Monday, Eli Harold met with reporters at John Paul Jones Arena. Today, don’t expect the Virginia defensive end searching for how his quotes looked in the newspaper or how he sounded on local television.
With the Cavaliers reeling after back-to-back losses and the background noise growing about the direction of the program, Harold has shut himself off to the world outside of the McCue Center.
“I don’t know about the other guys, but I’m just trying to stay out of the media,” Harold said. “Sometimes, you see some things that you might not tell another person that you saw, but you’ve seen it. It causes a cancer in your mind. It causes you to think negatively about yourself and your team.
“So, I’m going to stay off the media and just take it one day at a time and just practice hard and go to class and go to meetings and, hopefully, the result on Saturday will be what we want it to be.”
UVa (2-3, 0-1 ACC) travels to Maryland (4-1, 0-1) for a 3:30 p.m., Saturday, kickoff. Both teams are coming off crushing defeats, but the Terrapins’ 63-0 shellacking at No. 8 Florida State might have been easier to swallow for the Maryland faithful when compared to how Wahoo fans have reacted to the Cavs’ 48-27 Scott Stadium shocker to Ball State of the Mid-American Conference.
Virginia has now lost home games in three straight seasons to non-BCS conference teams.
Saturday’s downer came in front of 38,228 spectators, the second-lowest attended game in the Mike London era.
UVa athletic director Craig Littlepage gave London a vote of confidence in a Monday-published Daily Progress story.
Harold did the same at JPJA.
“Coach London’s doing a real good job of holding himself together,” said the sophomore who leads the Cavs with 3.5 sacks. “He believes in the staff. We all believe in the staff.
“The gameplan is there, you just have to execute. If you don’t execute, you’re obviously going to lose the game.”
And the groans and boos will escalate.
Saturday, Virginia became the first team this season to keep Ball State out of the end zone on its opening possession. But that mini-victory went for naught when the Cardinals needed only 1:34 to go five plays in 83 yards on their next possession to take a 7-3 lead.
Cue the deflation.
“When something happens that you don’t expect, it was a blow,” Harold said. “They did it so quick. They averaged like 10 yards a play on that drive and I was like, ‘What are we doing as a line? Are the linebackers not reading their keys right? The secondary ...’ We didn’t know what it was. That’s why we were hanging our heads.
“A couple of guys were getting beat and during the whole course of the game, those guys were getting beat, just hanging their heads. The energy was horrible. [UVa safeties coach Anthony Poindexter] was yelling at us. I don’t know what it was.
“There wasn’t that many people at the game. The crowd behind us, they were yelling at us and they’re our fans — and they’re for the other team. That all comes in play to win. When you hear things, it causes a cancer. It causes you to do and act a certain way.”
Hence this week’s ordering of earmuffs and blinders.
“You can’t listen to what they say on the message boards,” Harold said, “and blah-blah this, blah-blah that. You just got to continue to do what you do.
“We’re football players, we’re not [analysts]. There’s always going to be people who doubt you. That happens every day. We just got to get over it. Don’t read that stuff. Don’t look at that stuff. You just got to continue doing what you’re doing. Do whatever you got to do in order to be successful.”
Last season, 2-3 became 2-6.
A repeat performance and the negativity might be tougher to ignore.
“You have to just band together as brothers and family,” said UVa running back Khalek Shepherd. “We don’t want to get too low on ourselves because we had a couple of losses. We just have to come back every week, get ready to work and get better and better every day.”
Added London: “There’s no division or fractions within the players or staff. We’re all focused on the task at hand.”
Chance for a Davis return
London said Conner Davis, out for the past three games with a hamstring injury, could return Saturday.
Davis, a junior who made 11 starts at left guard last season, would return to that position and Luke Bowanko would move back to center, the spot he played in 2012. Morgan Moses (left) and Eric Smith (right) would remain at tackles and Jay Whitmire would stay at right guard. Center Jackson Matteo would be the odd man out of the lineup.
“We’ll see how he progresses during the week,” London said of Davis. “If he can play and he can give us what we need, we’ll make that change as well.”
Preparing for the unknown
Maryland released its depth chart on Monday and still has C.J. Brown as the first-team quarterback.
Brown suffered a concussion in the first half of the Terrapins’ loss to Florida State and was given a “day-to-day” status by Maryland coach Randy Edsall during a Sunday teleconference.
Backup Caleb Rowe, a sophomore, replaced Brown in the FSU defeat and completed nine of 17 passes for 119 yards.
Brown, a senior, has thrown for 1,125 yards and seven touchdowns and has run for another 286 and six scores this season.
“You try to look at the quarterback, the system, the schemes that they play,” London said of UVa’s preparation for the unknown behind center. “That will be the main focus.
“Obviously, C.J. is a guy that can run the ball, does it very well for them. But we’ll get ready for the system that they play.”