By Tommy Keeler Jr.
I didn't expect much from the University of Virginia's football team this season. After the way things have went the past couple years, could anybody really? However, last weekend things may have hit a new low for the Cavaliers.
Don't get me wrong, I know Ball State isn't such a bad team this season (something I wish I had known before I made my pick last week in the football forecast). At the end of the day Ball State is still Ball State, and no matter how good they are no respectable Atlantic Coast Conference team should be losing to them.
The Cavaliers started the season off with a quality win against BYU, and I thought maybe Mike London finally had things going in the right direction. The Cavaliers were crushed by Oregon, but everybody, outside of the top teams, gets crushed by Oregon.
The last two weeks have been very, very dismal. First, the Cavaliers lost to Pittsburgh. The game was on the road and it was close, but the offense managed only three points. It's not like Pittsburgh's defense is Alabama's.
Then the Cavaliers lost to Ball State last weekend. The game was back and forth for a while, but Virginia's defense looked awful. Of course, the offense didn't help it out with four turnovers, including three fumbles.
As I was keeping track of the score, before and during James Madison's game last weekend, I couldn't help but think back to when the Cavaliers had a strong program. There was a time under former coach Al Groh when the Cavaliers were ranked in the Top 25 for at least a little stretch every season. They made a bowl game pretty consistently.
The question is how do they get back to being a respectable program?
It all starts at the top. Before the season started I thought London deserved to be given at least two more seasons. Virginia has some top recruits coming in on the defensive side of the ball who can help turn things around, but the Cavs will need more firepower on offense. The recruiting season isn't over, and I think they need to put more focus on the skill positions.
I'm not sure how I feel about London right now, and how the Cavs finish out the season will probably persuade my opinion either way. I like London. I've interviewed him before and he seems like a really good guy. Unfortunately, winning games is what matters in college football, not being a nice guy.
He changed much of his coaching staff in the offseason, and still they seem like the same team they've been for the last couple years. It's possible a change at the head coaching position would give them a spark, a fresh start.
At the end of the day, you have to look at the talent, and I don't think there's quite enough there right now for the Cavs.
They don't have that one big-time player that I think they need. Sophomore David Watford went 21 for 36 for 209 yards passing against Ball State. He only had one interception, but didn't have any touchdown passes. They benched him for redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert. He wasn't any more impressive, a mere 1 for 5 for 14 yards.
None of the wide receivers really seem like that big-time playmaker that every great team needs.
The running game did churn out 236 yards, but I don't think any of their running backs have that game-changing speed that you need to put yourself over the top.
Virginia is 12th in the ACC in total offense, averaging 349.6 yards per game. They are 13th in passing yards per game, with only triple-option Georgia Tech behind them.
London has improved in recruiting on the defensive side, so it's possible he'll get there offensively as well.
I don't think it's all gloom and doom for the Cavaliers, but things need to change -- and in a hurry.
The schedule won't be kind to them. The Cavaliers play at Maryland this weekend, and still have Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech on the schedule. I think London may need to win six games and get a bowl bid to save his job. That means they would need to win four of their last seven games.
His leadership over this final stretch will be very important to his and the Cavaliers' future.
Virginia has only seven seniors on the team, so if they can end the season on a positive note it would bode very well for next year.
It will be interesting to see how the team responds to this latest adversity. A lot will be riding on these last seven games -- for London they could be his last.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd