After the 40-3 drubbing of William and Mary, feelings are on a high around UVA football. But while the fans swap stories about Kevin Parks, Tim Smith and Tra Nicholson, the team must prepare for another game, this time on the road against Big Ten opponent Indiana.
The 2010 Cavaliers were winless on the road, despite being competitive in 3 of the 5 games. The Hoos would obviously like to end the streak with a win this week. Playing against a bottom feeder like Indiana might be just what the doctor ordered. Indiana lost this past week, at home, to Ball State and frankly didn't look very good. Ball State isn't a bad team. But Indiana should be better. Wahoo fans may recall the last time we played Indiana, everything that could go right did go right, and we won a 47-7 laugher.
Will this game turn out like that one? Will Indiana improve from this past week's loss? Will the Hoos step up on the road? Check back after the jump to find out.
Virginia on Offense
As we saw last week, this team is built to run the football. With a big strong offensive line, and a deep stable of quality RBs, expect the Hoos to continue to pound the ball on the ground. Ball State ran for 210 yards against Indiana, although they have a running QB. (As an aside, if Ball State can rush for 210 yards, what is a dominating rushing team like Wisconsin going to do to Indiana? That could get ugly.)
Kevin Parks, Perry Jones, Khalek Shepherd and Clifton Richardson combined to rush for 240 yards on just 38 carries, a ridiculous 6.3 yards per carry. They also combined for 4 TDs. All of that rushing success led an insane 15 minute time of possessoin advantage. If they can get anywhere near that type of production this week, the Hoosiers will have no shot.
The game plan should be very similar. Let the OL control the game, and keep feeding the RBs over and over again. This will be combined with short, quick passes and probably a few deep shots like the one we saw to Tim Smith in the opener. If Indiana proves they can stop our ground game, then perhaps we need to change things up. But I don't foresee that happening.
The Hoosiers defense wasn't good last year. They were 8th in the Big Ten (80th in the nation) in rushing defense, 9th in the Big Ten (93rd in the nation) in passing defense, 9th in the Big Ten (90th in the nation) in total defense, and 10th in the Big Ten (102nd in the nation) in scoring defense. In other words, bad. They didn't look a whole lot better last week.
The strength of this defense is along the DL and specifically the DTs. Indiana will rotate 4 DTs, starters Larry Black Jr. and Adam Replogle plus Nicholas Sliger and Mick Mentzer. (Interesting note, Adam Replogle is a junior, younger brother Mike Replogle is a freshman LB and older brother Tyler Replogle was a senior LB and IU's leading tackler last year.) All of the DTs go at least 290 pounds. They will provide a bigger challenge than William & Mary did. Replogle is the best of the bunch, and will be in on most first downs. He had 10 tackles against Ball State.
The DEs aren't quite as solid. Last year's most productive DE (and perhaps defensive player) Darius Johnson did not play last week against Ball State. I have not been able to determine a reason, but he is not listed on the injury report, so I am assuming he will play this week. Senior Fred Jones and freshman Ryan Phillis started last week, and although Jones had 7 tackles (all assisted) neither of them stood out. My assumption is Jones and Johnson will start. Both are predominantly pass rushers, and neither of them are bigger than about 250 pounds. I wouldn't expect Morgan Moses or Oday Aboushi to have too much trouble with them in the ground game. We will have to be watchful of Johnson in passing situations, though.
Indiana's starting WLB was senior Leon Beckum, but he suffered a knee injury and looks to be out for our game. His replacement will likely be junior Lee Rose. The MLB is senior Jeff Thomas, the Hoosiers leading returning tackler, and leading tackler a week ago. Thomas is a good solid run stopper, not unlike our Steve Greer. I'd take Greer though. On the strong side, freshman Chase Hoobler started, but several players saw time there, and none of them stood out. The injury to Beckum is a big loss for the Hoosiers, as their LB depth wasn't very good to begin with.
The Indiana DBs were 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th in tackles last week, which is bad news against a running team. If the DBs are the team's leading tackles again this week, we will be victorious. The CBs are sophomores Lawrence Barnett and Greg Heban. The safeties are seniors Chris Adkins and Jarell Drane. Unlike the front 7, there really isn't a lot of rotation in the Hoosiers secondary. The only other Indiana DB to see time on defense was senior safety Donnell Jones. Jones primarily played as a nickel back.
I have focused mostly on the Indiana ground game, because I think we are going to run them to death. That said, I have every confidence that Michael Rocco (and whoever else might play at QB) will be able to succeed as well. Ball State QB Keith Wenning was 23-29 for 173 yards. So, not really different from Rocco's numbers. Indiana's DBs are all pretty tall, so jump balls might not be the answer, but our speedsters have a good shot of winning a footrace downfield.
As I've said a few times already, I simply can't see Indiana's front 7 being able to stop our ground game. I suspect that we will see a very similar game plan to last week, and I expect it to be just as successful. I could easily see us putting up 40 points again.
Virginia on Defense
Here is where it gets a little bit interesting. Indiana runs an up tempo offense, built around a mobile QB. Last year, senior QB Ben Chappell threw for 3300 yards in a similar offense. His replacement, Edward Wright-Baker is a redshirt sophomore who can run. In years past, we have had trouble containing mobile QBs. Chappell wasn't as mobile as Wright-Baker, but he was a better passer.
