- - Saturday, October 22, 2011

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — N.C. State’s offense did little to impress in the second half of Saturday’s game. Virginia found a way to do even less.

The Cavaliers once again watched the good times vanish, falling 28-14 to the Wolfpack a week after beating then-undefeated Georgia Tech.

“You’re judged by your last performance,” Wahoos coach Mike London said. “This one wasn’t a very good one.”

The Cavaliers’ defense did its job with two potentially game-changing interceptions, but both were followed by the offense failing to get a first down.

Despite N.C. State entering the game with one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, U.Va. opted to call more passes than runs. That may only have been the second most baffling thing about the offense, though, behind the quarterback carousel.

Michael Rocco started, David Watford finished, and in between the two went a combined 11-for-35 with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

N.C. State sealed the victory in the fourth quarter when David Amerson intercepted a ball that Tim Smith juggled. Amerson snatched it away and took it to the end zone.

Virginia (4-3, 1-2 ACC) and N.C. State (4-3, 1-2), seemingly headed in opposite directions before the game, now join each other as teams that will have to scrap for a sixth victory and a bowl appearance.

First, the Cavaliers will have to find a quarterback. Rocco led a 14-play touchdown drive early, but was pulled in favor of Watford, who threw an interception. After Rocco oversaw three consecutive three-and-outs to open the second half, Watford entered for good.

Asked about the decision to pull Rocco after a successful drive, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said: “I just stuck to the plan. I knew he’d go back in, so that’s just how it goes.”

London was emphatic in his denial when asked if the decision “sabotaged” the sophomore’s day, and added that the quarterback switch has been a part of the game plan in every game to date. From the players’ perspective, Rocco said that “we’ve kind of gotten used to it.”

“It’s not always easy to get into a rhythm, but it’s what we’re both given, and we’ve got to make do with what we have,” he said. “Our team has done a good job of rallying around us.”

Regardless of who played quarterback, the Virginia offense had no answers for the N.C. State defensive line, which rattled Watford, Rocco and running back Perry Jones throughout the game.

The Wolfpack were coming off a bye week, and much as the Wahoos did last week, were ready with fresh tricks.

“They were stunting and twisting and different stuff that we didn’t really see in practice,” Watford said. “They just prepared very, very well for the game.”

Despite taking away the corners, which is where U.Va.’s run game excelled last week, the Cavs still averaged 3.8 yards per carry.

Fans let their displeasure be known after each pass, though some incorrectly did it in the direction of the radio booth and announcer Dave Koehn, mistaking him for Lazor.

Others simply stayed home. The attendance of 46,030 continued a trend of declining crowds, despite the victory against Georgia Tech.

Once again, the mirage of a big victory has given way to a less glamorous reality.

London called the players out of the locker room to speak to them at midfield, the third time he’s used the motivational tactic since taking over last year. He said he asked the team to commit to being ready for a Thursday game against Miami.

“We’re in the middle of the pack right now,” the coach said. “We have to define what direction we want to go in.”

• Read Michael Phillips’ Virginia blog at timesdispatch.com