Archive for September, 2008

Road Dogs in Durham

September 26, 2008

After a 45-10 embarrassment in the Constitution State in front of a semi-national television audience, Al Groh’s Virginia football squad appears to have hit rock bottom.  For now, at least.

 

The stats are staggering, even when considering that the week one opponent was #1 USC.  Out of 119 D-1 schools, Mike “nepotism is dead” Groh’s offense ranks 118th in total offense and 113th in scoring.  Perhaps a second visit to Lubbock is warranted?  On the defensive side of the ball, Bob Pruett’s chargers rank 93rd in total defense and 97th in scoring defense.

 

WITH THE BALL (inoffensive?)

 

Long before the game was out of hand (perhaps not that long), fans and even casual observers had questions about what was going on the offensive side of the ball.  With piano-extraordinaire QB Marc Verica taking his first meaningful (and fourth+ ever) snaps under center, Virginia lined up in their version of the spread – shotgun formation with at most one running back.  Football novices and even crackpot ESPNU commentators wondered aloud why Groh & Groh did not even attempt to establish a running game.  Tailbacks Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson combined to rush for more than 1,100 yards last season, and the wide receiving core beyond Kevin Ogletree is at best unproven and at worst unthreatening to any opponent.

 

Cavalier Daily columnist Eric Strow pleaded on the Tuesday following the game for more handoffs in a piece entitled “Run, Forrest!  Run!  Strow goes through all the great stats from last season and this year’s corresponding porous numbers.  154 yards through three games on 2.1 per carry, 38 carries against Richmond but only 14 in Storrs.  Certainly, the offense was playing catch-up nearly the entire game, but as the first series showed, there was a commitment to the (short) pass from the get-go.  Was it to give Verica confidence in his first start?  The gameplan clearly focused on short passes and Verica looked comfortable with increasing confidence even early in the game.  Or, was it meant to hide deficiencies up front?

 

Strow briefly mentions “the concern surrounding the offensive line,” but counters with the documented experience of tackles Eugene Monroe and Will Barker.  He asks: “the others on the line might be inexperienced, but is that really a reason to not run?” and pleads “coach Groh, I implore you. Run the football. Things can’t get any worse if you do.”

 

Voices of reason would likely point of that all three interior members of the O-line are gone, including at least one that was a clear strength in the run game – 1st round pick Branden Albert.  And, a the Roanoke Times points out, “Barker was called for two holding penalties Sept. 6 against Richmond and yielded sacks against Southern Cal and UConn.”  The head man probably wouldn’t have gotten more than a few sentences into the Cav Daily article before uttering a line the dropped on the media the day following the game: “all those runners run the same when there’s no holes.”  Perhaps true, but why not give it a chance?

 

On the positive side, Verica did look poised and accurate in the clearly-adjusted gameplan.  Postgame, Groh called Verica’s performance “fairly decent” and said that his 73% completion percentage was “not an unexpected circumstance for a guy in his first game.” Obviously that had a lot to do with the passes thrown – most going to the first option, averaging 7 yards per completion with nearly half netting 5 yards or less.  Kevin Ogletree continues to impress at receiver and appears back to his 2005 form, standing out as the only receiver able to get open consistently.  KO accounted for roughly 1/3 of the passing offense, but did suffer a knee injury that he appeared to bounce back from.

 

IN DEFENSE (penetrable?)

 

Where to start?  500+ total yards with long stretches between negative-yardage plays.  UConn QB Jared Lorenzen completed 87% of his 15 passes and also ran 10 times for more than 5 times a clip.  380+ team rushing yards including 206 from one-time Virginia recruiting target Donald Brown, who let on that there was a “little bit [of extra motivation], but things happen for a reason.”  The RTD notes that Brown ”favored the Cavaliers for a long time, but they didn’t commit to using him at running back until late in the recruiting process.”  Tailback may not have been or currently be a position of need, but Brown did have two 60+ yard runs against Virginia’s depleted D-line and seemingly experience- and at least quantity-heavy (read: 3-4) linebacking corps.

