This season continues to be a conundrum. Just 5 days after a dismal performance at home against North Carolina State, the Hoos came out and played a great game and beat Miami on national TV. The final score was 28-21, which makes the game look close. But the game wasn't that close. Or, at least, it didn't seem that close.
The Hoos dominated much of the game. It was close only because Jacory Harris had a big game. And by Jacory Harris, I mean Tommy Streeter. Harris put up big numbers, but a number of his passes were poor ones and he was saved by his WRs.
There were also a few highlight reel plays, the kinds of plays we really aren't accustomed to seeing as Virginia fans. And I'm not just talking about the HB option pass by Perry Jones, or the fake FG run by Jacob Hodges. Real, honest to goodness highlight reel plays.
All in all, a fun game to watch. Check back for more.
Any discussion of the game must start with Perry Jones. He has been on fire of late. Jones rushed for 110 yards against Idaho and 149 yards against Georgia Tech. He dropped to 62 yards against NCSt, but that was still one quarter of the teams' total yards. Against Miami, Perry rushed for 67 yards. He also caught a 78 yard TD pass and threw a 37 yard TD pass.
Those two plays were two of the highlights. But there were others. There was a 53 yard catch and run by freshman WR Darius Jennings. Jennings took a WR screen pass, and weaved his way, untouched, into the endzone. It was the first TD of Jennings' career, and it was a thing of beauty. But, let's be honest, it wasn't all him. OG Luke Bowanko was out in front of him when he caught it, and helped make the play. TE Paul Freedman made a key block on the edge of the formation to help spring Jennings into the secondary. Also, the playcall was genius. You may recall that I suggested the WR screen would be successful. A similar play was also successful for a 25 yard gain earlier, also to Jennings.
There were even highlights on defense. While most of the highlights that show our defense will be them getting beaten for long passes, the one true defensive highlight we had was the game winner. With Miami driving for the tying score, and facing 4th down and short, the Canes tried to run their power back, Mike James up the middle. LaRoy Reynolds shot the gap and stopped James for a two yard loss. The ball would be turned back over to the Hoos, who were nearly able to run out the clock.
One more thing I want to note is the play of QB Michael Rocco. I know that it is has been discussed in other locations (as well as here), but I thought the rhythm of the offense was much better throughput the game without the QB rotation. David Watford came in and ran one play, and it was a play that utilized his talents. If he continues to be used in this manner, he can be a real weapon for the team, while allowing Rocco to remain as the unquestioned starting QB.
Obviously, I would remiss if I did not mention the negatives. Once again, our secondary was victimized by some big pass plays. In many of these cases, it wasn't due to poor coverage or poor scheme, it was merely due to poor ball recognition. That, and poor height. You can't do much about that. Our DBs are short, Miami's WRs are tall. It doesn't really excuse a couple of the plays, where the ball should've at least been knocked down. I don't mind the DBs trying to make a play and get the INT. But, especially in a close game, when you've already give up a couple of big pass plays, just knock the ball down.
So, to recap, the Hoos are now back on top of the world. They win, they lose, they win, they lose. This has been a trying season at times, but also a tremendous season at times. They need one more win to go bowling for the first time since 2007, and that would be a great accomplishment for the team, and a great benefit for the young players who are going to make up the nucleus of the team going forward.
As usual, some random tidbits:
- I loved seeing Thompson Brown running around chasing Miami QB Stephen Morris on the last play of the game. He may not have made the tackle, but his pressure basically ended any threat of that play. Morris ended up having to throw the ball short, and 4 UVA defenders were there to shut the door. It is rare when a team calls for a Hail Mary and doesn't even get to throw it.
- Chase Minnifield had another great game. He was all over the place, although the stats don't really show it. He was beaten on the jump ball in the endzone, but there wasn't much he was going to do about that. If he'd been in slightly better position and timed the ball perfectly, maybe he could've knocked it away. Then again, maybe not. Good throw, tall receiver.
- Tra Nicholson, on the other hand, didn't have a great game. He was beaten deep once (although he did recover to make a TD saving tackle). He was also part of the aforementioned plays where our DBs were outjumped. I've been saying it all year, but I will rehash. Tra is going to be good, I am confident of that. But right now, he is being picked on. It appears he may be the best option we've got. Then again, Brandon Phelps hasn't been given much chance.
- Our DL played a tremendous game. Matt Conrath on the inside was a beast all game long, and Jake Snyder was particularly effective on the outside. We lose 3 starters along the DL next year, but I am still confident we will be productive there.
- I don't know what to say about the Jake Snyder sack and forced fumble that hasn't been said already. When I saw it happen, I thought maybe the officials were saying the play had been blown dead and therefore couldn't be reviewed. This explained Mike London's visible frustration at the time. However, that is not what the referee announced. I cannot explain what he did announce, because it was inexplicable.
- On the very next play after the fumble-that-wasn't, Virginia was called for pass interference on a clearly tipped ball. The referee initially signaled the call, and then was informed that the ball was deflected, so he overturned his call. Miami fans boo'd this. I suspect that many Virginia fans would boo a similar occurrence at Scott Stadium, but it always annoys me when home fans boo a clearly correct call. In this case especially, since they had just been given a gift by the officials.
- We've talked a lot this year about the great stable of RBs we've got. Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson have gotten a lot of the publicity because they are exciting newcomers with tons of potential. But is there any question who the starter at RB will be next year? Perry Jones may not be the sexiest pick of the 3, but he is undoubtedly the best overall RB of the 3. That said, Parks and Richardson will be big parts of this team next year.