- - Monday, September 1, 2014

CHARLOTESVILLE, Va. — During the offseason, Virginia football coach Mike London decided the only way to turn around the Cavaliers was to make players more accountable for mistakes.

The new mentality was evident in Saturday’s 28-20 loss to No. 7 UCLA.

London said he immediately removed an offensive lineman and a wide receiver after first-quarter penalties.

But with 1:20 remaining in the second quarter, London made those changes appear minimal. That’s when he benched starting quarterback and co-captain Greyson Lambert following the second of two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.

Lambert was replaced by fellow sophomore Matt Johns, who went on to pass for 158 yards and two scores.

London said at Monday’s weekly press conference that both Johns and Lambert will play when the Cavaliers (0-1) host Richmond (1-0) Saturday at Scott Stadium, but he hasn’t determined a starter.

“Two and 10 wasn’t good enough last year,” London said of the Cavaliers’ record in 2013. “Collectively as a senior-led group, having the standards of accountability and responsibility is what they want, we want, I want. It’s always going to be about executing the plays, performing what’s needed, and then producing on the field.”

Lambert apparently failed to meet those standards Saturday and Johns seized the opportunity. Johns immediately led the Cavaliers on a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, culminating in his 29-yard pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Levrone.

London said Lambert shouldn’t be taken aback by his removal because as one of the captains and a member of the leadership council he was part of the group that requested higher standards.

London said it’s not “unreasonable” to believe Johns now deserves more playing time.

“So what that tells Greyson is, ‘I’ve got to make sure that I do the things that I’m responsible to do in executing and performing so the production of the team is where it needs to be,’” London said. “Matt Johns performed. So there are no issues with any of our players because again, it’s back to what we’ve all said we wanted to be held to, and I think that’s what’s different about this team.”

Virginia’s defensive starters said they weren’t surprised with Johns‘ effort because they see it regularly in practice. As the backup last week, Johns was the Cavaliers’ scout team quarterback leading up to the UCLA game.

Johns‘ teammates said he has a surprising ability to scramble and his charismatic personality makes him a natural leader.

After Saturday’s game, senior middle linebacker Henry Coley said Johns was “phenomenal” against the Bruins.

“He wore his big-boy pants and he stepped up,” Coley said. “Coming off last year, he was just a guy with headphones on making the signals and whatnot. This year he’s poised. He’s making the right reads, making the right throws. He’s just going to grow from here.”

The Cavaliers insist the quarterback decision won’t cause the team to fracture. Johns said after the UCLA game that Lambert is one of his best friends on the team and was the first to congratulate him after his touchdown passes.

But London has dealt with quandaries at the position the past four years, and not with good results.

Four quarterbacks have transferred from Virginia since London arrived in 2010, including Michael Strauss and Michael Rocco, who are now in a two-quarterback system at Richmond — the Cavaliers’ opponent Saturday.

Still, London said this Virginia team is different. He said there will be no dissension because of the demands to perform that players and coached placed on each other in the offseason.

“This team is unified,” London said. “There are no issues with that, because we all set standards that we expect from each other.”

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