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Scattershooting: Fairchild not feeling the heat

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 6:00 am

Scattershooting around the ACC, while noting that if Steve Fairchild is feeling any heat, he’s certainly not showing it …

Kind of like the old deodorant commercial where the slogan was, “Never let ‘em see you sweat,” is Fairchild’s approach to the criticism his Virginia offense has received most of the season, particularly at Pittsburgh last weekend when the Cavaliers managed to merely score a lousy field goal.

UVa hosts Ball State this Saturday in its last nonconference game of the season and the Cavaliers are in desperate need of a win after falling to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the ACC Coastal Division with the loss at Pitt.

Yes, there is a sense of urgency over at the McCue Center, where personnel changes have been made on offense, starting positions thrown open for grab, and head coach Mike London taking a closer look at where his offensive coaches will be stationed for Saturday’s game (press box or sideline).

“We need to improve in every area in a hurry, myself included,” Fairchild told this columnist during a teleconference on Wednesday. “I’ve got to do a better job. I’ve got to put [UVa’s players] in better spots to succeed.”

One of those adjustments we’d personally like to see is to put the ball in QB David Watford’s hand in the Red Zone and let him take off on designated runs on the edge and use his speed, particularly inside the 10.

We asked Fairchild, who has an extensive career as a head coach and offensive coordinator in both major college football and the NFL, if he could draw on any similar predicaments from his past to help get this Virginia offense kick-started.

“The only way I know, regardless of where you’re at, what you do on the practice field is what you do in a game,” Fairchild said. “We’ve got good kids, with good work ethics. They’re working hard. We just have to execute better. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel, just try to do better than we’ve being doing.”

Fairchild is hopeful that some of the personnel adjustments in addition to welcoming back healthy running backs Khalek Shepherd and Smoke Mizzell might make a difference. It may be time to give Mizzell more touches, turn him loose.

Virginia is a 6-point favorite over the 4-1 Cardinals.

Ball State is ranked No. 101 nationally in defense against the run (202.6 ypg), No. 87 in total defense (426.2), and 59th in pass defense (223.6).

Healthiest QB wins?

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said that QB Logan Thomas, who was battling physical issues with his abdomen and foot last week in the Georgia Tech game, seems to be better for this Saturday’s game against UNC in Blacksburg.

Carolina QB Bryn Renner, whose dad was a punter at Virginia Tech (and his mom, Cindy, was a cheerleader) was spotted walking in a protective boot earlier this week, but practiced Tuesday and was moving around without any problems according to Heels’ coach Larry Fedora.

“Logan is working,” Beamer said. “He’s a tough guy. I think a couple extra days has helped somewhat. I think he’s going to be good to go on Saturday.”

Can you imagine Tech’s offense without Thomas? Ouch.

Dome sweet dome

Syracuse is prepping for its first ACC game this weekend when No. 3 Clemson and Heisman Trophy candidate Tajh Boyd come to the noisy Carrier Dome.

Orange coach Scott Shafer is pleading with students and fans to show up and to be loud, which he credited for helping upset No. 9 Louisville there last season and West Virginia the year before.

“I think that our students and our community are taking the challenge on,” Shafer said. “My message to them is come out here and show the ACC that the Dome is one hell of a hard place to play in when we’re running around and playing football the way we’re supposed to play it. Our student body and our community are getting loud.”

ACC swan song

Maryland coach Randy Edsall said that his players and coaches never talk about this being the Terps’ final year in the ACC.

“No, we’re just trying to go out and get better each week,” Edsall said of his 4-0 team, which begins conference play this week in Tallahassee. “That’s just really all the focus is. How can we get better from week to week and continue to elevate our level of play.”

What a difference…

…A year makes. That’s what UVa offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild is hoping for when his young squad adds a year of maturity, just like Clemson coach Dabo Swinney pointed out about his defense from last year to present.

“We’re better in every area [of defense] this year,” Swinney said. “We were just OK on defense last year. We were very young, a bunch of freshmen and sophomores playing in our defensive line. We didn’t have any juniors on the roster in our defensive line.”

Virginia has only four seniors on its offensive two deep, linemen Morgan Moses and Luke Bowanko, along with fullback Billy Skrobacz and wide receiver Tim Smith. There are 19 freshmen or sophomores listed on this week’s expanded depth chart due to so many positions being open.

