- - Friday, September 30, 2011

In the first quarter of games this season, the Virginia Cavaliers have scored just two touchdowns. Both were last Saturday against Southern Mississippi.

Leading off with big plays and scoring points early is something that will become more critical when ACC play begins after Saturday’s final tuneup against Idaho.

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has expressed a desire to open up the playbook, but that could be complicated by the quarterback situation today.

Virginia will give true freshman David Watford his first career start if sophomore Michael Rocco is unable to play because of a rib injury.

Even if Rocco can go, expect Watford to get a significant amount of playing time. He’s been showing off his speed in limited appearances, but also some of the rookie mistakes that have kept him from taking over the job.

“You saw his athleticism,” coach Mike London said of Watford’s performance in the 30-24 loss to Southern Miss. “But at the same time, you see some of the growth he’ll need as we move forward.”

On the whole, Virginia’s offense hasn’t been bad to start games, it just hasn’t been efficient.

Until Saturday’s two touchdowns, the Wahoos had averaged 100 yards of offense in the first quarter with nothing to show for it.

Entering the field, London said he wants his players to show more focus, that they “have to take on the mentality that when they come out of the tunnel, it’s not about the smoke, it’s about the first play.”

Making the most of those opening drives would translate to less time spent catching up late in games, as the Cavs had to do against Southern Miss.

“It took until that last quarter, with the backs against the wall,” offensive lineman Luke Bowanko said. “You only have one choice, and that’s to fight.”

London would prefer to grab a lead early, though, and use his stout running backs to protect it, especially in light of the uncertainty under center.im

If Rocco can go, the sophomore gets the start. Otherwise it’s Watford, and perhaps lefty Ross Metheny will see action.

Even without stability at the quarterback position, London said getting off to a quick start would set the tone for when ACC play resumes.

• Read Michael Phillips’ U.Va blog at timesdispatch.com

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