 

Safety Brandon Woods was victimized multiple times on runs and was replaced atop this week’s depth chart by reputed-hitter RS freshman Corey Mosley, who had never even been listed on the two-deep before.  Groh was about as critical of a player as he’s ever been, stating “without talking down (Woods) … certainly we’re looking for more than we’ve been getting.”  Consider him taken down, along with NT Nate Collins, who was replaced by RS freshman Nick Jenkins, once thought to be a candidate to play last year in his first season after choosing the Cavaliers over offers from Florida & Tennessee, among others.  Most expect a rotation to continue at the nose position, but Jenkins is certainly now in line for more reps.  Jenkins proves slightly more size than Collins in over center, while Mosley comes in four inches shorter than Woods.

 

Groh conceded that Mosley “hit a little bit of a roadblock” in the spring, but has “built-in ability that would give him a chance to be a very good player,” and brings “multiple set of skills that he brings to the position,” including “quick speed,” “acceleration,” “toughness,” and “long speed.”  Hopefully he’s not talking about cross-country running.  Jenkins has “been a very mature player since he’s gotten here,” but has been “one of those players that needs to develop technique and learn the system.”  Recently, however, “he’s played a little bit better than [Collins].”  The second-term O-line was also shaken up, with three true freshmen – one of which (Austin Pasztor) has already played – no now in a backup role.  Two first-year players who traveled to Connecticut but had yet to play remain on the second team at linebacker (ILB Steve Greer & OLB Cameron Johnson).  Is there a smell of burning redshirts in the air?

 

All and all, not much of a shake-up, especially in light of Groh’s Sunday comments (“It doesn’t make any difference what you did last year or what you might do in the future or what Rivals list you were on or what watch list you might be on, for whatever circumstance.  It’s all about who’s playing well now and who gives us the best chance to operate in the next game.”).  Remember that in Groh’s first season (2001), he benched two starting O-linemen after a shutout against NCSU.

 

Two final notes… DE Sean Gottschalk – who was expected to see significant playing time this year – remains “on a leave of absence for undisclosed personal and health reasons.”  LB and onetime-safety John Bivens has left the team because of recurring knee problems (surgery last November & further problems this summer), and has joined the baseball team, where he will have three seasons of eligibility (not four, because of the ‘Bear Bryant Rule’).  In his debut on the diamond, Bivens went 0-1 with a walk and a stolen base.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS (surprisingly a strength?)

 

PK Yannick Reyering made a 43-yarder against Connecticut.  True freshman P Jimmy Howell averaged nearly 40 yards on (just?) five punts at Connecticut, with none proving to be returnable.  Ogletree, Peerman and Chase Minnifield all had kickoff returns of 34+ yards.

 

COACHING (can it get worse?)

 

Several media outlets made note of the fact that only three assistants – and no true defensive assistants – were on the sidelines in Storrs.  Groh was joined on the field by visor-wearing RB coach Anthony Poindexter, special teams coordinator Bob Diaco (LB coach in title as well), and OL coach Dave Borbely. 

Virginia “insider” Doug Doughty of the Roanoke Times pleaded for DC Bob Pruett to be “moved from the press box to the field to help inspire his unit.”  In addition to in-person X’s and O’s, Pruett’s predecessor Mike London was often able to inspire his unit via a deserved “chest bump or a high-five” and “chastise them” and “get in their faces if the situation warranted.”  Doughty reports that “observers on both sidelines Saturday at Connecticut were struck by the absence of emotion displayed by the Cavaliers on and off the field. Head coach Al Groh huddled with the defense periodically, but, when play resumed, he had to go back to watching the game.”

 

Doughty goes on… Groh is “spread too thin. The Virginia players should have been angry Saturday during a 45-10 loss to UConn, but the defensive unit sat quietly as the final minutes ticked off the clock. There was nobody in their faces. Not a coach. Not another player.”  He even mentions former All-American Chris Long and his HOF father Howie, who according to a “coach familiar with the UVa operation” was a “’larger than life’ influence on the UVa program.”  Doughty asks “is it a coincidence, in [former roommate and friend Chris] Long’s absence this year, that [nine-sack linebacker from a year ago Clint] Sintim is still waiting to get on track?”  Virginia’s defense won’t see London on that sideline again, and “in his mid-60s, Pruett does not have the same demographical profile as London, 48, but he has always had a reputation as a players’ coach. Why not put him on the sideline and find out?”

