Before every football game this year, The Blue Zone is going to sit down with a football writer from the opposing school’s student newspaper to get the scoop on their team and season.
This week, The Chronicle’s Daniel Carp spoke to The Cavalier Daily's Senior Associate Editor Fritz Metzinger about this weekend’s contest between Duke and Virginia.
The Chronicle: The big story for the Cavaliers throughout the week has been their brewing quarterback controversy between Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims, who have both seen action in every game this season. Has head coach Mike London announced who will start this Saturday against Duke?
Fritz Metzinger: We're going to have a quarterback change. Phillip Sims, who is a big-name transfer from Alabama, transferred to Virginia this summer and got a waiver from the NCAA to play. He's come in during every game in spot duty but until this weekend it has been Michael Rocco who has been starting. Rocco imploded last weekend and threw three interceptions in the first half against Louisiana Tech. Sims replaced him and almost brought Virginia back to a win. I know Sims did suffer an injury during the game, but if he's healthy he's going to start.
TC: What does Sims bring to the Cavalier offense?
FM: What it does for Virginia is it makes us a more vertical, attack-oriented passing team. Sims has such a freakishly strong arm that you're going to see a lot more in terms of down the field throws than you would with Rocco.
TC: Duke head coach David Cutcliffe spoke earlier this week about the difficulties of preparing for two different quarterbacks in the same week. Now that Sims has been announced as the starter, do you know if London plans to use Rocco in certain spots during this game, much like he did with Sims earlier in the season?
FM: It certainly wouldn't surprise me. Even last year, coach London used the two quarterback system with Rocco and David Wofford, who is redshirting this season. If Sims struggles, throws a few interceptions and is not getting the ball out on time, there's almost a 100-percent chance you will see Rocco in the game. But if Sims is playing well, he might be able to last the whole game. I think with Rocco starting you were definitely going to see Sims either way, but with Sims starting, if he plays well you might not see Rocco.
TC: Virginia has dropped three consecutive games, including a 44-38 home loss to Louisiana Tech last weekend. What facets of the game have the Cavaliers been concentrating on to hopefully turn their luck around against Duke Saturday?
FM: The big point of emphasis this week was curbing turnovers and penalties. They were penalized 16 times last week, which was ugly to watch. Virginia was also killed in the turnover battle with Rocco throwing three early interceptions. I think one of the things they've really been focusing on this week was winning the turnover battle and staying disciplined.
TC: There seems to have been some bad blood between Duke and Virginia in the teams' last few matchups. The end of last year's game up in Charlottesville, Va. got pretty dicey and there were a number of personal fouls called in the fourth quarter. Do you expect any of that to continue this weekend?
FM: I think you can expect more of the same. We're ACC rivals and we know each other so well—it's natural. Virginia proved they are pretty easily provoked in last week's game against Louisiana Tech, where they committed four personal fouls. Obviously with the teams being such good rivals and having their recent history, I think it's almost a given that you're going to have the same kind of chippy, really competitive game.
TC: What's one area of this game that could potentially decide the outcome of the contest?
FM: I'm going to say it's the Virginia secondary's ability to tackle. You've got that wide open Duke offense that can put up a lot of points in a hurry. The Cavalier secondary, they're not completely inadequate. They can cover, they are very talented but when they lose confidence or give up a big play they just crumble. If that happens, I can't envision Virginia having a great time in this game.
TC: Finally, what's your prediction for Saturday?
FM: I hate to go against my home team, but I'm going to say it will be another high scoring and competitive game. I'll say Duke beats Virginia 41-34.