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Virginia, Maryland trading places

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Cavaliers resemble Terps from a year ago

The Virginia Cavaliers have suddenly and unexpectedly taken on the look of the 2011 Maryland Terrapins. The common elements are unmistakable: turmoil at quarterback, an offense adrift, a defense lacking inspiration and a team in transition, grasping for an identity.

Coming off its first bowl year since 2008, Virginia entered 2012 with bright expectations under third-year coach Mike London. But the Cavaliers have lost four straight in undisciplined fashion. In last week's 42-17 loss at Duke, Virginia was happy to see quarterback Anthony Boone make his starting debut in replace of Sean Renfree. But the sophomore riddled the Cavaliers' defense with four touchdown passes.

On Monday, reigning ACC coach of the year London sounded resigned to a lost season.

Up next
Maryland at Virginia
When » Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where » Scott Stadium,
Charlottesville, Va.
TV/radio » CSN, ESPN 980

"I try to keep creating that positive mindset about there's games left to play," London said. "We're focused on putting the plan together that people, when they come to Scott Stadium, they think, 'You know what? This team is improving,' because that's important also to make sure we improve -- offense, defense and special teams -- as the season goes on."

As Maryland (3-2, 1-0 ACC) prepares to face Virginia (2-4, 0-2) on Saturday in Charlottesville, the storylines from 2011 have been flipped.

Last year at Maryland, incumbent quarterback Danny O'Brien struggled and was replaced by C.J. Brown. This year at Virginia, incumbent quarterback Michael Rocco has lost his starting job to Phillip Sims. Only two FBS teams have had more interceptions than the 10 thrown by Cavaliers quarterbacks.

When asked about the Virginia quarterbacks on Tuesday, Maryland coach Randy Edsall sounded relieved it was somebody else's problem.

"I think that they have a bit of a dilemma," Edsall said. "They've got two quarterbacks down there, and how do you decide who plays because it might affect the outcome. You might have guys that are in the Rocco camp and some that are in the Sims camp. So they might have a bit of a controversy themselves in terms of playing time."

After a solid start, the Virginia defense also has taken on the porous look of the Maryland unit in 2011, which ranked last in the ACC by a wide margin in yardage and points surrendered. During the losing streak, the Cavaliers have yielded an average of 42.3 points.

With an inexperienced secondary and few dynamic playmakers in the front seven, Virginia has done little to disrupt opposing offenses. Only three FBS teams average fewer sacks per game, and only one has caused fewer turnovers than the three forced by the Cavaliers.

In an effort to boost the ineffective pass rush and keep the defense fresh in the second half, London said he will rotate more young players into the lineup, including highly touted freshmen defensive ends Eli Harold and Mike Moore (DeMatha). With this season's fortunes in rapid decline, it also indicates Virginia is thinking about the future.

"It's the only way they're going to gain experience is to play now," London said. "If they don't get in the game now, you're back in the same situation [next year] of not having game experience, particularly with a guy you're taking the redshirt off of."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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