Swinney also pointed out that this is the second year in system of the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, which has made a huge difference.

Seminoles keying on Brown

Florida State realizes that the key to stopping Maryland’s offense is containing QB C.J. Brown for this week’s game.

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher called Brown the complete football player, averaging more than 300 yards of total offense per game, completion more than 65 percent of his passes, seven TD passes to one interception.

“You name it, we could have this discussion for about an hour,” Fisher said. “[Brown’s] a heck of a football player now. I mean, he really is.”

Quote of the week

Virginia junior free safety Brandon Phelps got an inside scouting report new Cavaliers’ defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta long before his teammates. Phelps’ dad, Gary, played defense for Virginia when Tenuta was a graduate assistant for the Wahoos in 1981 and ’82.

So, what did Gary Phelps pass along to Brandon about the new boss?

“He told me that [Tenuta’s] kind of a loud guy. He’s definitely a loud guy. He’s about being perfect.”

Stat of the week

So, you read about Tenuta being all about being perfect. His Virginia defense leads the country in three-and-outs (8.5 per game) and is No. 5 in the country in third-down defense, allowing a mere 23.9 percent success rate to opposing offenses.

Short yardage …

…Had a nice chat with former UVa defensive coordinator Jim Reid last Saturday night. Reid is doing great as linebackers coach at Iowa, where the Hawkeyes are 4-1. …Former UVa star left tackle Eugene Monroe has been traded by Jacksonville to the Baltimore Ravens for two 2014 draft choices (4th, 5th round picks), to help shore up a lackluster running game. It’s a good career move for Big Gene. …FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said that one of the reasons four ACC teams are unbeaten and ranked in the AP Top 25 is that the coaches have been in the programs for two to four years now and that they’re recruiting “their guys.”

The picks

Last week: 5-4. Upset Specials: 0-2. To Date: 45-11. This week: Boston College 27, Army 17; Clemson 33, Syracuse 24; Florida State 30, Maryland 24; Miami 27, Georgia Tech 19; Virginia Tech 26, North Carolina 10; N.C. State 19, Wake Forest 13; Virginia 24, Ball State 17; Louisville 40, Temple 10; Notre Dame 36, Arizona State 30.

Hootie’s Power Rankings

Present ranking, team, overall record, previous week’s ranking, comment:

1. Clemson, 4-0, (1). Looked like the Tigers we expected in last week’s rout of Wake. Should roar in the Dome this weekend.

2. Florida State, 4-0 (2). Would Seminoles be merely mediocre if it weren’t for QB Jameis Winston?

3. Miami, 4-0 (4). Hurricanes have been tested only once thus far but it’s conference play only from here on out. They’ll handle Georgia Tech’s option this weekend.

4. Virginia Tech, 4-1 (6). Hokies may boast the nation’s best defense, which will win a lot of games for them. QB Logan Thomas played better last week in Atlanta.

5. Maryland, 4-0 (8). Terps’ defense is ranked No. 6 nationally but is facing an explosive bunch of Seminoles (540.3 ypg, 51.3 ppg). Can Maryland stop FSU’s Winston? No.

6. Georgia Tech, 3-1 (3). Jackets were awful on defense vs. Hokies last week. Paul Johnson’s offense showed again it can’t play from behind, especially when he’s making bone-headed decisions on fourth down.

7. Syracuse, 2-2 (7). The Orange had an extra week to prepare for Clemson. That won’t be enough.

8. N.C. State, 3-1 (10). Our jury is still out on the Wolfpack. Not sure they’re as good as advertised.

9. Boston College, 2-2 (11). Eagles put up a good fight at home against FSU.

10. North Carolina, 1-3. (5). ECU 55, UNC 31. Really? Just think what the Hokies are going to do to the Heels.

11. Pittsburgh, 3-1 (12). Weren’t impressed with the Panthers at all, but somebody’s got to be No. 11.

12. Virginia, 2-2 (9). Doesn’t deserve to be any higher until its gawd-awful offense shows some improvement.

13. Duke, 3-2 (13). Blue Devils can put up some points, but can they stop anyone good?

14. Wake Forest, 2-3 (14). What can we say? Biggest disappointment in the conference so far this season.

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