On Wednesday, UVa head coach Mike London fielded a host of questions about his team as they prepare for Thursday night's home tilt against North Carolina.
UVa head coach Mike London photo courtesy of VirginiaSports.com
MIKE LONDON: It's indeed an honor and privilege to be on ESPN Thursday night. I think one of the oldest rivalry games against North Carolina, a very good North Carolina team, outstanding talent. So we look forward to the challenge in tomorrow night's game. Questions.
Q. Your team has been involved in a couple shootouts, one with Louisiana Tech and another with Miami last week. Do you see more of the same tomorrow night?
LONDON: Well, it's hard to gauge at this point right now without having gotten into the game and seeing the ebb and flow of how it will go.
Obviously we want to make sure we score enough points to win the game and not give up that many points. I think Carolina has shown that they are very explosive offensive and put so many points up on the board that they are a quick-strike offense with a veteran quarterback in (Bryn)Renner and having outstanding height in their wide receivers.
And obviously the guy who makes it all go for them is (Gio) Bernard, who is the No. 1 in the nation in punt returns, rushing yards, total yards. So he's got the whole package.
So, we have our work cut out for us because there are so many weapons that they have, and you can see how they put all these points up on the board.
Q. The Coastal Division has been hard to predict this year. Why do you think it's been so hard for one of you guys to separate?
LONDON: Well, I've always said that there are a lot of outstanding coaches in the ACC, and not just the coastal, but the Atlantic, and every year, the team hits those cycles of the top end of your recruiting cycle, or you're losing veteran players that were significant contributors the season before. So a lot times, about the breaks; the bounces and breaks that you get.
It's hard to say, to put one emphasis on what it is. But I'll always attribute to the type of coaches that there, and whether it's a group of returning veterans that are in key spots is always something that's significant, as well.
It has been -- you're right. You look at our side of the division, and you know, it has been characterized as not ever thought of it being in the type of order that it's in at this point.
But with some more games left to play, there's still opportunities for teams who have been looked at as far as being the leaders of their conference to have chances to do that and teams like ourselves will still have chances to control their own destiny and looking for an opportunity to do that, as well.
Q. Do you think it's been a down year for the division?
LONDON: I wouldn't characterize it as a down year. There's so many times unless you're in the program itself, about who you have, who is back in those key positions, about the experience that you have.
As I said, I attribute a lot of it to coaching and parity a little bit. Guys are out coaching hard and they are getting great talent and they are taking the talent that they have, and particularly experienced talent, and using it to influence the type of games that they are playing.
I just think that this year, you look at all of the things that are going on, the wins and the home and away wins and the last-second wins; the year definitely is one that you can look at and say, who would have thought that.
Q. The injury report last night listed Maurice (Canady) as doubtful because of a medical condition. Do you have any update on him and his status for tomorrow night?
LONDON: I do not at this point. I know that there's some things that he's doing this morning and there's one last opportunity for him to do something this afternoon to determine his status.
So we are hopeful, but at the same time, any medical issues that would increase a player's opportunity to get further injured, then obviously we don't want to do that. But we'll know by the end of the day.
Q. And the NC State and Miami games, just points-wise, it's the best back-to-back games Virginia has had against Division IA competition in seven years. What has suddenly clicked in your offense the last two weeks?
LONDON: I think it's hand-in-hand. In the NC State game, there were several turnovers which gave us more opportunities as far as possessions.
There were more explosive plays -- you know, plays whether it was a ball throw down the field or runs. Like I said, defensively, there were turnovers, several turnover sacks, six sacks. We scored on defense with a safety.
I think in the Miami game, again, offense was quick and I always go back to third downs and look at third down, 9-for-14 and I believe they were 4-for-10.
So there's chances to extend your drive versus getting off the field.
You look at our quarterbacks, both of them that played, neither one gave up an interception. Of course an interception came from our tailback Perry Jones, but I think not giving the ball up and not giving turnovers has been a key for us.
It has not always presented itself; that in the previous games, in order for us to be successful, we are going to have to continue that trends, particularly against a very explosive North Carolina offense and a good defense.
Q. Given the success you've had in the five-day window last season going down to Miami, do you pretty much follow the same routine this week?
LONDON: I try to, yes. The only difference is when you're the team that's traveling, your Sunday and then your Wednesday-- the Sunday after your Saturday game and the Wednesday when you're using that to travel, can be affected.
So we feel pretty good about having a Sunday practice which is productive and today's practice, because we are at home, our guys are into the routine of being allowed to still go to class and still sleep in their own beds and just do different things like that.
We like the routine of if it was going to be a Thursday night quick turnaround game, rather it be the home game that's hosting the game because of the familiarity of the players and their daily routine.
Q. You've not played in a lot of Thursday night games in recent years. It's often speculated that it helps recruiting. What did you sense that last year's Miami victory on Thursday night enhanced your stature with recruits?
LONDON: I think without a doubt, when you have an opportunity to showcase on Thursday night, everyone is watching that game. ESPN is a great brand and does a great job of marketing it's programming, particularly on those Thursday nights.
You look at the last couple Thursday night games, you see teams that are playing that I think have received bumps in their recruiting.
So it's no different for us last year playing Miami down there and being successful that recruiting definitely was enhanced for us.
You know, and this year, you're not doing quite as well as what you want to being doing on the field, but having won the last two games and having changed a play on national TV again; again, you can improve your brand and you can improve the opportunity of exposure that we are looking at you and maybe take a second look at you because they see what you're doing on the field.
Q. Usually people think when you're juggling quarterbacks that it's not a very good situation, but it seems to have energized your offense. Can you talk about the philosophy behind playing both guys and using them back and forth in a game?
LONDON: Well, you have to have gone through the process of both of them having played and been starter and both of them having come in at the end of a game and seeing what they can do. Both of them's knowledge of the offense and both of them's skill set of the offense.
You know, when you look at ourselves, particularly going into the break, there were things that both Michael (Rocco) and Phillip (Sims) did well and there were some things that we could help them with in terms of other players and surrounding casts.
Coach Lazor and the offensive staff crafted a game plan or a menu of things that both of our quarterbacks could do and execute.
And I think that thus far, it has worked out in terms of what they can do and based on what was seen prior to the previous possession; and just so many other different things, a guy has a chance to look at from a sideline, what's going on with coverages and rotations of defenders and anticipating blitzes.
I think at this point, we are where we are with Michael and Phillip, and we'll continue to keep doing this and hopefully give us opportunities to win the last two regular-season games.
Q. Have you ever done anything like this before in your career?
LONDON: I've been around here at Virginia when Matt Schaub and Marques Hagans -- you know, I've seen different quarterbacks play in a game in previous teams that I've been on.
I know that it's not the most conventional, but each team has to decide what's in the best interests of the team and what's going to move the team forward. I've always said between those two guys, what makes it easier is that Michael is selfless and so is Phillip. They just want the team to win. They want to do whatever their part is to help us win.
When you have that mind-set from your two quarterbacks, then there's a lot of respect that they have garnered and a lot of things that the players on our team appreciate and admire and so they go out and play hard for whoever is taking the snaps.