CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A two-point conversion pass by Idaho that would decide the game and potentially the direction of Virginia’s season fell to the ground Saturday.
The Cavaliers stormed off the bench and into the end zone, jumping on Rodney McLeod and other defenders after McLeod made a play to keep the ball out of the hands of Idaho’s Mike LaGrone.
Celebration with a 21-20 overtime victory over an underdog? Yes.
Relief? That, too.
Satisfaction? Not so much.
The Cavaliers know they have a lot of things to address and will need to play better as they head into a bye week and then dive into their ACC schedule, starting with Georgia Tech.
U.Va. outgained Idaho 496-296 — tailback Perry Jones had 110 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving — but was unable to convert the real estate advantage into a lot of points.
It had three turnovers on three consecutive possessions after jumping to a 14-0 lead. It made special teams mistakes — a field goal blocked and a field goal missed, and a blocked punt that Idaho turned into a game-tying touchdown with 3:11 left in the game.
And then there was the call at the end of the half that will lead to plenty of second-guessing.
“Ugly” was the word U.Va. coach Mike London and cornerback Chase Minnifield used after the game. Both also said what mattered in the end was they found a way to win.
“It’s a huge win for us going into this bye week,” London said, whose team (3-2) had lost back-to-back games. “It sets a mindset and tone that it’s better to be 3-2 right now and have some opportunities to … get some guys healed.”
Quarterback Michael Rocco, questionable because of a rib injury, started and led the Cavs to TD drives on their second and third possessions. Freshman David Watford entered the game on the fourth drive and threw an interception that seemed to stymie the momentum.
Two fumbles ensued. Idaho (1-4) picked up a field goal on one. Another Vandals field goal 37 seconds from halftime made it 14-6.
The second-guessing started after Virginia drove to the Idaho 20 with 6 seconds remaining. Instead of attempting a field goal, the Cavaliers tried to take a shot at the end zone. Rocco dropped back to pass, scrambled out, did not go down and was tackled at the 6 as time ran out.
“If the guy wasn’t open, I wanted Michael to throw it out of the end zone and have at least a second on the clock to kick a field goal,” London said. “Instead of going down, I guess he thought he might have had the opportunity to get in the end zone. It was a mistake that cost us three points at the end of the half. It’s a learning issue with him.”