Elliott: “We have underachieved, all six [remaining] games are winnable”

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Tony Elliott (Photo: UVA Athletics)

The way Tony Elliott sees it, Virginia has six more opportunities and can’t afford to waste a single day, as the Cavaliers enter the second half of the football season with a short-week trip to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech (Thursday night, 7:30, ESPN).

His UVA team is at a crossroads. The Wahoos are 2-4, have lost their last three games and haven’t won on the road since last year’s game in Louisville. Complicating the matter is Virginia’s record at Georgia Tech, where it has tasted victory only twice since the turn of the century (2004 and 2008).

The Yellow Jackets are 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the ACC, but perhaps even more importantly, undefeated since firing Geoff Collins (10-28 in three years plus) and replacing him with assistant Brent Key to finish the season. Under Key’s guidance, the Jackets upset Pitt and Duke.

While skeptics wonder where Virginia is going to find another win, Elliott put a more positive take on the second half of the season at his weekly press conference Monday.

“We’ve got four home games, we’ve got two road games and in my opinion, all those are winnable games with the team we’ve got,” Elliott said.

He’s right, of course, if he can get his team playing the kind of football that most everyone expected heading into the season. Of course, that means offensive coordinator Des Kitchings will have to breathe life into an offense that has been inept through the first half of the campaign.

UVA faces, in order: Georgia Tech (3-3), Miami (3-3), North Carolina (6-1), Pitt (4-2), Coastal Carolina (6-1, but 49-21 losers to Old Dominion last weekend) and Virginia Tech (2-5).

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to play well on the road. We gotta get our first road victory and from there build momentum. You can’t waste a day.”

Elliott said that during the recent bye week, he and his staff have dedicated time to focusing on fundamentals, cleaning up issues, growing young depth and getting a head start on Georgia Tech. The coach believes the Cavaliers are still a team that needs a lot of work fundamentally.

“And being honest and realistic with ourselves in owning the fact that we have underachieved based on what our talent is,” Elliott said.

He said his players need to come closer as a team, using a line from actor Al Pacino as a pro football coach in the film Any Given Sunday, “Either we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals.”

“We’ve got to come together and we’ve all got to do our job,” Elliott said. “We don’t need to focus on too much of what we did other than correct the mistakes from the first half. Let’s go do something special in the second half, and let’s finish this thing the way we want to.”

Notes

Slot receiver Billy Kemp is expected to return to action after being injured early in the Duke game. He missed last week’s loss to Louisville, but has returned to practice.

Linebacker Josh Ahern will make the trip to Atlanta, but Elliott isn’t expecting him to play. Meanwhile, freshman Stevie Bracey and junior Hunter Stewart will likely share time at Ahern’s spot.

UVA’s All-ACC linebacker Nick Jackson has healed up from all of his nagging injuries and will be making a homecoming to Atlanta.

“He’s progressing day-to-day, moving around better than I anticipated, considering the injury that he’s coming off of,” Elliott said of Jackson. “But I anticipate he’ll go out there, lay it on the line and give everything for this program.”

 

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