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September 1, 2012

Wahoos roll Spiders in opener

Michael Rocco passed for a near-personal-best 311 yards, Kevin Parks ran for a pair of touchdowns, and UVa avoided turning the ball over in a dominant but sometimes less than precise 43-19 rout of Richmond in the season opener on Saturday afternoon.

The Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0) were in control from the opening drive, scoring 22 unanswered points on the way to an impressive win. But it was, after all, a victory over FCS Richmond (0-1, 0-0) that certainly could've been more impressive on the scoreboard and on the stat sheet.

"Obviously, we played well enough to win," head coach Mike London said. "Couple throws I think we'd like to get back. But for the most part, I thought Mike threw the ball pretty good and Phillip (Sims) had a chance to come in and I thought he threw the ball pretty good as well.

"We threw the ball around a little bit and we made some good catches...but I'm more concerned with making sure we establish the kind of running game that we need, particularly these short-yardage situations."

Without the services of sophomore running back Clifton Richardson (who London said could have played if need be), UVa still had plenty of talent in the backfield.

Senior captain Perry Jones carried 14 times for 52 yards and a touchdown. Parks, a redshirt sophomore, added 49 yards of his own on 14 carries. And redshirt sophomore Khalek Shepherd ran for a career-high 52 yards on 10 attempts, adding his first career touchdown. Shepherd also handled most of the team's kickoff and punt return duties. He fielded a pair of punts for just 9 yards but racked up 90 yards in kickoff returns on just two attempts.

In all, UVa ran for 184 yards compared to passing for 361.

"I don't think we kind of woke up until the second half," London added.

Rocco, who was 25 of 37 with a long of 51 yards, was good but not great and not nearly as crisp as his offensive coordinator would've liked.

"But I have really high standards for him," Bill Lazor said of Rocco. "I think he knows that. And the other thing that he knows is that I'm going to coach him hard on the sideline and expect him to be perfect. That's what we're aiming for.

"The great thing about Mike is that he is setting that same standard for himself," Lazor added.

Sims, a sophomore transfer from Alabama who entered his first game as a Wahoo in the 4th quarter, completing 5 of 6 passes for 50 yards, with a long of 24.

UVa opened the game with a 10-play, 48-yard drive that was capped by Parks' touchdown with 9:35 left. On the ensuing possession, Richmond's attempt to punt ended in a safety when the snap sailed over the punter's head.

Three plays later, Rocco found sophomore receiver Darius Jennings, who made a man miss and scampered 51 yards for the touchdown (Jennings finished with five receptions for 84 yards, second only to junior Tim Smith and his 96 yards on six receptions).

Just like that, with more than eight-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter, Virginia was up 16-0.

Junior placekicker Drew Jarrett made his first career field goal just after the start of the second quarter, drilling one from 45 yards out, to extend the lead to 19. About six minutes later, he added another FG, this time from 23 yards. And the route was on.

"That's something to go back and look at on the film," London said when asked if he thought his team might've gotten complacent after that quick run to 22 points. "It looked like we were doing a pretty good job moving the ball then kind of got caught in a couple of lulls there."

Though UVa controlled the time of possession (37:29 to 22:31), was more successful on third downs (8 of 16 versus 4 of 15), and allowed no sacks, there was a sense among coaches and players that the Wahoos should've been more emphatic in all phases.

Though Virginia didn't allow a sack, it didn't register one. Though it didn't turn the ball over, it didn't create any either. And though Rocco was solid, there were several passes in the middle of the game that should've been completed.

"When you coach a guy hard, you have to make sure you pat him on the back too," Lazor said. "I thought we did a good job securing the football. We didn't turn it over tonight. And we certainly are happy with the number of points we scored."

Lazor's only complaint came due to the fact that UVa was successful on two of three attempts on 4th down. That one ended on the UR 21 was the problem.

"I was really disappointed that we had a redzone drive that failed with the 4th down conversion," he said. "There were a couple of other redzone drives that we ended up kicking field goals and we'll address that."

Though he credited Richmond with a hard-fought game and said he expected new head coach Danny Rocco to do well at UR, London wasn't pleased with the consistency he saw from his team.

"We have to be able to block what we see," London explained. "I just thought that there were kind of lulls a little bit back and forth.

"We have a long ways to go," London added.


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