 

RECRUITING (good news?)

 

Taft Coghill, Jr. of the Free-Lance Star reports that stud Chancellor recruit Dominique Wallace – who was unable to watch the Connecticut game because of limited ESPNU availability – is not second-guessing his oral commitment.

 

Wallace, who has been living up to his billing this year, was quoted as saying “everybody has a bad year every once in a while.”  Further, other 540 commits Liberty DB Corey Lillard & Orange QB/athlete Quintin Hunter remain steadfast in their pledges to Virginia.  Hunter’s coach says he “still loves Virginia and its proximity to his home” while Liberty’s head man insists he preaches decommitting only in “’extenuating circumstances’ such as family issues or a college coach leaving.”  For what it’s worth, Doug Doughty opines that Hunter – once viewed as an athlete – may be “worth a second look at QB” given the current situation at Virginia.

 

DUKE

 

In a vote of confidence (?), the decision-makers in Bristol, Connecticut have chosen the Virginia-Duke game for a noon ESPNU telecast.  While this may seem like destination of last resort for the ACC’s media partners, note that Virginia’s upcoming home game against up-and-coming Maryland has been optioned for ESPNU with an alternative of an internet broadcast on espn.com.

 

Much has been made about the fact that the decision-makes in Las Vegas have installed Duke as a 6-7 point favorite for this weekend’s contest in Durham, but it may be deserved if one looks only at the present.  Yes, Duke has lost 25 straight conference games, a closely streak that followed a 30-game losing streak against ACC foes.  Yes, Duke has been an underdog in 40 straight ACC games.  However, Virginia has lost to its two D-1 opponents this season by an average of 40 points per game and looked unimpressive in a win over 1-AA Richmond at home.  Duke, meanwhile is nearly 3-0 after beating JMU and Navy and narrowly losing a game they controlled to Northwestern.

 

Duke’s QB Thaddeus Lewis leads the ACC in total offense with nearly 275 yards per game and has thrown 206 consecutive passes without an INT.  Top WR Eron Riley has 5 TDs in three games and averages nearly 20 yards a catch.  On defense, a deep rotation on the line has helped to yield just 171 yards rushing and less than 21 points per game, down from 33 last year.  Even the kicking game appears improved, with made 46- and 52-yarders by different two kickers to date, after hovering around 50% made last year.

 

It’s early, but HC David Cutcliffe is getting praise – at least locally.  The Fayetteville Observer is onboard: “Cutcliffe is selling the future of football, the odd-shaped ball of sports, on a campus where the prim and proper spherical basketball rules. I’ll buy a few shares and see where the stock goes in two weeks.”  The Winston-Salem Journal notes that Cutcliffe’s team is “one holding penalty away from being unbeaten” and heaps praise on a program that may be heading in the right direction before even netting the benefit of his recruits.

 

BEYOND DUKE

 

As October approaches, at 1-3 or even 2-2 the road doesn’t get any easier Virginia.  Realistically, there’s no three-game stretch that looks better than Richmond-UConn-Duke at the moment.  After Duke, Maryland, ECU, and UNC come to the friendly confines of Charlottesville, but there’s no chance Virginia will be favored in any of those games.  Following that stretch, a home Miami contest is sandwiched between road tilts at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.  After a bye the season concludes with games against conference heavyweights Clemson at home and VPI in Blacksburg.

