Virginia Looks to Turn Season Around Again

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst ISeptember 23, 2008

The Virginia Cavaliers have fallen and seemingly cannot get up.

The bye week came at a perfect time last week for the Cavaliers who were still stinging from a 45-10 loss at UConn.

For those of you keeping track at home, UVA shutout the top FCS team in the country, but have been outscored 97-17 by teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (aka "real" teams).

97 points?  Virginia is supposed to be known for its defense and yet the loss of Chris Long alongside Jeffrey Fitzgerald, Mike Brown, and Aaron Clark means that the Cavaliers have given up more points in three games than they did in their first five victories of 2007. 

The stalwart defense Virginia has relied on has fallen apart.  Add to that, the recent departure of quarterback Pete Lalich who violated his probation from earlier this year.

In other words, do not expect the Virginia offense to pick up the slack.

Despite talented skill players, Virginia lacks a leader on offense to lead the team through tough times.  Say what you will about Jameel Sewell's throwing ability, but he had the mental toughness to gut out five victories by two points or less last season.  Now, however, he is tutoring middle school kids in Charlottesville waiting to be reinstated. 

Instead the Cavaliers are left with a depleted offensive line, a beat up running back, and a sophomore quarterback in Marc Verica who will be making only his second start in his collegiate career.

In other words, if this isn't rock bottom, Virginia fans don't want to know what is.

The question remains, now that Virginia has officially been listed by Vegas as underdogs against a Duke team whose senior class has never won an ACC game, will Virginia win another game?

This Duke game is critical to proving how both teams will fare in the ACC this season.  After 24 straight losses, if the Blue Devils can take care of business at home they could just surprise a few other teams and might make the 5-6 win plateau. 

Coach David Cutcliffe knows the importance of this game and he has even sponsored an event on campus to try and rally the students. 

I'm not actually sure which is harder for Duke, winning in the ACC or bringing fans into Wallace Wade Stadium.

Despite the lack of faith from the fans, Duke seems to be in very good shape to pull off a big victory and put the losing streak to an end.

Virginia needs this game if they want any chance of salvaging a season that already appears to be flirting with disaster.  Despite Groh's mediocre record at Virginia, he has never lost to the Blue Devils and a loss could be the final nail in the coffin for the alum who has alienated many allies over his eight years at the helm.

A loss would send Virginia into a tailspin which may result in one more victory at most.  A win might allow them to pull an upset in the upcoming weeks against an up-and-down Maryland team or perhaps shocking the ECU Pirates.  A bad season would still be on the horizon, but it would be better than the gloomy days of the Sonny Randle era.

Verica was not awful against UConn, but if he is to lead the Cavaliers to their second victory of the season he will need the Virginia defense to play at the level most have come to expect.  

Clearly the Fall of 2008 in America has centered around the word "change".  Virginia football is certainly changing, but it is not one I can believe in.

Many have to ask, is Virginia changing towards a better future or a pre-George Welsh past full of ties, sundresses and about 6 home coming games a season.

Saturday will give us a look at the early exit poll.