RICHMOND — Michael Rocco just wants to think about the game.
The fifth-year senior quarterback at Richmond will be one of the Spiders’ game captains on Saturday when they play at Virginia. It’s where Rocco began his career and had a fair amount of success.
Rocco led the Cavaliers to an 8-5 record and their last bowl game in 2011, becoming the first quarterback ever to engineer victories at Miami and Florida State in the same season along the way.
Rocco hopes some of what he achieved at Virginia will bring a warm reception from the fans.
“I hope it’s positive,” he said. “I hope people remember the good times we had at UVA like I try to do, but at the end of the day, it will last five seconds and I will move on and play the game.”
After the 2011 season, five-star prospect Phillip Sims transferred to Virginia from Alabama. Coach Mike London played both quarterbacks, and the Cavaliers stumbled to a chaotic 4-8 finish.
Rocco transferred, and Sims was eventually thrown off the team for academic reasons.
After sitting out last season because of NCAA transfer rules, Rocco is now the backup behind Michael Strauss, another former Virginia quarterback who transferred. Spiders coach Danny Rocco, a former Virginia assistant who is also Michael’s uncle, said both quarterbacks will get to play on Saturday.
They will be facing a team with its own quarterback issues.
The Cavaliers’ quarterback situation remains unsettled after their opening loss to UCLA. Greyson Lambert, anointed as the starter in the spring and heralded as the unquestioned team leader, was benched before halftime after throwing his second interception that was returned for a touchdown. Backup Matt Johns came on and threw two touchdown passes in his first college action.
London said he will decide who starts on Saturday, but that both will play.
Michael Rocco hosted both Lambert and Johns on their recruiting visits, and considers them friends, but said neither has reached out this week seeking advice on how best to handle the competition.
“They saw me handle kind of what I handled at UVA. I think that’s enough really,” he said. “They’re both great kids, great leaders. They’re both great guys and I think they’ll handle it the right way.”
For their parts, Rocco and Strauss just want to play their game.
“I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody,” Michael Rocco said. “I mean, I’m a fifth-year senior and I’ve had a lot of good times in my career and I’ve had some bad times. I believe that I’ve shown what I’ve shown and it really doesn’t matter anymore.”
Strauss agrees, and said losing focus on the game would be counter-productive.
“That will be the last thing on my mind and Mike’s mind, what’s happened in the past, I’m sure,” he said. “You’ve just got to stay in the moment and play the game. If you start thinking about past things or your experience out there, you’re thinking about the wrong things.”
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.