 

Finally, in future-season news, Virginia has agreed to go against Groh’s often-cited desire to never play against his former assistants and will face Lynchburg’s Liberty University, perhaps in 2012.  As The Roanoke Times points out, “Liberty would be happy to have Rocco” for an extended tenure as the Flames have cracked the D-I AA poll for the first time in 11 years.  Last week in Storrs, UConn coach Randy Edsall expressed a desire to schedule Virginia again, and Groh confirmed that the two coaches have discussed the possibility.  “Obviously, it’s a game with a team from a BCS league and it’s a one-hour flight,” Groh said. “I certainly wouldn’t want to do it on a frequent basis. It becomes more like a conference game and loses a little bit of its zip. But we’d be open to pursuing it.”  Does he know something we don’t know about an added credit for strength of schedule in the BCS formula?

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Petergate cont’d

September 25, 2008

Since our last visit, the relationship between form SuperPrep and PrepStar All-American QB Peter Lalich and Thomas Jefferson’s University has become even more soured and is officially over.

 

On September 14, “less than 24 hours after a 45-10 whipping at Connecticut” in which Lalich did not travel with the team, he was on the practice field with his teammates, seemingly preparing for the beatable Open Date on 9/20 and for-once favorite Duke Blue Devils on 9/27.

 

Lalich, remember, had a court date in Charlottesville scheduled for the day before the Duke game, as a result of a probation violation charge.  The prior week’s press release from the team/school did not mention suspension or anything beyond the UConn game, so did HC Al Groh think Lalich might be available for Duke?  On Sunday, Groh commented that the open date “allows us to give all of them quite a few turns and prepare for any contingency.”  Lalich was the clear starter when available.  Marc Verica completed his first career (mostly short) passes in Storrs, completing 73% of them.  Senior Scott Deke was used as well – after the game was well out of hand – and led the only TD drive.  We have to assume that true freshman Riko Smalls was also getting some work, although he did not make the trip to Connecticut.

 

Sometime over the next few days, Lalich’s lawyer, Tim Heaphy, requested that the 9/26 court date be moved up eight days to 9/18, likely to increase the 20-year-old’s chances of playing in Durham.  In court on Thursday, Lalich “admitted to violating terms of his probation” according to the RTD, and “testified that he drank alcohol to celebrate the end of U.Va.’s training camp last month.”  Lalich also told the judge that “he believed he was allowed to drink while on probation as long as he didn’t get arrested.”

 

The RTD points out that “Heaphy said [Thursday] afternoon that Lalich had mixed up his dates in his Sept. 4 interview with his probation officer.  ‘He miscalculated the time frame of the historical marijuana use, and that’s what we needed to clarify.’”  Team Lalich presented clean & clear results from team drug tests and also the solicited testimony from teammate and favorite target Kevin Ogletree, a summer roommate (questionable judgment?) of Lalich.

 

The Charlottesville General District judge did not punish Lalich, but rather he kept the probation in force and continued the case until July 21, 2009.

 

Within a matter of a few hours, the team/school issued a statement including the following:

 

  • AD Craig Littlepage: “We have supported Peter, but believe today a point has been reached where it’s best for all concerned that he no longer participate on the team. This is my decision, and it has the support of head football coach Al Groh. We wish Peter the best in the future.”
  • Groh: “Any time a situation doesn’t work out in the most positive way for any player it’s regrettable, but we stand united with this decision.”

Clearly the reference to Groh within the former Cavalier assistant basketball coach’s statement and the “united” verbiage in that of the 1967 Comm-school grad point to issues (or at least perceptions) of division among the ranks.  That’s another story for another day.  Back to Lalich, and for a change, some investigating reporting.  According to the RTD:

 

“Sources close to the football program said that Lalich, in recent meetings with U.Va. officials, had assured them he had not been drinking while on probation.

The school’s decision to dismiss Lalich was not simply a reaction to his probation violation, sources said. There had been a series of transgressions not involving the criminal-justice system.

One of them, sources said, occurred last week, when U.Va. became aware of photos on Lalich’s Facebook page — since taken down — that called his judgment into question and indicated that statements he’d made to university officials and the news media might not have been genuine.

Those photos, sources said, led to the decision by Groh, with the full support of U.Va. officials, to not allow Lalich to travel with the team to last weekend’s game at Connecticut.”

 

 

The RTD also believes that Groh played Lalich against Richmond because he was “convinced that report [regarding Lalich’s probation violation] was incorrect.”

