CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia coach Mike London believes his Cavaliers are improving on a weekly basis.
The biggest obstacle left to overcome is the bad plays that keep the positive momentum from translating into victories.
"I believe in the progress that we've seen here offensively," London said. "I believe that defensively, with the moves and guys that will be put in position ... that they will get better. And so that's the whole process that's involved here is just you'd like to put your finger on one thing."
London would like to see the transition to winning come against Duke (4-2, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Saturday. The Blue Devils have won four of the last five meetings between the schools.
The Cavaliers (2-4, 0-2) lost their second game in a row Saturday, 27-26 at Maryland, when Alec Vozenilek's 42-yard field goal try sailed wide right with under a minute remaining.
It was the final miscue but in spite of many improvements, far from the only one.
Virginia ran for 242 yards, but got stuffed on consecutive plays from inside the Terps' 2 in the first quarter. It was one of four trips inside the Maryland 20 that ended with Vozenilek kicking a field goal.
"It is disappointing knowing that maybe if one of those field goals had turned into a touchdown, we would have won the game," right guard Jay Whitmire said Monday.
On defense, Maryland gained 468 yards, none more damaging than the 47-yard pass backup quarterback Caleb Rowe completed to Deon Long on third-and-22.
Long was double-covered on the catch, but still came down with the ball on the game-winning drive.
"We just didn't take advantage of the opportunities that were presented before us," linebacker Henry Coley said. "We got our hands on a few balls, we misjudged some balls and we had a few mental errors out there. It was just different people at different times, but it ended up with us losing the football game."
The Cavaliers also won the turnover battle 3-0, but converted the takeaways into just 6 points.
In many ways, their 2-4 record feels a lot like their 2-4 mark at this point last season, quarterback David Watford said. Still, having been through it and having seen the team fall apart, there is resolve.
"As a team we just have to stick together," he said. "I feel like that was really one of the things last year is things kind of went south, guys kind of started to fall apart and you could see it, especially in the locker room. Certain guys, it just started to turn bad. When it turned bad, everything went bad.
"The most important thing for us is just to stick together and keep fighting."
Coley, a junior, said he's been paying attention to his teammates' demeanor, too, looking for signs that players are fading, but that he's seen none of it, and in fact, saw the opposite, even in the loss at College Park, Md.
"I feel like on all levels of the football team, we're playing inspired football," he said, noting that the offense, especially, is far better than it was a year ago. "Last year, we got away from that a little bit."
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