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Virginia's best option might be wide-open offense

Associated Press Modified: October 1, 2012 at 7:01 pm •  Published: October 1, 2012

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Virginia coach Mike London is pondering a quarterback change.

The Cavaliers have reopened the QB battle between struggling Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims — who London said on his radio show Monday night would take the first-team snaps if he is healthy.

The Alabama transfer, who nearly rallied Virginia to a fourth-quarter comeback against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, injured his leg against the Bulldogs, the coach added.

The move is one of several lineup changes London is considering to help end the Cavaliers' three-game losing streak. The offensive line could also have a new look.

"That's one of the things we talk about: where do you go from here, what are you looking at, personnel and things like that, and finding out what we do best," London said earlier Monday. "We want to run the ball, but what do we do best in terms of moving the ball and with who in terms of the personnel?"

Rocco, a junior, has started 18 straight games and last year led Virginia to its first bowl game since 2007.

Personnel changes aren't the only thing London might be contemplating.

Virginia opened up its playbook in the 44-38 loss to Louisiana Tech and the Cavaliers' sudden offensive firepower seemed to suggest that they should consider airing the ball out more often.

The Cavaliers take on surprising Duke (4-1) Saturday in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup.

Virginia (2-3) piled up 625 yards against the Bulldogs, and Rocco threw for 265 yards and two scores in the first half, when Virginia built a 24-10 lead. He did throw one first-half interception on a short pass that hit receiver Dominique Terrell in the hands, leading to a touchdown for Louisiana Tech, but then threw two more picks in the third quarter.

Virginia then turned to Sims, who threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 10 completions. He led another drive to a missed field goal, and Virginia nearly got the ball back with a chance to win.

The redshirt sophomore was one of the most highly recruited prep players when out of Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake. He transferred to Virginia in the spring because of a family matter and was cleared to play immediately by the NCAA.

If Virginia does stick with the more wide-open style of offense, that would be fine with wide receiver Adrian Gamble — he caught his first career touchdown pass against Louisiana Tech.

"It's pretty fun as a wide receiver seeing the ball being slung all around the place because you know it's an opportunity," Gamble, a freshman, said. His TD came on a 24-yard pass from Sims. "I knew my time was going to come."

The Cavaliers had nine plays of 20 yards or more against the Bulldogs after managing just 19 in their first four games.

Rocco and Sims combined for a school-record 480 passing yards, and the aerial focus, with a side of trickery thrown in. The move helped struggling tailback Perry Jones get going. He rushed for 82 yards, caught seven passes for 100 yards and threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Tim Smith on a halfback option just five minutes into the game.

The style of play got high marks from players, backup tailback Kevin Parks said.

"I felt like when we were out there this Saturday, we performed well," said Parks, who gained 60 yards on 19 carries. "Things didn't go like we wanted.

"It's like that sometimes, but you've just got to keep pushing forward."


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