 

Prior to learning of his dismissal, Lalich said in a statement that he’s “learned a great deal from this experience about personal responsibility,” knows his “actions have disappointed the people who have helped me” and from this point forward will “try my best to show my family, the university, my teammates, the court and everyone else that I am worthy of their faith and trust in me.”

 

Heaphy, the lawyer, told the RTD he didn’t “know what factors went into [the] decision or what else may have transpired to cause them to take this step.”  He commented to the Roanoke Times that the shift in dates was done in an effort to resolve the matter “sooner rather than later,” and hopefully allow for Lalich to “return to the field and the whole thing would be over with, with a full week’s time before the next game.”  He noted that he contacted Littlepage the morning of the moved-up court date “in the interest of coordination.”  Within hours of leaving court, Lalich was called into Littlepage’s office to hear the fateful news.

 

Heaphy mentioned that Littlepage indicated “there would potentially be consequences for participation.  I didn’t know what that meant. I don’t represent [Lalich] at UVa. I represent him with the court. I had no idea it would be a dismissal from the team. I learned when the rest of the world did, well, maybe a little earlier through Peter.”  Heaphy called the admission of a mistake by Lalich a “courageous thing” and noted that “he has not been kicked out of school” or imposed an additional sanction by the court.

 

By Monday, the ties were fully severed.  On his radio call-in show, Groh noted that “we’ve moved on” and “we have the team that we have right now, and those are the guys that we’re concentrating on.”  [He couldn’t resist prefacing those comments with a bit of a lecture on the “misinformation, rumor, innuendo” and “people who think they have the answers.”]  Lalich, via email wrote that CLP “should get praise for his commendable efforts supporting the University’s scholar athletes.”

 

By Wednesday, reports had surfaced that Lalich had landed in Corvallis, Oregon – home of the 1-2 Beavers, ironically enough a 25-point underdog to #1 USC this weekend.  Lalich watched OSU practice on Monday, and must “complete one academic year of residence, excluding summer terms, at Oregon State before becoming eligible for competition.”  The 757’s Daily Press points our that Lalich also considered “Auburn, UCLA and Cincinnati,” while searching for a school “on the quarter system instead of the semester system because his understanding is he won’t have to sit out a year if he transfers to a quarter-system school, many of which haven’t yet started fall classes.”

 

For the record, OSU is coached by Alabama grad Mike Riley, has thrown an average of 43 passes a game this year, and has a RS freshman at backup QB would be in line with Lalich eligibility-wise in 2010.

 

As I overheard one fellow fan say… So long, Reefer Pete, we hardly knew you.

A Time of the Signs

September 12, 2008

Last month, The University of Virginia athletic department notified students via email that “beginning this year, signs are not permitted inside athletics facilities.”  The email went on to say “thank you for your cooperation,” but little else.

 

Students were naturally upset, questioning why there was no discourse among interested parties in advance of the decision and throwing around 1st Amendment references like they were plastic cups in the Scott Stadium student section circa 1994.  Many pointed to the infamous “Fire Groh” sign created by engineering student David Becker last season at the Duke game.  Becker, you may recall, had the sign taken away in the third quarter because it “violated venue policy” most likely because of its “derogatory” nature.  The resilient E-schooler then made two more, smaller signs, only to have them taken away and be threatened with expulsion from the game.

 

One year later, word of the new policy spread like wildfire and drew loud criticism even at the national level, despite the fact that many schools – including VPI and JMU locally – have banned signs for some time.  In an online column during the week leading up to the Richmond game, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly opened with the following prose:

 

“Do you miss Beijing? Are you pining for some good ol’ fashioned totalitarianism? Enjoy seeing any small voice squashed like a ladybug under a Hummer?

Then come to the University of Virginia!”

