For too many weeks in a row, I've walked home from Scott Stadium fuming and used this space to vent my frustration. We've made strategic and mental errors, missed tackles, committed penalties, and plenty of other blunders. But tonight the team put together a performance they could be proud of, knocking off their first top-15 opponent since 2005 in a 24-21 victory over Georgia Tech. I'll hit a couple quick points on why we won - expect more in-depth coverage on this one all week here!
Defensive Toughness: Mike London and crew put the team through hours of practice this week without using a football, hoping it would help the team focus on keeping their individual assignments. Maybe this is something that should continue (the football is really secondary in football anyways..), as the defense put up its best performance of the season. Predictably, Georgia Tech confused the unit at times and reeled off some big plays. To start the 3rd quarter, the Yellow Jackets held the ball for almost 10 minutes on the way to a touchdown. The defense was probably spent, and the offense failed to possess the ball immediately after. But the defense held tough and didn't allow another score. Against the triple option, the Hoos stayed focused and intense all game, despite some inevitable big gains, and that's what led to the win.
The Quarterback Situation: After London declined to name a starter all week, Michael Rocco was under center to begin the game and played most of the day, with David Watford coming in and leading three drives. Not much more to say, as the quarterbacks just weren't an important part of the game today; the Hoos threw 19 times compared to 47 rushes (not nearly as extreme as GT's 8 to 53 ratio). I liked that Watford did perform a few designed run plays - hopefully we see more of this. The one aspect of the offense that I would nitpick at is the amount of passing plays we ran from shotgun; after so many runs, throwing passes off play-action would have been much more successful than traditional passing formations. To focus on quarterback play in this one is really an insult to KP Parks, Perry Jones, Clifton Richardson, and the offensive line. All had great games, shredding the GT defense for 272 yards and winding down the clock to end the game. The Cavaliers' rushing game is legit.
Rushing the Field: First: I am not a fan of rushing the field; I would much rather win and act like we've been there before (in fairness...we haven't really). But I have to admit, this rush as well as 2008's after our win over UNC were lots of fun. Though there were plenty of empty seats in the upper deck, student turnout was high (aided by some returning alumni) and fans were engaged and active all game. After the frustration and disappointment felt after a couple early season games, the players and those who stuck around to support them deserved this one.
What it Means: After spending two weeks preparing for the triple option offense, we can beat the triple option offense. Not only does the win bring the Hoos to 4-2 at the halfway point of the season, but beating an undefeated top-15 team is something everyone involved in the program could feel good about and hopefully parlay into some more success. With 6 games to go, the Hoos are 2 wins away from bowl eligibility (NC State? Duke? Everyone else too?). After our last game, an overtime squeaker over Idaho, one thing is for sure: the mood in Charlottesville is and will be drastically different tonight! Go Hooooooos!