CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia linebacker and co-captain Henry Coley was highly upset, and with good reason
It was halftime of the Cavaliers' 45-13 victory against winless Kent State on Saturday, and the lead was just 14-10. Virginia led only because cornerback Demetrious Nicholson wrestled a pass away from Golden Flashes wide receiver Chris Humphrey in the end zone for a controversial interception just before halftime.
"It just rubbed me the wrong way," Coley said Monday of his team's lax play. "It rubbed some of the coaches the wrong way. People were trying to wake guys up and some of the right things were said."
Virginia (3-2, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) dominated the second half, 31-3, to win going away, and with Coastal Division rival Pittsburgh (3-2, 1-0) visiting on Saturday, players and coaches talked about trying to find out why they were so flat against the Golden Flashes, and to prevent a recurrence.
After all, it's not like Virginia's hasn't had bad experiences with team from the Mid-American Conference before. They were drubbed 48-27 at home last year by Ball State, also from the MAC, in a nine-game season-ending losing streak.
These Cavaliers have been feeling good about themselves after a 2-2 start to the season that included 8-point losses to Top 25 opponents UCLA and BYU, but also a team that probably should know better than to take any team for granted.
"Ultimately, if you're going to contend for winning championships or winning games Saturday upon Saturday, then you have to be able to be ready to play and you can't afford to be flat," coach Mike London said. "Some teams come out from play one and stay enthused, so that's the charge to our guys as well."
The coach addressed readiness to play with the team on Sunday, and Coley said he tried to impress on his teammates all week that the Golden Flashes could be dangerous. It's a lesson the Panthers learned for themselves on Saturday when Akron, also of the Mid-American Conference, beat them 21-10.
Coley, though, expects to have to keep issuing reminders.
"More than likely, it's probably going to happen again," he said. "That's how football works out."
The way Coley sees it, the stakes are high, especially for the 22 seniors on the team.
Since finishing 8-5 and going to the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2011, the Cavaliers had won just 6 of 24 games coming into this season, and with many seeing the Coastal Division race as one with no real favorite, Coley and other seniors have tried to get them thinking it's their's for the taking.
"That ACC championship is very plausible," he said. "It's not something that is just a dream."
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