Cavaliers work to improve red zone efficiency - The Daily Progress: Football

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Cavaliers work to improve red zone efficiency

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Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 6:00 am

If the pass is delivered on the money, does Dominique Terrell catch it, turn and beat a Maryland defender to the pylon?

If the slightest extra push is generated by the interior of the line, does Kevin Parks rumble into the end zone?

If Parks dashes by an unblocked Terrapin linebacker in the backfield, does he still make it past the first down marker?

When you’re Virginia and you’re coming off a 1-point loss in which you failed to convert four of six red zone trips into touchdowns, you analyze every crucial play and wonder what if?

“There were a couple where you just look back and you’re like, ‘Dang, I missed that throw. I wish I could have had that one back,’” said Cavalier quarterback David Watford.

“There’s a shoulda-coulda-woulda,” said right guard Jay Whitmire. “Like, I’d rather have that been a touchdown. Everyone would rather have that been a touchdown.”

Or touchdowns.

There were several tales to UVa’s heartbreaking 27-26 defeat to the Terrapins last Saturday at Byrd Stadium. There was the Wahoo defense giving up seven plays of 30 yards or more, including a momentum-swinging 47-yard gain on a third-and-22 in the fourth quarter. There was the much-debated last-drive strategy used by head coach Mike London and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild that resulted in a missed 42-yard field goal try.

And then there were the red zone woes.

Alec Vozenilek has only been Virginia’s placekicker for two games. He’s already sixth in the ACC in field goal attempts. The junior was used five times on Saturday. Only once did he have to power his right foot for anything longer than 28 yards.

UVa averaged 5.4 yards per play against Maryland. Inside the Terrapins’ 20-yard line, however, that average was slimmed to 3.2 yards a snap.

The Cavaliers converted three of seven red zone third downs.

On a third-and-eight from the Terrapin 11 with less than nine minutes remaining in the first quarter, Watford threw too wide to an open Terrell on an out that would have assured a Virginia first down and perhaps a touchdown if the junior receiver could stay in-bounds post-catch.

“I just missed it,” Watford said. “I probably set too quick. I rushed myself in my drop and I just sailed it right past him.”

On their next drive, the Cavs once again sniffed the goal line after Parks ran five yards on a first-and-goal from the 6. The 5-foot-8, 205-pounder’s named was called on the next two plays. But two straight-ahead dives went for no yards.

“Those were pretty big,” Whitmire said. “Going back to that first quarter on the goal line, we really would have liked to punch that in. It’s hard to say what exactly we should have done. You got to maybe get another inch, get another inch of movement, just keep driving your feet, stay a little lower.

“But you got to get them.”

The fourth quarter gave them another opportunity.

Leading 23-20 and with a chance to all but dash the home team’s hopes following a recovery of a botched Maryland punt return, Virginia faced a third-and-1 at the Terrapin 8. The play was an off-right tackle give to Parks, but Maryland linebacker Cole Farrand sniffed it out, getting to the junior before he could cut past the marker.

The stop brought in Vozenilek to boot his fourth and final made field goal, a 26-yarder that reminded the Cavaliers of another missed opportunity.

It took some luster off an otherwise banner day of 242 rushing yards.

“There’s just a couple minor errors on both those [short-yardage] plays,” said UVa offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim. “I’ll take the brunt of the blame on that in just getting them corrected and understanding the difference when you’re running a football play on the 1-yard line than when you’re running the same football play back at the 40-yard line. Those things were corrected on the sideline and I was hoping for another opportunity to get down there and run them again.

“Looking forward to this week, fourth-and-1, can’t wait to get in it and run it and make it.”

Virginia (2-4, 0-2 ACC) hosts Duke (4-2, 0-2) at 3:30 p.m, Saturday. The Blue Devils are third in the ACC in red zone defense, allowing just 12 touchdowns on 20 tries.

UVa will be trying to break a losing streak, a task it easily could have accomplished a week before.

“It is disappointing knowing that if maybe one of those field goals had turned into a touchdown,” Whitmire said, “we would have won the game.”

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