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Virginia done in by special teams failures, turnovers in 43-24 loss to Auburn
The Cavaliers finished the season by learning the hard truth about playing quality teams, that the game plan must be executed to near perfection.
In the last seven years, the team that wins the turnover battle has won 80 percent of SEC games. While the blocked punts weren’t officially turnovers, the Cavs lost that stat decisively anyway.
Down by 16 in the fourth quarter, and facing fourth and 12 on the Auburn 33, a pass skipped short of Burd, who remained on the ground with a collarbone injury. Doctors have yet to confirm the nature of the injury.
It wasn’t the outcome the Cavs’ seniors, who had waited four years to play in a bowl game, had envisioned.
The coaches would probably also like back some of the game’s situations, like the onside kick that Virginia wasn’t ready for, or choosing to rugby punt with the ball on its own goal line.
“That’s probably a bad call,” special teams coach Anthony Poindexter said. “I got nervous, because the straight punt was the one they had blocked earlier.”
Credit must also be given to Auburn, though, for sniffing out Virginia’s gimmicks — the Tigers were ready when Jones tried to throw a pass, and the fake field goal was shut down immediately.
“This is what you came here for, right?” the coach asked.
Nicholson nodded. He plans on being back in this situation. The team’s seniors, though, got only a fleeting glimpse of what it means to be a successful football program.
In the coming years, the freshmen have learned, there’s still another level to reach.
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