CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Tight end Jake McGee sat in the corner looking dazed, searching for answers.
Running back Kevin Parks deflected talk of running for 1,000 yards and said he’d trade it for wins.
And center Luke Bowanko lamented the missed opportunities that marred his final season at Virginia.
The Cavaliers (2-10, 0-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) wrapped up their first winless season in conference play in 35 years Saturday with a 16-6 loss to in-state rival Virginia Tech. They headed into the offseason with an almost overwhelming sense of frustration while vowing not to let it happen again.
It was Virginia’s 10th straight loss to the Hokies, and ninth loss in a row overall.
“We want to take this season and remember how bad we all felt,” quarterback David Watford said. “We do not want this to happen again. We need to get better and go up and beyond what we have been doing.”
McGee, who led the team with 43 receptions, said the offseason has to be about more than talk.
“It’s not going to be enough just to show back up next fall,” the junior said. “Guys are really going to have to put the time in and do what it takes to turn this thing around. … We have to dig deep and look into things to see what we need to do to change it. Two and 10 is not going to cut it.”
For the Cavaliers, “it” was a season-long pattern of squandered opportunities.
For the season, Virginia’s defense under new coordinator Jon Tenuta forced 21 turnovers, but the offense converted those takeaways into a meager 13 points. The only touchdown the Cavaliers scored after a takeaway under new coordinator Steve Fairchild came in their season opener against Brigham Young.
“That’s probably been the story of the season,” said Parks, the first running back to top 1,000 yards since 2004. “The defense makes plays, they come up with big stops, and we can’t do anything with it.”
Against the Hokies, one of those plays was a sack by Max Valles that caused Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas to fumble. Brent Urban recovered at the Virginia Tech 34, but after Parks lost a yard on first down, Watford threw three consecutive incompletions, and the Hokies took over and drove for a touchdown.
“We’re trying to win the game,” coach Mike London said, explaining the decision to go for it on fourth-and 11 with 1:08 left in the half. “And they ended up getting the ball because we didn’t execute.”
The Cavaliers’ only points came on their first two drive when Watford drove them down the field, then saw the drive stall once inside the Hokies’ 20 yard-line, highlighting another challenge of the season.
In 41 trips inside the opponent’s 20, Virginia scored just 21 touchdowns, a 51.2 percent touchdown conversion rate that ranks among the lowest in the country. The Cavaliers also kicked 12 field goals.
London, whose record in four seasons at Virginia fell to 18-31, has received numerous votes of confidence from athletic director Craig Littlepage this season. Littlepage has said he believes London is the right man for the job and that he will be back next season, but with higher expectations.
Virginia had only seven seniors who played this season, so most everyone will be back.
“We have to get it right,” London said. “We have to get it fixed.”