- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 12, 2009

CHARLOTTESVILLE | When Virginia and No. 16 TCU meet Saturday, the Horned Frogs would love to demonstrate for the Cavaliers what their offense could look like.

Playing its first game of the season, TCU long ago mastered the spread offense that Virginia is just learning — and the attack has allowed the Horned Frogs’ defense to be pretty stout, too.

“They get it, they keep it, they don’t turn it over,” Virginia coach Al Groh gushed this week. “And that enables them to put together long drives, keep the ball. And then they have been real good at the turnover deal, taking the ball away. And then when they take it away and they’ve got it, they don’t give it back again for a long time.”

Sounds imposing, particularly for a team that did none of that in an opening 26-14 loss to William & Mary. The Cavaliers had seven turnovers that led to 19 points. They gained just 268 yards and could have lost by more if not for two close calls: William & Mary had two receivers get behind the secondary but overthrew them both.

The performance highlighted for TCU coach Gary Patterson how precarious openers can be.

“We need to try to minimize our mistakes,” he said.

It was, to Virginia quarterback Marc Verica and the rest of the team, a disappointing start. It also was the kind of beginning the Cavaliers have grown accustomed to; Virginia has lost its first game the past four seasons — and rebounded with a victory the previous three times.

“There’s a lot of guys on this team who have seen the highs and have seen the lowest of lows,” Verica said. “That past experience is something you can rely on in a situation like this. This isn’t the first time we’ve been in this circumstance where the first game didn’t go as well as we had hoped, and we really only had each other. Everyone was against us, so this situation is no different.”

Groh said he has had to remind himself to be patient as his team learns the offense, which new coordinator Gregg Brandon brought from Bowling Green. It hasn’t helped that Virginia has yet to settle on a quarterback. None of the three in the mix — Vic Hall, Jameel Sewell and Verica — has distinguished himself. A hip injury to Hall could complicate the issue; he’s listed as doubtful to play Saturday.

Patterson, though, said he sees Virginia as a dangerous team waiting to hit its stride.

“Looking at their personnel, all the way down to their snapper, they don’t have a real weakness,” Patterson said. “We know they are a good program and a good football team.”

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