakes, and inconsistency on offense. Virginia ranks last in the nation in turnover margin (minus-16) and No. 11 in the ACC in penalties. The offense has not been able to run the ball as well as a season ago, and ranks No. 10 in the ACC in scoring offense.
Those errors have masked improvements on defense, a unit that has seemingly turned the corner in recent weeks. Virginia ranks No. 3 in the ACC in total D and has gotten better play up front. The one area that still remains a concern is the secondary -- Virginia has managed just one interception all season.
But keep in mind the Hoos are a very young team and that has contributed to their overall struggles.
"Any time you’re not wining as much as you want, it’s frustrating, but you’ve got to keep showing these young guys the right way to do stuff," Greer said.
Plenty more young guys will get opportunities as the season winds down. Coach Mike London said true freshman defensive end Eli Harold will start against the Wolfpack. In addition, sophomore linebacker Daquan Romero will start in place of Henry Coley, who has been suspended indefinitely along with reserve receiver Jeremiah Mathis and fullback LoVante Battle.
Behind Romero, London said freshman Demeitre Brim will get playing time. On the depth chart for the Wolfpack game, Virginia lists five senior starters.
"We are close to or at that point of making sure that the players we talk about and that you see in the two deep, that they gain some of that game experience," London said. "But first things first for us is to put us in a position where we can earn, we can get a victory, and then hopefully hang onto another opportunity. These are a series of one game playoffs or however you want to call it. These games are Bowl games for us right now. We have to win these games that are this game that's being presented to us. That's how we have to look at it."