On Nov. 19, 2011, Virginia knocked off Florida State in Tallahassee for perhaps the biggest victory of Mike London’s tenure as coach. Virginia was 8-3 and London would soon have a lucrative new contract. The future looked bright.
In the 26 games since, London’s squad is 6-20, with just two ACC wins. In 2013, the Cavaliers went winless in conference play (2-10 overall), and it’s difficult to find one clear cause for all the problems. There were games when the defense was exceptional (Pitt, Virginia Tech) but the offense couldn’t score. There were games when the offense figured ways to move the ball (Ball State, Maryland) but the defense couldn’t hold. Then there were games when everything looked out of sync (Clemson, UNC) and London’s job security was tenuous at best.
In the end, it was a season to forget at Virginia, but there remain building blocks in place for the future, and a few performances from 2013 were worth remembering.
Offensive MVP: Kevin Parks (Jr., RB)
It was a tough season for Virginia’s offense, which finished 111th in the nation in scoring and 90th in total offense. But while the passing game struggled routinely, Parks provided a consistent threat for the Cavaliers. The junior finished with 1,031 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, topping 100 yards six times, including each of Virginia’s final three games. Parks finished second only to Heisman finalist Andre Williams in rushing in the ACC.
Defensive MVP: Anthony Harris (Jr., S)
The 2013 season didn’t go according to plan for Virginia, but Harris provided more than a few highlights. He finished third on the team with 80 tackles, led the nation with eight interceptions and landed on numerous All-America teams. Harris was the star on a defense that showed some signs of significant progress -- particularly against BYU, Pitt and Virginia Tech -- and offers some hope that the Hoos can turn things around in 2014.
Best moment: Harris’ INT against BYU
Trailing 16-12 late in the fourth quarter of its opener against BYU, Virginia got its biggest play of the season when Harris picked off a pass from Taysom Hill, then flipped the ball to teammate Henry Coley, who ran it back to the BYU 13-yard line. Moments later, Parks ran for a touchdown, and the Cavaliers won their first -- and only -- game of the season against an FBS foe. At the time, it seemed like a turning point for Virginia. Instead, it proved to be one of the few highlights in a lost season.
Worst moment: the loss to Maryland
There were plenty of ugly games for Virginia this season, but the 0-8 record in ACC play tends to overshadow the fact that UVA was actually competitive early. A loss to high-flying Oregon and highly regarded Ball State were excusable. Virginia played Pitt close in its ACC opener, holding the Panthers without a point in the second half. Then the Cavaliers appeared in position to pick up a conference win on Oct. 12 when Alec Vozenilek lined up for a 42-yard, game-winning field goal attempt against the Terps. But he missed, and Virginia lost its next six games by an average of 22 points.