The View from Scott: Duke Edition

How many "Virginia hasn't..." streaks are we going to end this season? After watching Georgia Tech and North Carolina break streaks against us in Scott Stadium the last couple years, its nice to see us breaking some negative streaks of our own. Especially when one of them is "VIrginia hasn't beaten Duke since 2007."

Well, now we're starting new streaks. Three consecutive wins. Three consecutive ACC wins. Two consecutive road wins. A winning overall record on the road (we're 3-1, so guaranteed no worse than 3-2). A winning overall record. At worst, a .500 overall ACC record. Competing for division crowns.

This is nice, isn't it?

So let's get to it. What'd I see this weekend that needs commenting on? Plenty, both good and bad. Check in after the jump for my usual breakdown.

Defense

I really hope that all of the folks lambasting Virginia Defensive Coordinator Jim Reid for the performance of his squad in 2010 is doing an equally vocal job of commending him for that squad's performance in 2011. The Virginia defense has been very good this year. They're not perfect. There are certainly mistakes and holes. But they've done a lot more than anyone outside the program probably expected of them. I don't care who the team is (unless its one of those pass-happy Big XII teams) - holding an FBS opponent to 34 rushing yards is outstanding. The team ranks 26th in Total Defense (3rd in the ACC),  49th in Passing Defense (6th in the ACC), 25th in Rushing Defense (4th in the ACC) and 31st in Scoring Defense (4th in the ACC). 

In just the second year of the Mike London/Jim Reid era, I'll take those numbers in a heartbeat.

Pass Defense

Now, having said all of those nice things about the defense as a whole, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this: Our pass defense scares me. Don't misunderstand me - they've been opportunistic and, with a little bit of luck (and/or butter fingers by opposing receivers), they haven't gotten beaten too badly. But the opportunities to get beaten are still there. We've got a true freshman starting at corner who is still learning the ropes and one safety who tends to be overly aggressive and get caught by play action. The former situation has burned us previously. The latter situation burned us against Duke. We'll need to lock that down to compete against Florida State and Virginia Tech.

Attendance

I've said repeatedly that I hate bringing this up every time. But until it changes, I'm not shutting up about it. An announced attendance of under 46k? That's less than 75% capacity. For a team that is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007, that is on a winning streak (and having won 4 of its five prior games and that, quite frankly, is just a fun team to watch. Not to mention, it was a gorgeous day in Charlottesville.

As always, I'll give credit where credit is due: the fans that were there were definitely into the game (esp after that 4th down pass interference call).

But seriously. What is everyone doing? Why can't we get butts in the seats? 

Michael Rocco

I know I'm in the minority, but I never completely bought into the idea that the QB rotation with David Watford and Rocco was hurting Rocco's rhythm. He was still playing the majority of the snaps, still getting the majority of the first-team snaps during practice and it was clearly his job to lose. 

And while I'm not yet willing to admit that I was wrong on that front (and I think I can point to a few quotes from Rocco himself to back me up there), I have to say - without the rotation, Rocco has been very solid. Over his last six games he has thrown nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. He's making better throws and, probably most importantly, he's not making the bad throws. With a running game as good as ours is, the latter is all we should really need from him. And he's delivered in that regard.

Perry Jones

Superman. 

It's fitting. He does just about everything. He runs, blocks, catches, throws and returns kicks. Perhaps we should try him as a kicker just to complete his line card.

While Kevin Parks technically took the honors for leading rusher on the day in terms of yardage, Jones actually had the better day. His 15 carries for 74 yards (4.9 ypc) and a TD was only behind Parks (21 carries for 78 yards (3.7 ypc) and no scores) in the total yardage category.

But it was his insertion into the return game that sparked most comments on Saturday. His one punt return on the day went for 21 yards, accounting for 80% of the Hoos' return yardage (Dominique Terrell had two punt returns for 5 yards).

That said... I can't be the only one who is mortified at the idea of putting our team MVP in as a punt returner, can I?

Random Musings

  • I may be showing my true colors as a former band geek, but I quite like seeing the high school band members get to be out on the field at halftime with the Cavalier Marching Band. Especially when I see a half dozen or so from my own high school.
  • I really wish that Rocco and Darius Jennings could have connected on some of the hot routes that they missed. Jennings got to show off his speed quite a bit during the Miami game and I really want to see more of that in the open field.
  • Keeping with the defensive theme: Virginia leads the country in fewest points allowed during the first quarter all season. Only Southern Miss (7 points) and Maryland (3 points) have scored against the 'Hoos in the first quarter. Prior to this weekend, the Cavaliers were tied with Stanford for that honor. Stanford, however, allowed 8 points to Oregon in the first quarter en route to a 30-53 loss at the hands of the Ducks. That leaves Virginia in sole possession of that honor.
  • When Mike London and Anthony Poindexter get angry at the officials on any given Sunday, their outgoing and expressive demeanor makes it a sight to see. But when they're both wearing camouflage (for Military Appreciation Day)? Now that's a sight. 
  • A player I'm excited to see getting into the action in a more visible way? Max Milien. He's always been a workhorse and it's great to see him getting some carries, receptions and yards.
  • A player I'm glad to see being involved after (what I consider) an odd transition? Jeremiah Mathis. He came into the program as a Defensive End and that's where he started out last year. But he switched to tight end because of our lack of depth at the position due to injuries and has stayed there since. His touchdown route and catch on Saturday was very well-executed.
  • Was I the only one shocked to learn that Kris Burd's touchdown against Duke was his first of the season? I guess looking back it makes sense, but it's just shocking to me that with his talent he hasn't gotten into the endzone before the 10th game of the season.
  • I love a pick 6. Thank you Chase Minnifield.
  • I hate having to watch a pick 6 from the concession line because the people in front of me can't order properly or count their money properly. 
  • Just the simple fact that, 10 games into the season and with only two games remaining, we're in the hunt for a berth in the ACC Championship game... yeah... that feels good.
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