Wright-Baker had a strong game against Ball State throwing for 272 yards and 2 TDs, but he was bottled up on the ground, rushing for just 12 yards. He was sacked 4 times, and that doesn't help the rushing yards. Still, he was much more effective in the air than on the ground.
Our defense will have to be prepared for Indiana to snap the ball quickly. They line up right away and will call the play from the line of scrimmage. This gives them the opportunity to snap the ball quickly if the defense looks unsettled. Our veterans, specifically safeties Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley will be tasked with getting everybody lined up and ready as quickly as possible.
The star of Indiana's offense is RB Darius Willis. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, he is still recovering from a knee injury suffered last year, and he won't be playing this week. That leaves the running game to sophomore Stephen Houston and freshman Matt Perez. Both are bigger backs, in a similar mold to Jonathon Grimes from W&M. Again, this bodes well for us, seeing as we were able to bottle up Grimes. Neither RB is a game breaker, although both can wear down a defense. The rotation among our front 7 will help keep us fresh.
The Hoosiers have some weapons in the passing game. They actually start 3 WRs. Senior Damarlo Belcher was the leading receiver in the Big Ten last year. Behind him, the Hoosiers lost their top 2 receiving threats from a year ago. Former walk-on Dre Muhammad and sophomore Kofi Hughes are the new starters alongside Belcher. Muhammad is a senior speedster who just earned a scholarship this season, and Hughes is a converted QB who saw some time last season as a true freshman. The 3 combined for 13 catches and 208 yards last week, including a 65 yard TD catch from Belcher. Muhammad led with 6 catches. True freshman Shane Wynn also had 2 receptions last week. Wynn is the Hoosiers version of our Darius Jennings or Dominique Terrell, a little speedster. He is somebody we will have to look out for. Muhammad will return punts, while Wynn will be back for KOs.
At TE, the Hoosiers have a couple of options. The starter is senior Max Dedmond, but he is probably more aptly described as an H-back. Sophomore Ted Bolser is the more prototypical TE. Also among the TEs is Colter Phillip's little brother Paul. Phillips, a redshirt freshman, didn't play last week. Maybe with his brother on the opposing sidelines and his family in attendence, he'll get into the game. Bolser led the TEs last year with 27 receptions, but Dedmond seems to be the bigger threat. Bolser didn't see a single pass come his way last week.
The Hoosiers OL has been solid over the past few years, but looks like that trend might be over. They lost two tackles to the NFL the past two years, and haven't really been able to replace them with similar talent. Adding on to that, starting RT Josh Hager suffered a knee injury last week which will likely need surgery and keep him out for the season. Junior C Will Matte is the best player on the line. Matte is on the smaller side, but he is quick and powerful. Our DTs will have their hands full stopping him. I actually like the matchups of Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins against him because of their size advantage. Will Hill is smaller, and normally has a quickness advantage over interior OLs, but probably not against Matte.
Last week's starting RG Justin Pagan will slide over to tackle, and redshirt freshman Cody Evers will step in at RG. Evers is huge (6-4 320) and has a lot of potential, but last week was his first real experience. He seemed to play well, drawing praise from his coaching staff. Pagan (6'9", 294), and LT Andrew McDonald (6'6", 285), are both very tall but on the lightish side. This is intentional due to the system Indiana plays. They normally play smaller OLs, allowing them to keep going from play to play without much rest. It's amazing how difficult it is to lug around 300+ pounds. Anyway, this bodes well for our edge rushers, who should be able to get leverage on the Indiana OTs, We should see more than the 1 sack we had against W&M. The key will be keeping contain. We don't want to let Wright-Baker get outside the tackles and make plays.
Last week, we rotated a ton of players on defense. We played 4 DTs, 5 DEs, 7 LBs, 5 CBs and 5 Ss. Ok, so that was a blowout and we shouldnt expect to see that many guys play every week. But the point is that our defense is deep, and that will allow us to stay fresh. The trick is that rotating players against an up tempo offense can be tricky, because you can get caught in the middle of a substitution when the play begins.
In some ways, this game is much like last week. We are more talented, deeper, and favored by about a TD. However, in many ways, this game is different. For one thing, our opponent is not an FCS power, but a Big Ten bottom feeder. More notable, Indiana plays their up tempo pass happy offense led by a mobile QB.
Make no mistake, the Indiana offense will provide a real test for our defense. They have speed on the outside, they have a QB who can throw and run, and they have a scheme that we aren't used to. I'm sure we have been preparing all week long, but I really don't think you can mimic it properly in practice. When one play ends, defensive players have to get right back into position, because the offense will already be there. If even one defensive player isn't in their set position, Indiana will snap the ball and run a play designed to get the ball quickly into that space.
On the other hand, Indiana's defense has just about no chance at all of stopping us. If we play our game, which is pounding the ball with simple runs and getting the backs into the second level of the defense, we are going to be successful. Because Indiana plays such an up tempo offense, we should be able to dominate time of possession again. Because of this (and many other reasons, I suppose), turning the ball over is a no-no. We can't let our defense have to spend a lot of time on the field, because they could get winded. It is difficult to substitute against Indiana's offense.
I understand that we are going on the road, where we haven't been successful in a while. And with such a young team, there is a temptation to be worried about focus and energy levels on the road. But, Indiana simply isn't a good team. Not that we are world beaters, but we are more talented and deeper, and I think we come out on top.