A week after an inexplicable loss, an inexplicable win in ESPN's Thursday night game at Miami has the Wahoos riding high again. It's tough to figure how the team went from miserably bad to firing on all cylinders during a short 4 day off week (then again, not much energy was expended against the Wolfpack). Here's a few of the factors that led to UVA pulling off another upset, 28-21, in Coral Gables. Sorry for the not-so-rapid "rapid reaction" post after this game - programming was delayed because of necessary post-game revelry in Charlottesville!
Coaching: This was the best coached game Mike London and his staff have put together at UVA. They stuck with our strengths on offense, giving the U a heavy dose of the 3-headed monster of Kevin Parks, Perry Jones, and Clifton Richardson (42 runs were executed, as opposed to 21 passes). Big props to the offensive line on another great performance. Early on, a few great screens, two to Darius Jennings for big yardage and a touchdown, kept Miami's pressure honest. We had a great defensive gameplan too, shutting down the Miami running game, and attempting to contain the impressive Tommy Streeter, while acknowledging his unstoppable ability to make a few big plays. Two great trick plays were called at perfect times. We saw a return to last year's special team's magic with a fake field goal, and Perry Jones threw a perfect touchdown strike on a toss option play to Tim Smith (a new addition to our QB controversy?). Oh, speaking of QB controversies...
Rocco's the Man: London spoke this week about trying to get Michael Rocco into a rhythm, mostly by limiting David Watford's time. He did so, and it worked. Watford played a grand total of one play, a four yard run on 2nd down, as we finally picked a QB and stuck with him. Rocco didn't earn any Heisman votes last night, finishing 11 for 20 for 226 yards and 2 TDs, but he played within himself and the scope of the offense, was in tune with his receivers, and didn't make costly mistakes. London spoke highly of the touch on his passes and execution of screens. Most importantly, the offense seemed to have the intangible "rhythm" that the coaching staff talked about all week. I expect us to stick with this rotation, hopefully using Watford situationally and intelligently too.
Defense Comes up Big: While our offense has been inconsistant, looking back over the course of the season, the defense has been consistently solid. Early in the game, Miami star RB Lamar Miller was stuffed play after play, as he was held to just 70 yards. We dared Miami to pass, and they did so...but never seemed to get comfortable. Streeter is a terrifying receiver who burnt us a few times, taking advantage of freshman CB Demetrious Nicholson. It seemed the gameplan was generally to put the great Chase Minnifield 1 on 1 on the #2 Miami receiver, while doubling Streeter; the plan worked just enough, as a last gasp pass into the end zone was barely missed. With Miami driving toward a potential game-tying score, the defense put up a gutty red zone stand, culminating with LaRoy Reynolds stuffing a run on 4th and 2 inside the 15.
- Besides the successful fake FG, another generally shaky game by the special teams. The suddenly human Robert Randolph missed a 32 yard field goal; he is just 3 for 6 on attempts from 30 to 39 yards, and 4 for 7 beyond that. Khalek Shephard and Darius Jennings each fumbled a kickoff, causing the offense to start with terrible field position.
-I know this is discussed to death, but seeing Miami play in a half-empty stadium makes me giggle every time I see it.
-Terrible officiating on the Jake Snyder forced fumble in the 3rd quarter; replay clearly showed that Snyder ripped the ball from Jacory Harris's hands and possessed it, while the refs ruled...that Harris somehow did not fumble? How in the world was this the result of the review? I thought it could've been the fact that recoveries of some fumbles aren't reviewable, but this was never explained.
-When Miami receiver Eduardo Clements made the catch inside the UVA 20 on the last play of the game, and the ESPN cameras didn't immediately capture any defenders in sight....Hoo else thought the game was headed to overtime?
What it Means: The U(niversity of Virginia) has its swagger back. We had a week of supreme optimism after the GT win and a week of pessimism after the NC State debacle, and now we are back to exuberance in Charlottesville. Whether this is misguided remains to be seen, but the Hoos are now just 1 win from bowl eligibility. Yes, the program is currently on a 13 game November losing streak (it is horrifying that as a 4th year, I have witnessed neither a November win nor a victory over Duke). But, the team will have a long week of preparation for its first attempt at that victory next weekend in College Park. Additionally, there are currently two ACC Coastal teams that control their own destiny: the Hokies and the Hoos. That's right...an Orange Bowl trip is there for the taking! (I told you moods change fast around here).