UVa. can't get it done against UNC

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UVa. can't get it done against UNC

By HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Bryn Renner threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter after a goal-line stand preserved North Carolina's lead and the Tar Heels ended Virginia's postseason hopes with a 37-13 victory Thursday night.

The Tar Heels (7-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) were hanging onto a 20-13 lead when they stopped Kevin Parks for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1. They then drove 97 yards in 12 plays, Renner capping the march with a 23-yard pass to a wide open Giovani Bernard over the middle for the TD.

A 5-yard completion to Erik Highsmith on fourth-and-2 came on the play just before the touchdown pass, and after Virginia (4-7, 2-5) was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, Renner's 20-yard TD pass to Highsmith finished it.

The Cavaliers had won two in a row and were hoping to win two more to qualify for a bowl game. They shut down Bernard, the ACC's runaway rushing leader, but were picked apart by Renner's precise passing.

He finished 29 for 36 for 315 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target on the night was freshman Quinshad Davis, who caught 15 passes, one shy of the school record, for 174 yards.

The game looked as if it might become a classic in the oldest rivalry in the south, then turned quickly when the same North Carolina defense that allowed 68 points to Georgia Tech last Saturday made a huge play.

The Cavaliers drove to a first-and-goal at the Tar Heels 8. A draw play by Michael Rocco gained 5 on first down, and runs by Perry Jones and Kevin Parks gained a yard each. But on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Parks was thrown for a 2-yard loss.

The Tar Heels followed with their big drive and, when Darius Jennings got behind the secondary and Phillips Sims floated a certain 81-yard touchdown pass into his hands on third-and-13, Jennings juggled and dropped it. The Cavaliers punted, and five plays later, Renner to Highsmith made it 34-13.

The tandem also teamed up on 9-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring.

The Cavaliers squandered several chances, managing only a field goal after Bernard fumbled a punt at his own 12 and Virginia recovered, and then when they came away with nothing near the goal line.

Virginia trailed 14-3 early but closed to 14-10 on a nifty third-down scramble by Sims, who avoided a sack, rolled right and found Jennings in the end zone from 9 yards out. Sims also had a 13-yard run on third-and-9 at the start of the drive, and Parks powered for a yard to convert on fourth-and-1.

The Tar Heels answered by driving to the Cavaliers 15, where Renner was sacked by Brent Urban for an 8-yard loss on third-and-13. Thomas Moore tried a 40-yard field goal, but missed wide right.

Sims' lone series had produced Virginia's lone touchdown to that point, but in Virginia's quarterback rotation that coach Mike London described this week as "random," the coaches sent Rocco back out for the next series, and his first pass was picked off by Tre Boston, who returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.

The Tar Heels' first two touchdowns came as Renner picked apart a defense geared to stop the run.

He hit Davis for 25, 10 and 20 yards in a 91-play drive that ended with his 9-yard touchdown pass to Highsmith, and he hit Davis for 32 yards on the next drive. Davis also drew a 15-yard pass interference call when cornerback Demetrious Nicholson latched onto him from behind on a throw to the end zone.

That set up North Carolina at 3, and A.J. Blue ran it in on the next play.

Renner was 19 for 23 in the half for 201 yards, and Davis had 10 catches for 130 yards.

Fuente ready to take Virginia Tech back to prominence

Fuente ready to take Virginia Tech back to prominence

Taking over for a legend is never easy, but that's the position Justin Fuente now finds himself at Virginia Tech.

Frank Beamer built the football program at Virginia Tech into a national power during his 29 seasons in Blacksburg. Fuente now takes over looking to preserve the Hokies' 23-year bowl streak and return to the team to the heights reached during Beamer's peak.

“I feel pressure to do a good job because Virginia Tech football means a lot to a tremendous amount of people," Beamer said. "It’s important."

RELATED: Hokie kicker nails 70-yard field goal

With that comes a lot of expectations. Fuente wouldn't have it any other way.

"It’s great to coach at a place with expectations," Fuente said at the ACC Football Kickoff. "There is a lot that comes with that and I understand that. That’s just the way it is. But it’s fun to coach at a place that means so much to so many people."

