The Hoos fell again this week, to Wake Forest. In a game where the Hoos held Wake to a measly 213 total yards, and just 1-15 on 3rd downs, they couldn't muster enough offense to win. The culprit was the same as the rest of this season: Too many turnovers, poorly timed penalties and atrocious special teams.
Another week, another disappointing loss. How many ways can the Hoos find to lose a game? This version of Virginia football might be the most inconsistent team I've ever seen. One week we pile up 600 yards of offense. A few weeks later, we amass just 301. After struggling to run the ball at the beginning of the season, the Hoos rushed for over 350 yards in the past 2 games. And then rushed for 48 this week.
The only thing that has been consistent has been special teams. They've been consistently awful. Even here the particulars aren't consistent. Prior to this week, the Hoos punt coverage team had actually been very good. Of course, this week the Hoos gave up a 60 yard return on their first punt of the game.
Last week, Maryland scored a TD on the first play that they touched the ball. This week, it took Wake Forest 2 plays to score. That's improvement! At this rate, we'll pitch a shutout in 20 years.
In my preview, I said that we should try power rushing to take advantage of a small-ish Wake Forest defense. Of course, Bill Lazor called primarily outside rushes, which proved unsuccessful. How many times do you need to run the ball outside with stretch plays and pitches before you realize that it isn't working. At least when we ran inside, we managed positive yards.
I also said that intermediate passes would be successful, and this proved to be true. Time and time again, Phillip Sims was able to hit receivers open in between the Wake Forest zones. This includes the TD to Tim Smith, where he was basically just sitting in front of the safeties along the right side. He also hit Darius Jennings, Jeremiah Mathis and E.J. Scott on some similar routes.
The defense was fantastic for most of the day. The defense gave up just 213 yards to Wake Forest. Teams aren't going to win very often with that kind of offensive output. It took a lot of mistakes by the Hoos for Wake to come out on top. Making mistakes seem to be the one thing that the Hoos can actually do consistently.
As always, some notes:
- Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds continue to lead this defense, but Chris Brathwaite might be the best defender on the team right now. He is in the backfield on every play. He seems to be too quick for most interior OL to handle. And he is able to make plays when he gets into the backfield, something that isn't always easy for a young guy. Despite being a part time player for most of the season, Brathwaite is tied for 2nd (behind Greer) in TFLs on the season.
- Two games this season have basically ended with the punt return unit on the field on the last play. This is a punt return unit that ranks 109th in the nation. Maybe we shouldn't even field a punt return unit. Just send all 11 guys to try to block the punt, and if we don't get there, we get the ball whereever it dies.
- There is no way a WR should be in single coverage deep with under 20 seconds remaining in a half. No way at all. The only way Wake was going to score was to pick up a bunch of yards in a hurry. This is exactly why a prevent defense exists. Letting Wake throw a 6 yard pass underneath would've been fine. Letting them throw a 41 yard deep post was terrible. Drequan Hoskey got beat, but that play is on Jim Reid and the defensive coaches, because Hoskey never should've been put in that situation.
- Rijo Walker played only special teams and had exactly as many tackles as starting safety Brandon Phelps. One tackle. Why doesn't Walker get a shot at safety? Phelps has struggled all season long with reads, tackling and even coverage. Is it really possible that Walker is worse? I'm going to start a Free Rijo Walker movement!
- Seven times the Hoos ran for 0 or negative yards, not including sacks. Most of these were runs to the perimeter. Two different times Clifton Richardson had a rush for -6 yards. There are a number of reasons for this, including missed blocks and missed reads. But the real question that I have is why are we giving the ball to a RB 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Who do we think we're fooling with these runs? With no fear of our inside running game, opposing LBs and DBs are coming off the edge, just praying for a pitch to the RB.
- Sims really started to get into a rythym with the offense. It started with the 2 minute drill in the first half, but continued in the third quarter and 4th quarters. Of course, as soon as I mentioned this to somebody, he goes and heave-hos a terrible pass off his back foot for an interception. This was an awful decision and an awful throw and Sims is 100% to blame. That said, Darius Jennings didn't make any attempt to play defense. Worst case, tackle the DB and take a pass interference call.
- The Hoos are now dead last in turnover margin. Only 1 team has more turnovers than the Hoos, and only 1 team has created less turnovers than the Hoos. Some of this is youth, some of it is coaching, but a lot of it is just plain old bad luck.
- The bye week comes at kind of an opportune time for the Hoos. This season is over. For this season to be anything other than a complete disaster, there must be things to build upon for next year. That means developing some of the younger guys at LB (where we lose 2 starters) and OL (where we lose at least 1 and need to develop some more depth). That also means working on some schemes and formations that might be useful next season. I don't want the team to give up on the season, but since this year's goals are out the window, there is little reason to continue playing for this year. We'll see what the coaching staff does.