The Hoos looked to use an off week to recoup from a disappointing road loss against Maryland and prepare for an always difficult Georgia Tech squad. Many naps were had, juice boxes and graham crackers distributed, and film sessions were replaced with hold-hands-and-talk-about-your-feelings hour.
Or at least that's how they played.
The 2013 Virginia Cavaliers football team continued its meander through every conceivable way to play a football game. Defensive struggle with a win on the back of scrappy special teams play: check, against BYU. Blowout loss to a much better team with a high-powered offense: check, against Oregon. Stomp an FCS team into the ground: check, beating VMI 49–0. Fumble away a dominant defensive performance: check, in that 14–3 debacle in Pittsburgh. Use penalties to negate big plays and lose to a MAC team: check, against Ball State. Win the stats/turnover battle, but piddle away a game with poor end-of-game management: check, in last week's Maryland loss.
On Saturday, they tried a new tactic: Jump out to a 22–0 lead, make zero halftime adjustments, and lose 35–22. To their credit, the team pulled off that tactic with aplomb. And by the end of four quarters, Scott Stadium was almost at 10% capacity to watch them finish it off.
Some writers would be tempted to quote Dickens' Tale of Two Cities after such a game. But while UVa played like the worst of teams for the second half, it never particularly played like the best of teams for the first. After 25 minutes of football, the Hoos were up to the aforementioned 22–0 lead. They had outgained the Blue Devils 175 yards to 45 in the first quarter. Kevin Parks was scoring in all manner of ways, including a diving touchdown after catching the ball with his sock (seriously).
But then the Blue Devils remembered how to catch a football, and they were off to the races. Once Anthony Boone started completing passes, Duke strung positive plays together and marched down the field for a touchdown before the end of the half. After an exchange of slapfighting on each team's first drive in the second half, Duke notched a FG and a Brandon Connette rushing TD to pull back within one score.
As the Hoos tried to answer and re-establish their presence in the game, there developed the most UVa series of plays thus far this season. First down: incomplete pass. Second down: high snap recovered by Watford for a 15-yard loss. Third down: offensive holding, resulting in third and 35. The ensuing punt gave Duke the ball, Duke scored and converted the two-point try, the score was 25–22, and the collapse was in full swing.
With the loss, Virginia stands at 2–5, and 0–3 in the ACC. The remaining schedule provides for no certain wins: the only team with a losing record is UNC-Chapel Hill; there are three top-20 teams left; and the other unranked opponent, Georgia Tech, won their most recent ACC game 56–0. The Bunsen burner under Mike London's chair just turned up one notch higher.
On the plus side, it's 19 days until basketball season.