With the relocation of our headquarters 250 miles closer to Charlottesville, and a few other things brewing, it’s been a little difficult to get some timely posts out. We apologize. But in any event, this past Saturday, Wahoos were treated to something they haven’t seen in a few seasons now: hope. Cautious optimism, sure, but that’s better than no optimism. The Cavaliers notched their first season opener win since 2005, with a victory over Mike London’s alma mater and former troops, the University of Richmond. But with that win a week away, and the USC Trojans coming up tomorrow, we take a look at a few quick hits.
A couple of points coming off the Richmond game… First, Virginia defense over the off-season has appeared to learn how to tackle. Last Saturday, the most noticeable change on defense for me was that when an orange jersey got to his man, the result was not him hanging on to the ball carrier's jersey and getting dragged along until he had 2 3 4 other guys there to help him make the tackle. Instead, the result was him making a hard hit and minimizing yards after contact.
Relatedly, Defensive Coordinator Jim Reid has been preaching speed and quickness, and it shows. In addition to the point above regarding bigger hits, our guys are just getting there faster. This is mostly true, though I had to cringe a few times at our kickoff/punt defense. Over five kickoff returns and one punt return, we're allowing an average of 28.33 yards per return. We can do better.
Thirdly, our offensive line did not look as terrible as people made it out to be. Inexperienced they may be, but they allowed only one sack on Saturday, and allowed only three tackles for loss (for 13 yards).
Lastly, Perry Jones and Keith Payne! Perry Jones had 73 yards while the Payne Train put together 114. Payne accounted for four of Virginia’s five touchdowns Saturday, making him tied for second in the country in scoring (24 points). Virginia as a team put together 488 well-balanced yards on offense, with 205 on the ground and 283 in the air.
All of this is to be taken with a grain of salt, with Richmond being an FCS team. Tomorrow the Cavaliers face the Trojans in LA. USC put together a mean offense with 534 yards, including five touchdown passes. Virginia gave up 333 yards last week, against Richmond, with 189 passing yards.
On the flip side, the big story this week has been USC’s huge, gaping holes on defense, a defense that gave up 588 yards, 459 of them through the air. The question is whether Virginia will be able to exploit USC’s thin-as-ice defense. Quarterback Marc Verica didn’t throw any interceptions against Richmond last week, but again, that was against Richmond. As any Hoos fan can tell you, Verica threw 16 interceptions in 2008. There is, however, a little nub to hang my hat on, as against Richmond, Verica made smart decisions in the pocket and didn’t lob the ball in hopes of an orange jersey finding it.
The previews are saying that Virginia doesn’t stand a chance against an angry USC team who was embarrassed last week in their victory over Hawaii. But do we remember why they were embarrassed in the first place? They’re not playing for anything! USC gave had 11 penalties called against them last week for a total of 100 yards. That’s the sort of indiscipline that you can’t erase in a week.
Further, half the Virginia players still remember the 52-7 loss in Scott Stadium two years ago. Take this desire for revenge and couple it with a team who’s playing against media predictions, who’s playing to impress a new coach, and who’s playing to win back the fan base, and you’ve got a recipe brewing here.