Virginia Football: Mike London's Time as Cavalier Coach Ticking Away

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst INovember 25, 2012

There are only a few certainties in life.

You live, you pay taxes and you die.

In football, the new norm has been that the Virginia Cavaliers cannot defeat the Virginia Tech Hokies. Having lost 13 out of 14 against their arch-rivals, there is little reason for any Virginia fan to muster hope that they can turn around this lopsided streak—yet hope is exactly what Cavalier fans had in the waning moments.

However, that hope faded away on a blustery and dreadful day in Blacksburg, Virginia.

With almost nothing on the line except pride and a meager bowl bid for the Hokies, both teams played some ugly football before a frozen-solid crowd in the second-coldest home game in Frank Beamer's tenure with the Hokies.

Yet that ugliness was the light at the end of the tunnel for the underdog Cavaliers. Their defense had made the Hokies look perhaps their worst in two decades. They appeared imminently beatable, and yet Virginia had little to muster offensively itself.

Still, with the score tied at 14, Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco was picked off with just minutes to go. 

They say that, in critical moments, time seems to stand still, yet on Saturday, quite the opposite happened for Virginia fans. The clock kept rolling.

Running play after running play, Virginia coach Mike London stood and watched the clock wind down, despite having two timeouts in his back pocket.


Even after an injured player temporarily stopped the clock with 50 seconds remaining.

Even after a third down play that allowed the Hokies to take the clock to four seconds before kicking the game-winning field goal.

Coach Mike London did nothing.

In fact, one might wonder if he had forgotten how to cross his arms in such a way to make a "timeout" motion until he finally used his timeouts to ice the kicker—twice.

Considering the temperature outside, London could have done very little to have iced the Hokie kicker anymore, particularly after he had shanked one just moments earlier.

Still, to give up a chip shot field goal without any resistance at all will be remembered as one of the greatest coaching blunders in Virginia history.

Oh, but that was only one of two horrible decisions made by the Cavalier coaching staff on Saturday.

A fake field goal inside the 30-yard line on 4th-and-8 prevented Virginia from taking its first two-score lead in this rivalry game since their victory in 2003.

Instead of a 17-7 lead, the Hokies seized momentum on a long, methodical drive to the end zone to tie the score at 14 all.

Now, there will always be caveats.


Given the wind conditions, the field goal by Virginia's Drew Jarrett could have missed. Certainly, Cody Journell of Tech could have missed his, and even if he had used his timeouts, there was no guarantee that Virginia would have done anything.

In fact, they almost assuredly would have still come up short.

However, the fact they were never even given the opportunity is the most unforgivable sin of this entire Cavalier tragedy.

Any 11-year old boy who has owned Madden and an X-Box knows you do not leave timeouts in your back pocket to simply ice a kicker.

Coach London has no one to blame but himself, and now the penance comes.

Virginia will undoubtedly be different next year.

Coordinators will be let go or "resign."

Quarterbacks are going to transfer or face an unthinkable four-man rotation next season with the people-pleasing London in charge.

Virginia fans do not deserve this carnage, but it appears that this is their future for now. As many Hokies have already said, if the Cavaliers could not win against their weakest rival in 20 years, how can they expect to win going forward?

It is interesting to note that Tom O'Brien, a long-time assistant coach under Virginia coach George Welsh, was let go on Sunday after going 7-5 with the North Carolina State Wolfpack.


In six years, his team went to four bowl games and had two losing conference records. His overall record was a pedestrian 40-35 and 22-26 in the ACC, including an abysmal loss to Virginia this year.

Yet, he was 5-1 against his arch-rival North Carolina and defeated Florida State before a national TV audience.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik was fired two years removed from a national championship and one year removed from beating Virginia in the Chik-fil-A Bowl.

O'Brien may not have lived up to his potential and Chizik may have set the bar too high.

It is rare to find those coaches that become institutions at a University. The legends are fading away and even the top names like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban seem to move around.

Coach Mike London has a fire and  passion that helps him win recruits, but his inexperience and woeful game management has helped him lose games.

Nice guys may get extra time, but winning is the only thing that can stop a coach's time from running out.

Coach London, you are officially on the clock.


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