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USC will see a whole new Virginia this time around

USC FOOTBALL FYI:

These Cavaliers, who face the Trojans on Saturday at the Coliseum, are much different than the ones who were routed by USC two years ago.

September 06, 2010|By Gary Klein

USC's only experience against Virginia came two years ago, when the Trojans blew out the Cavaliers at Charlottesville.

The Virginia team that will play USC on Saturday at the Coliseum has undergone significant change since that 52-7 loss.

First-year Coach Mike London replaced Al Groh after Virginia's 3-9 finish a year ago, and the Cavaliers opened their season Saturday with a 34-13 victory over Richmond, London's former team.

"They seem to be much improved," USC Coach Lane Kiffin said.

In the opener, Virginia was led by quarterback Marc Verica and running back Keith Payne, fifth-year seniors who appear to have revived their careers under London.

Verica was a backup when he played briefly against the Trojans in 2008. He became the starter when Peter Lalich was dismissed from the team, completing 64% of his passes with eight touchdowns in the next 10 games.

But Verica also had 16 passes intercepted.

He opened last season third on the depth chart and started only once, suffering a season-ending concussion against Miami in November.

But against Richmond, Verica completed 23 of 34 passes for a career-best 283 yards and a touchdown, without an interception.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Payne also resurfaced in a big way against Richmond, rushing for 114 yards and four touchdowns in 16 carries.

Payne, after gaining a combined 255 yards in 2007 and 2008, left the team right before the 2009 opener, but rejoined the Cavaliers after London was hired in December.

In addition to Verica and Payne, the Cavaliers also feature receivers Kris Burd and Dontrelle Inman, both of whom had seven receptions in the opener, and running back Perry Jones, who had 73 yards in nine carries.

Quick hits

Virginia has fielded a football team since 1888, but Saturday's game will be its first in California. …USC resumes practice Tuesday after being off Monday.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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