- - Sunday, September 23, 2012

FORT WORTH, Texas — After a hiccup at the start of the game, Virginia’s defense mostly held its own against No. 16 TCU on Saturday.

The Cavaliers’ offense again couldn’t generate anything significant in a 27-7 loss.

U.Va. had two passes that could have been touchdowns, but receiver Darius Jennings lost the ball on both. In the first quarter, a long pass hit him on the face mask, and in the fourth, he was hit hard by safety Chris Hackett after pulling in the ball.

Other than that, it was a parade of short gains and third-and-longs. The Wahoos needed until the second half to convert a third down.

“We’ve got to start the game in a way where we’re able to turn the sticks,” Virginia offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “I used up all my third-and-long plays pretty quickly, but not the third-and-short.”

Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs did enough to win. They intercepted MichaelChris Rocco twice, and converted a 68-yard touchdown pass on their first possession.

TCU quarterback Casey Pachall never looked fully comfortable against the ‘Hoos pass rush, which benefited from the return of injured defensive end Billy Schautz.

“He was getting after the quarterback real well,” defensive end Jake Snyder said. “He motivates everybody on the field with how hard he works and the energy he brings.”

TCU ended the game with two red-zone turnovers and 103 yards of penalties. Those could have been momentum swingers, but U.Va. never found a way to capitalize.

The ‘Hoos put together two solid drives under Rocco. The first fell apart at the TCU 34 with an interception, after a pair of timeouts killed the momentum. The second was coming out of the locker room in the second half, and also ended on a Rocco interception, this one at the TCU 31.

Backup quarterback Phillip Sims entered for the game’s final 12 minutes. Despite engineering a touchdown drive, he also had two throws that were near interceptions.

“I’ll have to watch the video to give a fair assessment of how it went,” Lazor said of the quarterbacks. “I’m just going to have to find a way to create more points.

“Obviously, it’s easy to say the sky is falling when you lose two in a row, but we believe in what we’re doing, we believe in the players we have, and we’ll make sure we get the right people in the right spots.”

Jennings said on the first long pass, the one that hit him on the helmet, he was tripped by the defender, but added it was a level of contact that happens often.

“When he fell and dove, he tripped my ankle up,” Jennings said. “That split second forced me to drop my head a little bit, and I lost the ball. I tried to relocate it, but by the time I did, it was right there, and I didn’t have enough time to go get it.”

After the early score, TCU struck again in the first half after Kevin Parks fumbled in his own territory.

Virginia, which hadn’t forced a turnover all season, forced two Saturday, and both saved touchdowns. Maurice Canady (Varina) picked up an interception on third and goal, and Daquan Romero forced a fumble out of the end zone that kept TCU receiver Skye Dawson from scoring, and gave U.Va. the ball on the 20.

TCU (3-0) also was twice held to a field goal in the second half, keeping the game within reach.

“Whenever they get the ball, you’ve got to have the mindset of, ‘They can’t get a touchdown,’. ” U.Va. coach Mike London said. “That’s one of the things I think we did today — they bent but didn’t break.”

Despite hanging around and getting breaks from TCU, Virginia never came close to making it a game.

The ‘Hoos (2-2) won’t have to face a top-25 team every week, but they know to make noise in the ACC, it’s going to require more points than they’ve scored in the past three weeks.

Read more about the Cavaliers at Times-Dispatch.com.

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