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Virginia reflects on subpar football season, looks ahead to 2014

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Posted: Sunday, December 1, 2013 7:06 pm | Updated: 6:17 pm, Mon Dec 2, 2013.

Virginia ended a disappointing 2012 season by playing two quarterbacks in a loss to Virginia Tech. Virginia ended a disappointing 2013 season by playing two quarterbacks in a loss to Virginia Tech.

So what changed?

The Cavaliers’ two-year stretch of 6-18 is the worst in the program’s history since a 3-19 record from 1981-82. Saturday, UVa fell to the Hokies, 16-6, before 52,059 at Scott Stadium to wrap up a 2-10 campaign that featured no ACC wins for the first time since ’81.

It wasn’t a good look for a revamped coaching staff put together last winter following the struggles of the ’12 season.

On Jan. 3, Virginia announced the hirings of Jon Tenuta (defensive coordinator), Tom O’Brien (associate head coach for offense/tight ends coach) and Jeff Banks (special teams coordinator/running backs coach). Six days later, Banks left for Texas A&M. Almost a month later, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor departed for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The vacancies were filled by Larry Lewis (special teams/RBs) and Steve Fairchild (offensive coordinator).

With all of the additions under contracts of at least two years, it was almost as if the reset button was pushed on head coach Mike London’s tenure as head coach.

“We are in the process of implementing new systems on both sides of the ball,” UVa executive associate athletics director Jon Oliver said in a press release following the Fairchild hire. “These types of changes take time and we will need to be patient as we seek to improve this football program.”

Year No. 1 ended Saturday.

Virginia’s offense went from ranked No. 62 in the nation (396.5 yards per game) to No. 92 (368.4). The defense went from ranked No. 28 (353.3 yards given up per game) under former coordinator Jim Reid to No. 65 (403.6) under Tenuta.

The defensive struggles can be somewhat attributed to key injuries as three-year starting cornerback Demetrious Nicholson was lost midway through the year with turf toe and corner Maurice Canady (lacerated kidney) and tackle Brent Urban (high ankle sprain) missed a combined seven games.

“The total package comes into play when everybody’s there,” Tenuta told reporters during a teleconference last week. “When you’re missing certain pieces of the puzzle, you’ve got to go back to the simplistic aspects of it.

“Obviously, [we] haven’t been able to pressure and do a lot of the things that I really like to do. But, you’ve got to do what your kids can do.”

But, Saturday, Tenuta had Canady. He had Urban. That duo, combined with a career game from Eli Harold, helped put on a respectful performance.

Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3 ACC) was held to 364 yards and turned the ball over twice. Quarterback Logan Thomas was sacked five times, bringing UVa’s season total to 28, an improvement of 11 from last year.

The opposing offense didn’t eclipse the 400-yard mark against the Cavaliers for the fifth time this season.

“We tried our best, but they came out on top,” said Harold, who made three sacks to give him 8.5 for the season. “They didn’t get the best of us, but they won the game.”

Because, well, their offense wasn’t completely inept.

Virginia, which started David Watford and then brought in Greyson Lambert at quarterback late in the third quarter, gained all of 285 yards, failing to reach the 300-yard mark for the fifth time this year.

Keeping with their season-long trend, the Cavaliers failed to score after two defensive takeaways. For the year, UVa produced 13 points off of 21 takeaways.

“It hurts when you do everything that you can and you still come up short,” Harold said. “The offense obviously struggled all year and I thought this was going to be the game where they turned it around.

“But I can’t point fingers. Those guys played a heck of a year, man. I love David like a brother. But you got to play as a unit, play as a team.

“The ball didn’t bounce our way. It’s frustrating and it’s something you have to deal with.”

And let go.

Virginia’s 2014 season opener comes in eight months against UCLA at Scott Stadium.

London will be there. The Wahoos will likely be playing for his job.

“We are all going to work at our craft and try to become the best we can be,” said junior tight end Jake McGee. “I really don’t know the answers to what will get this thing going.

“Now we have winter and spring ball, but something is going to have to change for this not to roll into next year.”

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