Fuente's task is made more difficult as Virginia Tech finds itself at a crossroad of sorts. After eight straight seasons of 10 or more wins, the Hokies have not won more than eight since 2011. Rather than competing for ACC Championships, Virginia Tech has had to battle just to reach bowl eligibility.

For Fuente, he recognizes that fans do not just expect him to extend the bowl streak. His job is to return the Hokies to national prominence

"We’re taking over a program that is not where we want it to be," Fuente said. "When I say ‘we,’ I mean Hokie Nation. We want it to be back to where it was ... but we will get it there. I know that for a fact.”

MORE VIRGINIA TECH: Hokies driven to 'get the job done' during the offseason

Bronco Mendenhall is not interested in a 'honeymoon period' at UVa

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Bronco Mendenhall is not interested in a 'honeymoon period' at UVa

Going from BYU to a power conference like the ACC is quite the jump for Bronco Mendenhall, but so far the new Virginia head football coach has seemed right at home.

Mendenhall has been tasked with changing the culture at a Virginia program that has been to a bowl game only once since 2008. The difficulty of that task became apparent to Mendenhall immediately as he met the team.

"The team that was in front of me when I arrived at UVA, their eyes would not make contact," Mendenhall said at the ACC Football Kickoff. "Their heads were down. They looked right on the verge and acted right on the verge of despair. I remember changing what my message was to them, what I had prepared, when I saw that, working to inspire at that point."

RELATED: HOKIE KICKER NAILS 70-YARD FIELD GOAL

To do that, he is emphasizing will and determination rather than just football.  At practice, players do not get numbers because they have not yet earned that right. Mendenhall wants the team to build its confidence through hard work before worrying about X's and O's.

"We are a football program that bases will before skill," Mendenahll said. "We work from the inside out. Eventually we'll play good football. But we work on toughness and effort. We've made significant inroads in that regard. We think the football will catch up and catch up relatively quickly."

After watching their team finish with a losing record in seven of the last eight seasons, you can forgive Virginia fans for wondering just how quickly the football will catch up. Mendenhall's answer: pretty darn quickly.

Despite the talk of building up confidence and having to change the culture at Virginia, Mendenhall's ultimate message was clear. His expectations for the team remain high and the turnaround in Charlottesville will be swift.

"I would say at the University of Virginia, we're ahead of schedule in terms of the culture, with the execution to follow," Mendenhall said. "We'll be working hard this fall camp to make sure, for the players that earn the right to come into fall camp with their conditioning, that they're ready and fit. But we have some football work to do."

MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Hokie QB loses cousin in Louisiana shooting

Former GW players come to coach Mike Lonergan's defense amid abuse allegations

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Former GW players come to coach Mike Lonergan's defense amid abuse allegations

George Washington head coach Mike Lonergan is facing serious allegations of verbal and emotional abuse from both a current and former Colonials basketball players, according to a lengthy report from the Washington Post.

But in the wake of the allegations, two of Lonergan's more prominent players have spoken out in defense of their head coach.

Patricio Garino, who will be in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics as a member of Argentina's basketball team, was rather outspoken in defense of his coach, while still implying that Lonergan was rough on his players.

"Anonymous" declarations of some GW players about our program," Garino wrote.

"Coach is very old school and he is gonna push you to the limits to reach your potential, even though we went at each other a few times I knew he did it because he knew I was able to perform better, and that's something that I appreciate now because it got me to where I am today. He built in me the work ethic necessary to play at the highest level, he taught me not to quit under any circumstance and he told me to persevere to reach my goals. I owe a lot of my success to Coach Lonergan and his coaching staff through four years, i truly would be close to playing in the Olympics if it wasn't for him.

Garino played for Lonergan from 2012 until 2016, and averaged a career-best 14.1 ppg this past season. Tough love works for some players, but the issue is that it hardly ever works acroiss the board. Some players do not respond well to it.  

But Garino was not alone in his defense.  Isaiah Armwood, a 6-9 forward who transferred to George Washington in 2012 after two seasons at Villanova, stood by his former head coach too.

There was also Mo Creek, a graduate transfer from Indiana who joined the Colonials in 2013. 

It's clear that Lonergan's methods were not for everyone, but there were those who believe it was for the better.