Helpful gent that he is, Virginia coach Al Groh capsulized Saturday's l'affaire de Clemson for the assembled geeks and feebs covering the proceedings, so that they might return home swiftly and safely to the warmth and comfort of their loved ones with minimal exertion.
"The game, as you all could see," Groh said, "was a pretty even match other than about seven plays. Touchdown that we didn't get. Four or five turnovers and two failed fourth downs, which essentially are the same thing as a turnover.
"Pretty even match, but in any case, those seven plays did separate the two teams, so we're disappointed."
Clemson emerged on the high end of Saturday's 13-3 alley fight. The Tigers slammed the door on Virginia's offense almost the entire afternoon at Scott Stadium, even catching the Cavs' fingers in the door jamb a few times.
"I mean, it's a pretty easy game to describe, right?" Groh said. "I'm sure you won't have to scratch your heads to write the story about this one. It was right out there to see."
Turnover differential was the easy part. Virginia committed four, Clemson one. The Tigers converted three of those turnovers into points — a touchdown and two field goals.
The subtext behind the turnover differential was the value of a senior with 22 career starts at quarterback, versus a redshirt sophomore who received a battlefield promotion and who continues to find his way.
Clemson's Cullen Harper and Virginia's Marc Verica entered Saturday 1-2 in passing in the ACC, separated by only 7.5 yards per game. But that's where the similarities end.
Harper did little to distinguish himself, but he also made few mistakes. Verica, on the other hand, threw three interceptions, two of which Clemson turned into 10 points.
After throwing only four interceptions in a span of five games, he has thrown six in the past two games, versus Wake Forest and the Tigers.
"It's a mix of things," Verica said. "Sometimes, it's a bad decision. A late throw or a bad pass, underthrown. And then other times it's really just forcing it and trying to make a play when your team's down. But none of those are excuses. Interceptions, they hurt the team and they decrease your chances of winning. It's just something I've really got to work on."
Much as Verica was willing to shoulder the blame, however, several choice words ought to be reserved for the offensive line. Verica was routinely pressured, particularly in the second half, and the Cavs netted just 30 rushing yards, 65 fewer than their last-in-the-ACC average.
The Cavs' offensive performance also will stoke the fire under offensive coordinator Mike Groh.
Though much of Virginia's play-calling Saturday did indeed make vanilla look like rocky road with a side order of sparklers, it's not entirely clear to what extent the younger Groh is hamstrung by personnel and perhaps by the boss's instructions to do as little as possible to put the Cavs' capable defense in compromising positions.
Virginia's defense certainly performed well enough to win. The Cavs limited Clemson to 192 yards, 157 less than its average. They kept potential game-breakers James Davis and C.J. Spiller in front of them and didn't allow dangerous wideout Aaron Kelly to run free.
"I've said it a million times," Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim said, "this game is a team game. Although we may have played good defensively, we didn't play good enough because we needed to help our offense out a lot more.
"Whenever you have a situation like this, it's not about if the defense is playing great or the offense is playing great. If one side is struggling, the other side has to step up and make plays and help the other side out, and collectively, as a team we didn't play well enough."
The Cavaliers' peaks and valleys this season have mirrored the Himalayas. Wretched performances and improbable winning streaks. They have lost three straight, though Saturday was more frustrating than disheartening, an opportunity lost but for just a dash of offensive consistency.
"Not to belabor the point," Groh said, "but this is one that doesn't take a big, thick microscope to dissect. It's pretty obvious. I thought both defensive teams had an excellent day. There was not much to separate either team."
Two yards. Three turnovers. Ten points. Got it. Thanks, coach.
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times