Virginia’s Rocco, Watford getting accustomed to new roles

Rocco makes 2nd start since being named starter against Maryland on Saturday

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Minutes after a 28-21 victory against Miami, the Virginia football team was boarding a commercial jet that had been chartered for the occasion.

Far from being a raucous party, though, this was just like any commuter’s flight — uncomfortable and inconvenient.

In one row, Michael Rocco, David Watford and Ross Metheny sat shoulder to shoulder. Instead of celebrating the victory, the quarterbacks were trying to get some sleep. The plane didn’t land until 3 a.m., and the trio had classes to attend in the morning.

The dynamic was also an interesting one for Watford and Rocco, who have spent the season competing to be the Cavaliers’ starter.

It’s a job Rocco won two weeks ago, but both players maintain that they’ve kept a friendly relationship. Watford, a true freshman, has received pep talks from both offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and head coach Mike London, who have urged him to keep working as if he’s the starter, which he would be if Rocco went down.

“If that’s how they want me to contribute to the team, that’s what I’ll do,” Watford said. “They’re still giving me a lot of reps … I’m still out here working hard and staying ready.”

He added that the biggest adjustment from high school has been the amount of work required at U.Va., both in the classroom and on the field.

London rewarded the players for those efforts by giving them last Saturday off. Watford, who is from Hampton, used the time to reconnect with friends.

Rocco went home to Lynchburg to watch his family’s football games. His dad, Frank, coaches Liberty Christian Academy, while his uncle Danny is the head coach at Liberty University.

Michael, a sophomore, said that since being named the starter he’s felt more in the flow of games, as opposed to him and the other Cavs wondering when a switch will be made.

“Just being able to be out there every series with the team and the offense and keep things rolling,” he said. “It was a great flow to the game, obviously, in the Miami game.”

Whether that was due to a great game plan or to the quarterback move will be tested Saturday against Maryland, a team that has its own, unsettled, quarterback controversy.

Things seem to have calmed down for now in Charlottesville, where Rocco has led the Wahoos in drills.

He’s been working on extending plays with his arm, instead of just throwing the ball away or scrambling when the pocket collapses.

By doing so, he’s aiming to stay one step ahead of his competition, which always seems to be nearby.

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