CHARLOTTESVILLE | Richmond coach Mike London might be wishing he hadn’t done such a good job schooling Virginia‘s defensive players the past two years.
With the Cavaliers’ offense struggling with poor field position and inconsistency, the defense stepped up Saturday with two interceptions in the final 4:10, including one that Vic Hall returned 60 yards for the final points in Virginia’s 16-0 victory over the Spiders.
The other interception at the goal line by Chase Minnifield, a redshirt freshman who struggled in the season-opening 52-7 loss to Southern California, turned back Richmond’s last serious threat and preserved the shutout of a team coached by the Cavaliers’ former defensive coordinator.
Richmond played much of the game on Virginia’s end of the field but was repeatedly stymied by sacks, batted-down passes and missed field goals, including one that was blocked by Nick Jenkins.
“I’m proud of our team for hanging in there time after time,” said Virginia coach Al Groh. “That’s what teams have to do in order to put wins together. We were able to do that quite a bit last year, but that type of mentality has to be re-established and solidified with each particular team. It doesn’t just grow back.”
Hall said another aspect of the Virginia defense’s mentality is to score points, and that was going through his mind when he picked off Eric Ward’s pass with a little more than two minutes left. Hall stretched his 5-foot-9 frame to corral the ball and headed down the right sideline, stiff-arming his way past Ward en route to his second career touchdown.
“We always stress to our defense that when you get the ball you turn into an offensive player, so I did what I had to do to get away from him,” Hall said.
He said it was exciting to play against London, but once the game started the Cavaliers (1-1) put that out of their minds. Groh said he told his former colleague after the game that “his team was exactly what I expected from a Mike London-coached team: hard-nosed and well-prepared, and he ought to win a lot of games this year.”
While the Virginia defense excelled, the offense couldn’t get much going against the Spiders (1-1) opponent from the second-tier Football Championship Series. The Cavaliers managed only 91 yards rushing on 38 carries and relied heavily on the arm of Peter Lalich, who was 21-for-39 for 204 yards but threw two interceptions.
One of those picks came late in the first half deep in Spiders territory — one of three fourth-down gambles that backfired on the Cavaliers. Richmond’s Jordan Shoop returned the interception 63 yards to the Virginia 24 before being caught from behind.
“The slot receiver ran an ‘out’ and the linebacker undercut it,” Lalich said. “I saw him, I just didn’t think he could get to it.”
Three plays later, Andrew Howard missed a 29-yard field goal attempt, leaving the score 3-0 at the half.