Virginia started slow, then stepped on the gas, romping past Virginia Military Institute 49-0 on Military Appreciation Day in Charlottesville. After looking listless in a scoreless first quarter, the Wahoo offense exploded for 49 points against an overmatched Keydet squad. With the win, UVA improved to 2-1 on the season, while VMI dropped to 1-3.
Kevin Parks led the way early for the Hoos, finishing with 135 rushing yards and 2 TDs, including a 61 yard run, along with 69 receiving yards. With Taquan Mizzell and Khalek Shepherd nursing injuries sustained against Oregon, true freshman walk-on Daniel Hamm got an opportunity, and went ham (sorry) for 136 rushing yards and his first two career touchdowns. It was the first time since 2005 that Virginia saw two running backs run for over 100 yards. It was also the first time that the team rushed for over 300 yards since '04.
Things weren't always pretty for UVA, as the Cavalier offense struggled in the first quarter. Virginia started the game with a 3 and out, turnover on downs, interception, and then another interception, both on tipped passes. After the first quarter ended 0-0, Virginia went on to score touchdowns on all but one of its drives until the second team entered in the 4th quarter, the lone failure a missed field goal by Ian Frye. The first quarter was disconcerting, with Watford throwing two poor passes, the offensive line failing to get a push on 4th and 1, and questionable playcalling by Steve Fairchild. However, Cavalier fans will likely forgive these misdeeds considering the offense's dramatic recovery.
David Watford finished his day after 3 quarters of play, completing 18 of 26 passes for 206 yards, throwing 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The play of his day (and probably his season) was a perfectly thrown deep ball that Tim Smith hauled in at the back of the end zone for a touchdown, proving that Watford could throw more than 10 yards downfield after all. Jake McGee also connected for a score. As promised, Watford showed a greater propensity to keep the ball and run in the read option, scrambling 8 times for 30 yards, including a rushing TD.
For the second time in three games, much of the second half was played in heavy rain in Scott Stadium, as the team is getting more of their share of practice dealing with the elements. Virginia was penalized 7 times for 50 yards, a number that the coaches will likely circle as a point of improvement.
The defense had no trouble stopping VMI's attack, holding the Keydets to 38 passing yards and 73 rushing yards and just 4 first downs. VMI never seriously threatened to score; despite its physical superiority, credit Virginia for playing 60 minutes of fundamental defense, while also forcing two fumbles.
After the Oregon loss, we cautioned that reading into the defense's allowing 59 points was unwise; after all, Oregon was on a completely different level. Once again, VMI is (literally) on a different level. (It gives players and coaches little joy to beat up on any FCS team, let alone the hardworking men of VMI on Military Appreciation Day).
Both units' dominance was great to see, but in the grand scheme of things just a tune-up for next week's ACC opener at Pitt. The Panthers are coming off a 58-55 victory against Duke, and will be a true test of how far Virginia has progressed in out-of-conference play. That game will begin at 12:30 PM, with TV information TBD.