Well. That was disappointing.
The questions that arose from this game were plentiful. Such as, how does an offense that only needs an average of 30 yards per drive (given an average starting field position of the 37 yard line) to get into field goal range manage to only score twice the entire day? Or, for instance, who replaced all of the offensive receivers' gloves with bricks and gave the sticky gloves to the defensive backs?
Some questions don't actually have answers. I just kind of hope that Mike London and Bill Lazor are finding the answers to the questions that do have them.
I guess we need to dive in. Click past the jump if you're a glutton for punishment.
I have to admit, this is what I'm most disappointed in. Our offensive line is very good. We have three running backs, all of whom I think are very good. And all we could muster was 124 yards in the ground game? Against a defensive line from N.C. State that had more injuries this season than a UFC fighter?
I don't get it.
We only rushed the ball 33 times this game, which is a good chunk less than we've done in recent games. But it was a balanced offense. So I can't complain too much about the play selection. I just have to wonder what would have happened by the end of the game if we had continued trying to run. Would we have worn down the Wolfpack defensive line?
I was unable to tell while watching the game live whether the offensive line got overwhelmed, whether they just missed their blocks, whether the backs didn't hit the holes or whether it may have been a case of play calling. Whatever the reason, it baffles me that we're able to run against Carolina and Georgia Tech, but not N.C. State. I hope our linemen and our backs come out angry against Miami (and everyone else from here on out).
I had to check the stats to make sure that Virginia receivers caught more passes from Virginia quarterbacks than the Wolfpack Defensive Backs did. This game was U-G-L-Y from the perspective of passing game. And I'm talking on both sides of the field.
For most of the game, it seemed like there was a 50/50 chance that Mike Glennon's intended receiver would catch the pass after it hit him in the hands and/or numbers. And that might be a tad generous. The number of opportunities they had should frighten any Cavalier fan, but the drops were so frequent that one couldn't help but laugh (albeit nervously).
But apparently the dropsies are contagious. David Watford threw three interceptions on the day. One of them was a miscommunication with his receiver. The other two? They bounced off his receivers' hands.
Michael Rocco and Waford combined to be 11 for 35. That's an atrocious 31%. While I made fun of the wide receivers above, the quarterbacks need to take the lion's share of the blame here. While the drops turned out to be very obviously damaging (especially the one that ended up being a pick-six), the poor accuracy had a very significant effect on the Cavaliers' ability to continue drives.
From Virginia's first possession in the second half, the quarterbacks combined to throw nine straight incompletions. That spanned five possessions, all of which were three-and-outs. Thankfully, Watford's 60 yard bomb to Tim Smith broke that streak and gave the Cavalier faithful some (fleeting) hope.
Have to give a lot of credit to the defense in this game. The offense didn't give them any chance to rest, especially during the string of three-and-outs in the third quarter, but they continued to fight. The few breakdowns they had were costly, sure. But they did enough to allow the offense to win. That just never happened.
Steve Greer, Matt Conrath and LaRoy Reynolds had great games as far as tackling was concerned. At least one of those three seemed to be involved in just about every defensive play. Props to Bill Schautz, Ausar Walcott and Will Hill for their defensive efforts up front as well.
Have to give some props to the safeties too. With most of the talk this year being on the star cornerback (Chase Minnifield) and the freshman starter (Demetrious Nicholson), you really haven't heard much about senior safeties Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosely. But both had interceptions this weekend, including a terrific bobbling snag by team captain McLeod.
We've certainly had an up and down year on special teams so far. This week was a little more of an "up" from my perspective.
The kick return game by Khalek Shepherd and Darius Jennings has definitely stepped it up a notch. Punt returns (or should I say "fair catches") by Dominique Terrell and Minnifield were significantly better until the end of the game. I just wish we could actually block well enough to get a return on occasion.
And of course I have to call out the blocked field goal by Minnifield. Take a look at the replay on that. He comes hard around the corner and extends his arm as far as he could at just the right moment for a one-handed block. Yet another very impressive moment for the talented senior to add to his list.
Young Team Pushing Too Hard?
Is it possible that what we just saw was a young team that was pushing too hard to ensure they didn't have a letdown? I don't like to make gross generalizations like that. Its usually not that simple.
But I can see how one could make that argument. Rocco and Watford both clearly struggled with their accuracy at times on even the simplest of passes (the former moreso than the latter). That to me is a sign of a young kid pushing too hard.
But that doesn't explain everything. Although we're clearly playing a lot of youngsters, we've got veterans in a lot of positions. Both lines, for instance, should have played better. And I don't think they were pushing too hard. Perhaps they were complacent after the big win? I don't buy that though. Virginia has no room for complacency and they have to know that.
I didn't intend for this to be a regular part of the series. But it is.
I thought for sure we had more butts in the seats than we did last week against GT, but I was wrong. Maybe it was just me, but the upper bowl looked to have significantly more people scattered throughout the normal empty sections.
Regardless, the folks who were there did a great job supporting the team. They were lively - as has been the case the last few weeks - and most stayed well into the fourth quarter even though the product on the field wasn't exactly inspiring.
My only complaint was the boo birds. I'm not going to get into this too much - I think pretty much everyone knows which side of this argument they stand on - but I'm not really a fan of booing your own team's players in any collegiate sport. Don't get me wrong, I was shaking my head as Rocco missed yet another throw on Saturday. But guess what? He knew it was disappointing long before the boos ever reached his ears.
- I went wine/beer tasting with family before the game. Quite the enjoyable way to spend an October pre-game morning/early afternoon in the area.
- Early in the game, we seemed to be putting a lot of pressure on the Wolfpack punter. Lots of guys getting height on the "gate" defenders. But then one player (I missed the #) almost landed on his head and looked very woozy coming off the field. After that, we played the punt mostly for the return. I have to wonder if that was a reactionary decision or if that was the intention all along.
- My Pro Fantasy Football team always suffers on Sundays after Virginia loses. I inevitably don't want to be online because I don't want to deal with the trolls that come out after losses. So I forget to check my team. And so I played three guys who were on bye weeks this week. Come on, Hoos, help an alum out here...
- The incredibly disheartening loss aside, how gorgeous of a day was it for football in Charlottesville on Saturday? Fall in this area is always a sight to behold and this was no exception.
- Was Nicholson supposed to be on an island on the long passing play on which he got beat? It looked like the safeties bit forward, perhaps on play action, and so there was no help over top. I'm not smart enough to know whether that was by design or not... but props to Mike Glennon for taking advantage of it.
- Is it just me or does Watford throw the ball roughly 3x as hard as Rocco? OK, not really. But Watford really seems to have a gun on his arm. I have to wonder if that contributed to the bobbles by Smith and Kris Burd. I've heard some receivers complain about different spins on the ball, so I have to assume that the velocity has a similar impact.