We'll spend plenty of time this summer preparing for the 2011 UVA football season...but before we do, let's take a quick look back at what the rebuilding Cavaliers did last year.
Record: 4-8 (1-7 ACC)
MVP: Keith Payne
The Payne Train returned this season as the dominant force in a strong Wahoo ground attack. His 14 touchdowns led the conference, and he was named second team all-ACC.
Overview: The beginning of the Mike London era will be memorable for the return of excitement to the program, as we discussed right here earlier this week. And the year began with reason for optimism, as the Hoos romped in two games against FCC opponents; sandwiched between these two matchups was a 17-14 loss at the Colosseum of USC. This winnable game may have turned on a fake punt that was called back based on a rule misinterpretation by the referees. The rest of the season was marked by struggles and growing pains. Ras-I Dowling's injury highlighted a porous defense that allowed over 33 points in 6 of its next 7 losses.
Though the season appeared disappointing from a glance at the team's record, it was not without considerable excitement. The memorable victory over Miami was a cathartic experience for the team, staff, and fans (and an exhausting one, as the lead almost slipped away in the waning minutes). The team scored two TDs on kick returns, two on fake FGs, and one on a fake punt. The 2010 season won't be remembered as a "down" year....but as step one in Mike London's building of a program.
(more after the jump)
Season Highlight(s): Easily the 24-19 mid-season victory over the Hurricanes in Scott Stadium. Coming off a few tough weeks in a row, the Hoos shockingly built a 24-0 lead. They shut down QB Jacory Harris, and eventually knocked him out of the game on a hard, clean hit by John-Kevin Dolce, and Payne rushed for 81 yards at two TDs. There were some tense moments late in the game, as Miami somehow cut the lead to 24-19 and almost regained it on a fumble on an inexplicable toss play when the offense could have lined up in victory formation. The team ran to the student section to celebrate - (I will always dispute that the students' joining the players qualifies as "rushing the field.") A great win that the team needed badly.
Season Lowpoint(s): A third straight loss to Duke, amazingly in a 55-48 shootout. I'll briefly rehash the details, but they are not for the faint of heart. A Payne TD with 2:26 to go gave UVA a 48-47 lead. The defense had Duke stuck at 4th and 20 around their own 20 after consecutive sacks. Three plays later, the Blue Devils had scored the decisive touchdown. I have seen three games against Duke as a student and have yet to witness a win. Looking forward to some revenge back in Scott Stadium this year.
Future Outlook: Much has been made of UVA's top 20 ranked recruiting class, and rightfully so. However, don't expect the talented group to make substantial immediate on-the-field impact - the players are young, and some will be redshirted. Improvement will be made from growth in last year's group, especially on the defensive side. Expect lots of discussion over the summer about what should be a riveting quarterback competition. As far as expectations, I believe a plausible (and easily reachable goal) is to win 6 games and make it to postseason play. Keep in mind, it doesn't take world-beaters to go .500, and the schedule is favorable for doing so.
Be sure to check back on Streaking the Lawn for lots of preseason football discussion over the summer.