 

Reilly, who once had an alleged sexual assault by high school football players occur at his house, went on to quote 1762 William & Mary grad Thomas Jefferson (“Certain inalienable rights” and “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing”) and 1997 Virginia grad & onetime American Stock Exchange bell-ringer Ronde Barber (“Seems odd” and “You’d think if there was one university that would stand up for free speech, it’d be Virginia. When I was there, the signs were really clever”).  At the end of the column, he had a suggestion for the oppressed:

 

“Here’s what Virginia students should do for every home game from now on: Bring signs that say nothing. Bring signs that say, “This Is Not a Sign.” Or bring 60,000 signs and let the athletic department goons try to sort them out.

Because sometimes rebellion isn’t just a good thing. It’s the only thing.”

 

Two days later, at kickoff of the Richmond game the student section was overflowing into what was an otherwise sparse crowd (as described by the DP, announced 51,0007).  By mid game, students in both the stands and on The Hill were holding up blank sings en masse, prompting Channel 29 to do a feature on the “protest” which included nearly 5,000 blank signs handed out pre-game.  Here’s the view from section 506:

 

 

 

This week, a Cavalier Daily editorial called the event “one of the most massive student protests in recent history” and reported that AD Craig Littlepage will meet with Student Council about the new policy.  The paper discussed the possibility of further public protest and essentially called for the ban to be lifted.  Columnist Robby Colby linked the magnitude of the issue to success of the team, saying that while “there is still time to right the ship, and precedent for it happening” if HC Al Groh & company “fail to provide even a little to excite students about the program, the discontent will simply continue to grow and find more creative and more embarrassing outlets.”

 

Groh’s official comment on the subject came prior to the Richmond game, when he said (in Groh-like fashion) “No feelings whatsoever. I didn’t read ’em when they were up, so I won’t miss ’em when they’re down . . . I’ve got enough things to deal with [other] than what’s on the signs and how many signs are up there.”

 

 

Springs Hit by Foreign Object?

September 12, 2008

In discussing the leg injury that kept him out of the Redskins’ season-opening loss to the Giants, Washington cornerback (and sometimes safety) Shawn Springs said that getting kicked in thin during practice felt like “taking a 2-by-4 across your shin.”

 

Springs, whose voice you may recognize from Select Auto Imports radio spots (“and that let ME know…”) in the https://i0.wp.com/media3.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/photo/2008/07/18/PH2008071803404.jpgDC market, is no stranger to physical pain, and has a well-documented affinity for boxing.  Springs’ trainer, a “former pro boxer and Buster Douglas’s old sparring partner” (is that what’s on his business card?) Mark Craig said back in July that Springs has some skill and “if I’m not paying attention he can get me now.”  Fellow trainee and former Skin WR Mike Espy added “the boy is fast, faster than I thought. He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in. He’s a bad man right now.”

 

He ought to know the difference between a human foot and a 2×4, rigt?  I’ve got to think if Hacksaw Jim Duggan laid down the lumber of #24 he’d be out for more than a week.  Just ask the dozens of “foreign” WWF & WCW stars who’ve feuded with HJD over the years.  At some point, they all ended up on the receiving end of a piece or Top Choice or Geogia Pacific timber, only to watch HJD prance around the ring yelling “HOOOOOO” and waving the American Flag.
 

Petergate

September 11, 2008

In a surprising turn of events, the collective Virginia football braintrust announced late Wednesday that starting QB Peter Lalich would not be making the trip to The Constitution State with his teammates to take on the UConn Huskies Saturday evening.

 

The decision comes roughly one week after news of Lalich’s failure to obey a court order while on probation charge broke, which came on the heels of an underage drinking charge, which came on the heels of several traffic violations.  The Daily Progress first reported the latest charge, citing leaked court documents which showed that on August 26 – four days prior to the USC opener – Lalich voluntarily “admitted to using alcohol and marijuana” while on probation, “was unable to provide a urine sample that day for drug testing” but returned the following day “and provided a sample that proved negative for alcohol and drugs.”

 

In response to this news – which hit newspapers on the eve of last weekend’s game against Richmond – came a statement from the Virginia athletic department offering no comment but stating “it would be premature to comment prior to the resolution of the matter that is pending before the court.”  By Friday afternoon, another statement had been issued stating Lalich, whose underage drinking arrest occurred on the corner of Wertland & 13th in close proximity to former Pete Gillen haunt St. Maarten Café, would play against the Spiders.

