His program mired in its longest losing streak since 1982, Virginia football coach Al Groh spent part of Saturday searching for life rafts.
Lo and behold, he found two that just might float.
First, the three teams that have beaten the Cavaliers this season continued to impress. Second, alleged heavyweights stumbled while bantamweights stood tall.
Does this mean Virginia, idle last week and headed to North Carolina this week, will pull a 180? Might we see the perpetually maligned Groh locking arms with his critics at season's end for a chorus of "The Good Old Song"?
Let's not get carried away, but let's also inspect these rafts.
The Cavaliers' 2009 conquerors — William and Mary, Texas Christian and Southern Mississippi — are a combined 10-1, the lone defeat Southern Miss' at No. 18 Kansas. TCU won at Clemson on Saturday, while W&M handled visiting Delaware.
Not to excuse Virginia's opening face-plant against the Tribe. Bowl Subdivision programs should not lose to their more-enlightened, lesser-financed playoff brethren — last year's Cavaliers shut out eventual national champion Richmond, you'll recall.
But Virginia, at least on offense, was much-improved in the 37-34 loss at Southern Miss as Groh and staff shelved the trendy spread alignment for more conventional formations.
(Quick diversion: Imagine yourself a Cavaliers fan Saturday before last. As your guys are dusting Southern Miss midway through the third quarter, the enemy to the southwest is sucking wind against Nebraska. Party time on Rugby Road, right? Not quite. Two crazy comebacks later, the day was doomed.)
Intentionally or not, Groh foreshadowed the Cavaliers' early struggles. During preseason gabfests with his media pals, he said TCU of the Mountain West Conference — the Horned Frogs are ranked 11th this week — was every bit as good as the ACC's upper crust, and that Southern Miss wasn't far behind.
Prescient or CYA, Groh's evaluations appear spot-on.
"We have had to go up against that type of competition, and we can … look at the positive side of it," Groh said Monday, "and hope that the lessons are what level (our) team has to perform to go against those kind of teams."
Similar opponents loom the next two weeks. North Carolina opened solidly at 3-0 before falling at Georgia Tech on Saturday, while Indiana, also 3-1, showed surprising resolve in a 36-33 defeat at No. 22 Michigan.
Hardly the ideal tonic for Virginia. Dating to last season, the Cavaliers have lost seven consecutive games, the longest current streak among the 65 teams belonging to the Bowl Championship Series' major conferences.
The last time Virginia endured this prolonged a drought was the final three games of 1981 and the first five of '82.
But as Groh's television gazing last week showed, September is far too early for conclusions. Previously undefeated and acclaimed Miami and California were not only beaten Saturday but also humbled, the Hurricanes 31-7 at Virginia Tech, the Golden Bears 42-3 at Oregon.
Two nights earlier, fourth-ranked and Southeastern Conference flavor du jour Mississippi lost at South Carolina 16-10. Rebels quarterback Jevan Snead, heralded as a cross between Mannings Archie and Eli, completed 7 of 21 passes.
"It certainly revealed that there's probably far too many teams and players that are anointed way too early in the season," Groh said, "and far too many teams and players that are condemned too early in the season."
Groh continued: "It also looks like there are an awful lot of teams this year that are essentially the same teams, an awful lot, certainly more than a Top 25 poll would be able to encompass; and that there are a few teams that are clearly superior, and that outside of that, it's a pretty good battle every week to see who comes out with it."
Indeed, after Florida, Alabama and perhaps Texas, college football's landscape is as abstract as Jackson Pollock.
Washington, by the way, was 0-12 last season, and South Florida was playing a backup quarterback.
It's enough to make you think Virginia has a shot Saturday.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime
Next game WHO: Virginia (0-3, 0-0 ACC) at North Carolina (3-1, 0-1). WHEN: Noon Saturday. TV: Raycom 27 35.