Published November 20, 2014
Virginia coach Mike London finally settled the Cavaliers' dual quarterback situation, deciding to play both Phillips Sims and Michael Rocco — and the system has received strong initial reviews.
The Cavaliers (3-6, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) got touchdown passes from both quarterbacks last week in ending a six-game losing streak with a 33-6 victory on the road at North Carolina State.
London says both will play again Saturday when Virginia hosts Miami (5-4, 4-2).
"Both guys have things that they do, different skill sets that they bring to the table. Michael is a guy that's been in the offense, knows the offense," London said of Rocco, who started all last season.
"Phillip has a strong arm and is kind of learning on the job, so to speak. And he has some skills himself that we like, and can get the ball to some of the other playmakers," London said.
The arrangement works for Sims, a transfer from Alabama who arrived last May and took over as the starter four games ago. He struggled, but said lots of reps in an off week helped iron some things out.
"Especially in a timing-oriented offense like ours, you have to have reps," he said. "And not only just reps within the offense, reps with certain receivers, because everybody runs routes differently.
"No matter how much you try to teach all your receivers to run routes at the same time and at the same yard distance, everything like that, everybody runs routes a little distinctly."
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's game plan also helped, Sims said.
"The play-calling got me into a good rhythm early," he said of his 8-for-10 passing day for 115 yards with a 38-yard TD to Tim Smith. "Just quick passes to get the ball out of my hands real quick and get guys the ball in space. It got me into a rhythm early, and it just carried on throughout the game."
The Cavaliers need to beat the Hurricances, North Carolina and in-state rival Virginia Tech to have a chance of going to a bowl game, and the Hurricanes bring their own intrigue to the noon matchup.
They lead the conference's Coastal Division and would win it if they beat Virginia and then Duke next weekend. But the school still hasn't determined if it plans to accept any postseason invitation or self-impose a ban as it did last season because of an ongoing NCAA investigation into its compliance practices.
A victory would make Miami eligible for a bowl game, moving the Hurricanes closer to the ACC title game and potentially a spot in the Orange Bowl. So this year, the decision figures to be even more difficult, either for the school to make or for fans — if another self-imposed ban comes — to accept.
"I'll definitely have mixed emotions," Miami quarterback Stephen Morris said. "I'm not in control of that. No one on this team is."
Miami has more pressing concerns than anything that goes past Saturday: Virginia has beaten the Hurricanes in their last two meetings; and Miami's defense will likely be without linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle) after safety Deon Bush (shoulder) was already been ruled out of the contest.
Virginia will be without freshman defensive end Eli Harold for an issue described as "medical."
With the Cavaliers suddenly clinging to their own bowl hopes, they have the Hurricanes' attention.
"We know we'll get their best," Miami safety A.J. Highsmith said. "But we've got motivation as well."
And the Cavaliers' two-quarterback approach only adds further intrigue.
"They're both good," second-year Hurricanes coach Al Golden said. "Obviously, they've won with both of them. They're hitting their outlets. They'll throw it to the two tailbacks out of the backfield.
"I'm sure (Virginia) sees them differently in terms of how they operate. But right now we're just preparing for the totality of the Virginia offense, not really just one quarterback or the other."
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
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