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Pitt Football vs. Virginia Preview

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SEPTEMBER 28, 2013 - TBA
Buy Season Tickets - 2013 Pitt Football

Founded 1819
Location Charlottesville, VA
Nickname Cavaliers, Wahoos, `Hoos
Mascot Cavalier
Traditions The Good Old Song
National Championships 0
Consensus All-Americans 12
College Football Hall of Famers 7
Pro Football Hall of Famers 3
First Round Draft Picks 16

By Pat Bostick

Series History
The Panthers lead the all-time series 3-2.

The Last Time
Pitt and Virginia last met on September 29, 2007 in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers won that game 44-14.

2012-13 Virginia Season Review
Head Coach: Mike London (3rd season)
2012-13 Record: 4-8 (2-6, 6th in Coastal Division)
Marquee wins:
Pitt Bullet Beat Penn State 17-16.
Pitt Bullet Beat Miami 41-40.

The London File
Charged with restoring Virginia football to prominence, Mike London took over the Cavaliers' program in 2010 after leading his alma mater, Richmond, to the FCS National Title in 2008 and a semifinal berth in 2009. Despite only guiding the Wahoos to a 4-8 record in his first season (2010), London oversaw impressive progress in 2011. The Cavaliers finished 8-5 and became the first college team to ever win road games at Miami and Florida State in the same season. London was named the ACC's Coach of the Year after leading the Cavaliers to the Chik-fil-A Bowl, though his team's follow-up to 2011 was somewhat forgettable. Looking to put their sub-par 2012 campaign in the rear view, London will rely on a solid group of returners and a revamped coaching staff to fuel a successful 2013 season.

Virginia Coach

New Names, Faces in 2013
Following a dismal 4-8 campaign in 2012, Mike London has made significant changes to his staff heading into the 2013 season. Featuring a wealth of experience, London's staff will have five new coaches this year - three of which will serve as his offensive, defensive and special team's coordinators. Here's a quick look at four notable additions to Virginia's staff:

1. Tom O'Brien, Associate Head Coach for Offense/Tight Ends - O'Brien has 38 years of coaching under his belt, most recently serving as the Head Football Coach at North Carolina State.
2. Steve Fairchild, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks - Fairchild boasts 31 years of experience at all levels of the game. He most recently served as a senior offensive assistant for the San Diego Chargers after a four-year stint as Colorado State's Head Coach.
3. Jon Tenuta, Associate Head Coach for Defense/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers - Entering his 33rd season of collegiate coaching, Tenuta is a well-known defensive mind who has coordinated at schools like Notre Dame, Ohio State and Georgia Tech.
4. Larry Lewis, Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs - Lewis owns 32 seasons of coaching experience, including an eight-year stint as the Head Coach at Idaho State.

Looking at the Cavaliers
Offense: 4 starters lost, 7 return (21 lettermen return)
1. A few losses - Among Virginia's departing starters on the offensive side of the ball, a few stick out. The Cavaliers will have a new starting quarterback in 2013, as Michael Rocco has transferred to Richmond. However, junior Philip Sims appeared in 12 games last season and sophomore David Watford emerged from spring practice as the frontrunner for the vacant position. Virginia's biggest loss offensively is probably tailback Perry Jones, who rushed for 463 yards (2nd on team) and 2 touchdowns last season. Jones also led the Cavaliers in receptions in 2012, tallying 49 on the year. London does return four of five starting offensive lineman, but the lone departed, tackle Oday Aboushi, was Virginia's only draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft (5th Round, NY Jets).

2. Looking for a spark - After finishing in the middle of the conference in terms of total offense last season, Virginia is looking for a spark in 2013. The Cavaliers return a very capable receiving corps, headlined by wide receiver Darius Jennings (48 rec., 568 yards, 5 TD) and tight end Jake McGee (28 catches, 374 yards, 5 TD). The key to getting the Cavaliers' passing game going this season is quite obvious - quarterback play.

Offense Virginia

Defense: 4 starters lost, 7 returning (18 lettermen returning)
1. Build on last season - The Cavaliers finished fourth in the ACC last season in total defense. With seven starters returning and the experience of new defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, I would expect Virginia's defense to improve in 2013. However, if they aspire to be the kind of defense that wins games for their team, they will have to make greater strides in two important categories - sacks and turnovers gained. The Wahoos finished dead last in the conference last season in turnovers gained (only 12) and 10th in sacks (1.42/game, 17 total).

Keys to Victory
1. Win the turnover battle - Pitt needs to continue protecting the ball and forcing turnovers the way it did in 2012. The Panthers finished 15th nationally in turnover margin, forcing 22 turnovers and only yielding 10. Conversely, Virginia needs to drastically improve their turnover ratio from last season - the Cavaliers finished last in the ACC in turnover margin. As is usually the case (there are always exceptions), the team that wins the turnover battle will win this football game.

2. Contain Watford - If sophomore David Watford indeed wins Virginia's starting quarterback job, the Cavaliers will certainly aim to utilize his athleticism. Pitt will need to keep him in the pocket, as allowing him to escape and become a run-pass threat would play to this young man's strengths. If the Panthers do "set the edge" and contain Watford, things would seem to be more difficult for the first-year starter.

Check back in two weeks for a preview of Pitt's week 5 Opponent, Virginia Tech.

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