NOTEBOOK: Walker has tough outing in first start at free safety

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With his first significant in-game playing time at free safety under his belt, Rijo Walker will have plenty to study coming out of Virginia's 28-17 loss to North Carolina.

Walker, a Bethel High graduate, got his first career start at free safety in place of injured senior Corey Mosley. UNC (3-0 overall, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) picked on Walker a couple times with trick plays in the passing game.

In the third quarter with UNC leading 21-10, wide receiver Reggie Wilkins took the ball from quarterback Bryn Renner on first-and-10 from U.Va.'s 41-yard line, ran left and spotted receiver Dwight Jones running deep with Walker, who had his back turned to the line of scrimmage.

Wilkins lofted a pass to Jones, who made the catch at U.Va.'s 5. Walker was flagged for pass interference, but the penalty was declined after Jones made the catch. UNC scored two plays later on a 2-yard touchdown run by Ryan Houston.

"I believe it was a fake reverse kind of deal," Walker said. "I'll just learn from that and learn to be patient back there, knowing I'm the last line of defense."

Walker, who finished the game with six tackles, also nearly fell victim to a similar play in the second quarter. With UNC leading 14-3, Walker got drawn to the line of scrimmage on a fake from UNC's 42, but tailback A.J. Blue surprised everybody with a pass that landed just over the fingertips of receiver Jheranie Boyd near U.Va.'s 10.


Running back Clifton Richardson was averaging 8.9 yards per carry through U.Va.'s first two games, but he carried the ball seven times for just 26 yards against UNC – an average of 3.7 yards per carry.

Richardson, a Menchville High graduate, attributed his tougher afternoon to not being as sharp when it came to making proper reads regarding running lanes. UNC entered the game first in the ACC and third in the nation in rushing defense (30 yards per game), but surrendered 170 rushing yards to U.Va. (2-1, 0-1).

"I wouldn't say it was tougher," said Richardson, a 6-foot-0, 215-pound true freshman. "I made a lot of mistakes out there. I read some of my blocks wrong."


U.Va. returns to its non-conference schedule next Saturday with a 3:30 p.m. home game against Southern Mississippi (2-1), a Conference USA representative. Southern Miss won 52-6 on Saturday against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Southeastern Louisiana.

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