- - Sunday, January 1, 2012

ATLANTA — Three of Virginia’s coaches stood in a hallway beneath the Georgia Dome Saturday night, all holding different perspectives on their unit’s play in a 43-24 loss to Auburn.

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor saw his quarterback cap off a year of development and progress, while defensive coordinator Jim Reid was unable to overcome two key injuries. Special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter faced the toughest questions, as his unit allowed three of the key plays in the Tigers’ victory.

As the season came to an end, though, all expressed optimism going forward.

“Today we said some things that show we have improved,” Lazor said after the game. “I think our quarterback is getting better and better. His teammates have continued growing confidence in him, which is going to help us going forward.”

Quarterback Michael Rocco was also aided by a two-touchdown performance from receiver Kris Burd, who said after the game, without any embellishment, that he “left it all out there.”

In his final collegiate game, Burd left with a collarbone injury diving for a fourth-down conversion in the fourth quarter.

Injuries also impacted the defense, with cornerback Chase Minnifield, who had maintained all week he would play, sitting out. The school’s website called it a knee injury; Minnifield declined comment after the game.

The more costly injury, though, was to middle linebacker Steve Greer. He was replaced by freshman Henry Coley, who had been injured for most of the year. The inexperience showed on the Cavaliers’ run defense.

The defense also struggled to contain Auburn’s quarterbacks, which drew a sigh of exasperation from Reid.

“That was ridiculous,” he said. “We had five or six really great opportunities for sacks and came away not just empty, but them getting first downs and big plays.”

It was all overshadowed, though, by special teams miscues.

First up was a failed fake field goal. Poindexter said that fullback Terence Fells-Danzer was supposed to go out as a receiver, but tripped up coming off the line. That left holder Jacob Hodges to get hit by the Tigers defenders.

Also an issue was the punting game. There were two blocked punts, including the decision on the second to use a rugby punt from the goal line.

“That’s probably a bad call,” Poindexter said. “I got nervous because we went to the straight punt, and that’s the one they blocked.”

It all added up to a night of heartbreak for Cavaliers fans, who will have to wait until next season for another shot at building up momentum.

Note: The Chick-fil-A Bowl announced its 15th-consecutive sellout, a streak second only to the Rose Bowl among college bowl games.

A U.Va. spokesman told the Times-Dispatch that the Cavaliers sold only a hair more than 14,000 of its 18,000 tickets that were allotted.

The disparity is in the accounting. As part of accepting the bowl contract, Virginia had to buy all 18,000 of its tickets — many in undesirable locations — and acted only as a reseller to fans.

Meanwhile the bowl game retained prime seating locations, which it then sold to the public on its own. Those seats sold out.

However, the Cavaliers will not have to take a financial hit for the seats. The ACC picks up the tab on unsold tickets (about $300,000), protecting the school from losing money on a bowl appearance.


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