 

Postgame, head man Al Groh went from chilly to abrasive to lecturing in responding to questions about playing Lalich in the 16-0 win: “Why would there be any hesitation to play him? He’s our starting quarterback. We’re here to talk about football. It’s unfortunate that some people have chosen to misrepresent the player without having all the facts. Those people should examine themselves.”

 

On Monday, Groh continued to both show support for Lalich and chastise the media on his radio show, offering that “there’s some reporting on this young man that probably would fall under the category of tabloid reporting” and “lacks facts, and in some cases it lacks reality.”  From Groh’s perspective that reporting is a “shame” and Lalich is “entitled to a private life like other 19-, 20-year-old students are. We’re satisfied with how Peter is conducting his circumstances and what he’s being asked to do.”

 

Just a day later, both Groh and Lalich addressed the media (separately), and the questions naturally came up again.  Groh continued to show support: “In life, whatever circumstances any of us are involved in, certainly in any of those circumstances all of us bring some of it on ourselves, whether it’s good or bad.  In this particular case it seems like in some circumstances a rush to pile on.”   Captains John Phillips and Clint Sintim (Lalich’s hotel roommate on game weekends) both supported their young, embattled QB as well.  Lalich’s most notable comments came during the following exchange:

 

Lalich’s first public denial stemmed from a question he was asked near the end of the press conference.

“On a more serious note, did you admit to smoking marijuana while on probation? What do you have to…”

The question from a television reporter was promptly interrupted by Jim Daves, Virginia’s assistant director of athletics for media relations.

“[Lalich] has not commented that that’s what he did,” Daves stated before Lalich answered. “That’s an allegation so I would like you to rephrase your question.”

The reporter shifted gears, asking in a different fashion.

Without hesitation, Lalich proceeded with his proclamation [“I have not smoked or done any drugs while on my probation”], which upon completion drew another statement from Daves.

“This is a legal matter. It is in the court system,” Daves said. “He has a court date due, and I think it is fair to Peter to allow that court date to come up and let him have … his due process as well at the same time regarding this matter.”

 

All of this, and the listing of Lalich as starter in the UConn depth chart released Tuesday, make at least the timing of Wednesday’s statement extremely puzzling.  In said statement, Groh indicated “we stand by Peter, and in talking with him have made a decision which is best in the short term for him, the team and our university. We have a strong set of standards and values on our team that reflect those of the university, and we do not compromise those values to win football games.”  AD Craig Littlepage indicated that “over the past 24 hours I’ve had conversations with both Peter and Coach Groh. The focus of our discussions shifted from due process and fairness and moved toward what would be best for Peter and the team, at least until such time that matters were cleared up about his probation status.”

 

For his part, Lalich’s (perhaps ghostwritten) comments were about what would have been expected:

 

“I love my team and my teammates and the way they have let me know that they trust me and have my back. Because I care so much about our team, it is best for me to step back temporarily from my starting position so that my teammates can focus 100 percent on getting ready for the game . . . I appreciate that Coach sees me first as a person, then as a quarterback. I make mistakes like everyone, but I have followed the terms of my probation and I am committed to our team and the University of Virginia.”

 

 

A few questions:

 

  1. When, where, and by whom was this decision made?
  2. Was it “forced from outside the program” as the DP’s Jay Jenkins suggests today?
  3. If so, is this in any part a reaction to the recent legal & academic problems of others (to numerous to list)?  What about the fact that some (read: Jameel Sewell) may have been playing despite shadows of doubt and/or known foregone conclusions?
  4. What does the “came to a decision” quote from CLP mean?
  5. Did new information become available between Tuesday and Wednesday?
  6. Should Groh have at least had backups Marc Verica (announced starter for UConn) and/or Scott Deke attempt a pass in the USC bloodbath to prepare somewhat to this situation?
  7. Who is the third-string / emergency QB?  Vic Hall? Riko Smalls?
  8. Who will room with Clint Sintim?  Sean Glennon perhaps?