CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — He may not have a win yet, but Virginia quarterback Phillip Sims has won over much of the Cavaliers’ fan base.
On Saturday, the Alabama transfer nearly engineered a fourth-quarter comeback from a 20-point deficit, flinging the ball down the field in a way that suggests he’ll supplant Michael Rocco as the team’s starter this week.
Coach Mike London said Sunday night that during Monday’s off day the coaching staff would meet and “look at everything we do.”
That would seem to indicate consideration of Sims as the starter. The sophomore has been compared to a Ferrari, but until Saturday’s game, he’d been driven only in school zones.
Against Louisiana Tech, though, he logged 166 yards on 10 passes — just the way he likes it. His postgame comments will no doubt meet with approval among the Wahoo faithful.
“A lot of the guys know me, and they know my personality,” he said. “I’m just a guy that likes to push the ball down the field vertically. That’s just, I feel that’s one of my strengths as a quarterback. I don’t feel there’s a route on the field I can’t make at any time.
“It’s just — my confidence and my talents is why I push the ball down the field. When I get in the game, no matter what the situation is, we could be up by 14 points. Unless coach tells me not to throw down the field, if I see a guy open down the field, we’re going for six. That’s just in my nature.”
Neither London nor offensive coordinator Bill Lazor would proclaim Sims the starter after the game, and they may not this week. With an important bounce-back game looming at Duke, it’s to their advantage to have the Blue Devils guessing as much as possible.
The game takes added importance because of Virginia’s three straight losses, which have pushed the team to a 2-3 record with nonconference play in the books.
Saturday’s was the most heartbreaking of the bunch, ending on a 12 men on the field penalty with less than two minutes remaining.
Despite London’s animated pleas after the game that the officials hadn’t allowed enough time to substitute, video replays contradicted that claim. ACC supervisor of officials Doug Rhoads confirmed in an e-mail to the school’s website on Sunday that the call was handled correctly.
He said the rules prohibit 12 men from being on the field for more than three seconds, and the replays showed that at least eight had elapsed before the flag was thrown.
It was U.Va.’s 16th penalty of the game, one short of a school record.
That negated a day of statistical domination by U.Va., which outgained Louisiana Tech 625 yards to 385.
In the end, 145 yards of penalties and a minus-3 turnover differential were too much to overcome, and there may be a new starting quarterback because of it.