Virginia seeks consistency on the ground

Virginia is not running the ball the way it did last season, one big reason the Hoos have been so inconsistent on offense this year.

Last week against Duke was the perfect example. Virginia had 184 yards rushing in the first half en route to a 17-14 lead. In the second half? Two total yards on the ground. Coach Mike London was asked this week to explain the difference between the halves.

"There are so many elements to the running game part of it," London said. "Obviously, the offensive line and blocking -- the tight ends and the fullbacks who are doing the kicking out or leaning up on the isolation plays. So there's a renewed sense of being able to run the ball, move the ball, but obviously with the start that we had, we got to 14 points early, we need to continue on and culminate that with scoring more points, whether it's on the ground or through the air.

"So it is noted that the running game has picked up, but at the same time, we need to increase our scoring opportunities."

Just take a look at the overall numbers. Virginia is averaging 134.8 yards rushing per game, ranking No. 88 nationally and No. 6 in the ACC. Compare that to last season, when the team averaged 165.3 rushing yards per game. That was the second-highest amount put up by the Cavaliers in the past 12 seasons.

The struggle has been obvious. Last week, Kevin Parks’ rushing touchdown in the first gave UVa its first score on the ground since the fourth quarter of the Richmond game Sept. 1, a streak of 16 quarter. Perry Jones also became the first 100 yard rusher of the season.

If history is any indication, this team is going to have to put up some good rushing numbers to have a shot against Maryland on Saturday.

Virginia is 23-8 against Maryland since 1937 when rushing for at least 150 yards. Despite some of the inconsistency, UVa has rushed for at least 145 yards in three straight games.

But if it cannot run the ball? Tougher times. Before 2009, Virginia had lost 15 straight games to Maryland when rushing for fewer than 100 yards, dating to 1957.

Maryland presents the toughest test of the season. The Terps have the best rushing defense the Hoos have faced, ranking No. 7 nationally in rush defense, allowing 81 yards per game. There is no question this game brings many challenges, but London is just focused on making sure his players have a good month of October, after a disappointing 2-4 start.

"It's my job to make sure I try to keep creating that positive mindset about there's games left to play," London said. "You've got home games. Let's win the month of October. And that's what I've got to do. That's what we should do. Like I said, we're focused on putting the plan together that people, when they come to Scott Stadium, if they see, they think, 'you know what, this team is improving,' because that's important, also to make sure we improve, offense, defense, and special teams, as the season goes on, goes forward."