For the first time in four years, the Hoos are bowl eligible! Virginia put together a great all-around team effort in College Park and overcame an early deficit to defeat the Maryland Terrapins 31-13 and improve to 6-3 on the season. The Terps had their senior day spoiled and continued a disastrous season, falling to 2-7 on the year and 1-5 in ACC play. The win is the team's first in November since 2007, snapping a 13 game losing streak. A few thoughts and reactions from this milestone win in the Mike London era:
Midgame Adjustments: After the running game got off to a fast start with Perry Jones's 47 yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, Maryland packed the box and sold out against the run. The result was a couple stalled offensive series against a Terrapin defense that had struggled all year. The turning point in this game took place late in the second quarter when Mike London and Bill Lazor seemed to make a conscious effort to let Michael Rocco throw the ball downfield; Kris Bird caught 9 passes for 112 yards and Tim Smith had 5 for 101 yards. Rocco finished with a career-best 307 passing yards. Setting up Rocco to stretch the field is just another reason the rushing game is the strength of this offense. With David Watford just running a handful of plays in garbage time, Rocco has proven that he is "The Man."
Limiting Mistakes: Going into halftime, London expressed cautious approval of the team's performance but stressed the need to avoid costly errors. The Hoos had lost a key fumble, bobbled another kickoff, and were penalized 5 times for 40 yards. The team took notice, playing a clean second half; the two turnovers that did occur were late in the game and were the fault of backup QB (yes, backup QB) David Watford. It was Maryland who made the errors; despite coming into the game with a +9 turnover ratio, the Terps gave the ball away 5 times today.
More Defense: Another game, another very good performance by the defense. As Tiki noted in his preview, UMD's struggles have not always extended to their ability to move the ball. This is, after all, a team that put up 45 points in a losing effort to Clemson. The 13 points Maryland scored tonight are the least they have put up since a losing effort against Temple back in September. The defensive line pressured O'Brien and Brown and allowed nothing on the ground. Opponents have often picked on freshman Demetrious Nicholson, but he held his own today, notably breaking up two key passes in the end zone, one capping a key goal line stand. A continuing problem with the unit has been its propensity to allow big plays. After Clifton Richardson lost a fumble inside the Maryland 20, it took the Terps just 4 plays to put up seven. It only takes one mental lapse, blown coverage, or missed tackle to cause disaster; this is something the team has to keep improving on to get to the next level.
- On March 5, newly hired Maryland football coach Randy Edsall decreed, "Here at Maryland, we don't lose to Virginia." An hour later, the Hoos took down the Terps on the hardwood on Senior Day 74-60. Exactly 8 months later, Maryland lost to Virginia 31-13, again on Senior Day.
-Rodney McLeod had 3 interceptions. One helped us....but two hurt us. On fourth downs, Rodney should not be intercepting long passes. No, this was not a huge deal nor did it the affect the outcome, but it did show either an overemphasis on individual stats or, more likely, lack of focus.
-Playing at Maryland is funny. The stadium was empty, the field torn up, and the Cavalier band is heard loud and clear. Great work to those who made the trip and braved a day in College Park.
-From @HoosFootball: This was UVA's 3rd road win this year...that's 3 more than last year.
What it Means: That the Hoos are going bowling. After demonstrating the ability to come back from failure and win big games, the team deserves it. After enduring 3 unsuccessful years of UVA football, I must say that I deserve it too. However, the road doesn't end here. Next week, Virginia be back home trying to beat Duke for the first time in four years. At 3-2 in the ACC, the Hoos still control their own destiny in the ACC Coastal. Let's take care of business against the Blue Devils, then think about setting up a late-season matchup against Virginia Tech for the title.