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Monday, September 15, 2014

Littlepage: London staying put

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Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2013 11:30 pm | Updated: 11:50 pm, Sun Oct 6, 2013.

Virginia football coach Mike London received a strong vote of confidence from his boss on Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Cavaliers’ poor showing in a 48-27 home loss to Ball State.

Favored by a touchdown, Virginia lost a 17-7 lead in the game to the 5-1 unranked Cardinals. Afterward, London described the outcome as “embarrassing.” In the wake of the collapse, dropping his Cavaliers to 2-3 on the season, scores of frustrated fans were calling for London’s job.

Craig Littlepage, UVa’s longtime director of athletics, said Sunday that London’s job is not in jeopardy and asked fans to be patient as the football program attempts to rebuild.

“Uncertainty can be a distraction and erodes confidence,” Littlepage said about his decision to squelch any rumors about London’s job status. “I don’t want for there to be uncertainty about our coach.

“Mike London is our head coach and he has my full support in our efforts to build this football program,” Littlepage said. “This is sometimes a longer and more difficult process than we want and will have ups and downs, but I know Mike is the right guy.”

London is in his fourth season as UVa’s head coach and owns a record of 18-24 to this point, including an 8-5 mark and a bowl appearance in 2011. Following a setback during last season’s 4-8 campaign, London made several staff changes to begin a rebuilding process, bringing in three new coordinators and veteran former head coach Tom O’Brien.

Littlepage pointed out that with new coordinators and new systems in place to build the program for the future, that such a transition doesn’t usually show progress overnight.

“Mike has made some important staff changes prior to this season and has surrounded himself with an outstanding group of coaches,” the AD said. “Our progress on the field this year has not been as consistent or as fast as we would like in some areas, however, what I see is a full commitment each day by the players, and the coaching and support staffs to work toward being a championship-level team. That’s our goal and we won’t compromise on that.”

While Virginia had made strides in defensive performance under new coordinator Jon Tenuta in previous weeks and showed signs of life with 27 points and 459 yards of total offense under new coordinator Steve Fairchild, there has been inconsistency as Littlepage pointed out.

In back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Ball State, the Cavaliers were plagued with turnovers and penalties that led directly to both defeats in what was perceived as winnable games. Thus, a frustrated fan base that has endured four losing seasons over the last five years, has lashed out mostly against London and Fairchild on social media.

“The issues we’ve had in recent games are correctable,” Littlepage said. “At this level, the most successful teams win the turnover battle and minimize penalties among other things. The difference between a good play or a bad play, a touchdown or a penalty, a win or a loss, usually comes down to execution and eliminating mental errors.

“We continue to work hard each day on the things that build the consistency on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball,” Littlepage said. “It’s difficult to not be further along after five games but I know our patience will pay off.”

London’s Cavaliers play Saturday at formerly 25th-ranked Maryland (4-1), which suffered its first loss of the season, a 63-0 setback at Florida State.

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