The last time Virginia had won a football game with a minus-four turnover margin, the Barber twins were sophomores, Mike London was William and Mary’s defensive line coach and Penn State was going undefeated for the fifth, and final time, under Joe Paterno.
The year was 1994, and the Cavaliers defeated visiting Clemson 9-6 on Rafael Garcia’s 19-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining. Virginia committed seven turnovers and forced three.
``Most times you lose a game like that,'' coach George Welsh said in his postgame wrap. ``That was bizarre.''
As was Saturday, when the Cavaliers survived Penn State 17-16, despite four giveaways and no takeaways.
“We weren’t clicking on all cylinders,” London understated of Virginia, “but enough to eek out a win here.”
Welsh called that 1994 game the Cavaliers’ best defensive effort of what was then his 13-year tenure. London can’t say the same – the D was more impressive in last season’s victory at Florida State – but the effort was superb.
Most notable: senior middle linebacker Steve Greer’s career-high 15 tackles and two sacks, sophomore cornerback Demetrious Nicholson’s eight tackles and three pass break-ups, and senior end Ausar Wolcott’s three quarterback pressures.
Other notes and observations:
* Four missed field goals by Penn State’s Sam Ficken took Virginia sports information director Jim Daves way back in the record book. The last time a Cavaliers opponent missed that many was Maryland in 1964 (1-for-5, as was Ficken).
But those misses didn’t cost the Tarps. They won, 10-0.
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said a low snap may have affected Ficken on his 42-yard attempt as time expired.
“It’s never always about the kicker,” O’Brien said. “The kicker is always the one to get blamed, but it’s the whole operation: the snap, the hold, the kick. We have to take a look at that. …
“We’ll have to go back as a staff and talk about it, but Sam is our kicker. We need to see what things we can do to help Sam get better. Again, it’s not all on the kicker; we had some plays in the red area we could have called better, I could have called better plays, we could have executed better, so it’s never always on the kicker.”
* Given all that’s transpired at Penn State in the past year, London can’t help but feel for O’Brien.
“That’s a very good team,” London said. “It’s a very talented team. I understand that guys left and went on to different schools, but they were very big and athletic up front. They wore us out a little bit. We were battling with them. I told Coach O’Brien it’s such a good team that he has. I know the stories following Penn State wherever they go, every game they play, questions here and there.”
* Helmets flew off at an alarming rate Saturday, triggering a new rule that forces a player who loses his helmet to sit out the next play. It was even worse for Virginia on Penn State’s opening touchdown drive, when defensive end Jake Snyder was penalized 10 yards for tackling Derek Day after he, Snyder, lost his helmet.
The flag incensed London, who went off on line judge Ron Tipton.
“Let’s say this,” London said. “It’s a new penalty that when your helmet comes off, you have to immediately stop playing, chasing the ball carrier, whatever it may be. There’s a great of deal of discernment in that. … I just felt like Jake was moving forward, and his helmet got ripped off, and the runner was coming forward and Jake just happened to be on the ground, and the two met.
“So I just disagreed with the interpretation. … I could see (a flag) if the helmet came off, and the player was running … an outside play, and Jake with his helmet off was running after him.”
* Through two games, tailbacks Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are averaging 3.0 and 3.3 yards per carry, respectively. Last year they averaged 5.0 and 4.7.
Translation: Virginia’s offensive line needs to start playing up to its potential.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns, including one from Saturday’s game.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun