Well, there goes another UVA football season. OK, so there's another game and it's obviously a big one. But for all intents and purposes, the season ended on Thursday night.
Many fans thought the team had turned a corner with back to back solid performances against NC State and Miami. But then the Hoos returned the same mistakes they had been making all season long. The performance against UNC mirrored the performance against Maryland and Wake Forest. All 3 were winnable games, but the Hoos simply failed to make enough plays to get the W.
This game was quite disheartening. In the first half, the Hoos were arguably the better team, and trailed by 10 points at halftime. The pick-6 that Michael Rocco threw was terrible. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what he was trying to do. It wasn't even close. I can understand maybe he didn't see the safety dropping back, but the pass was nowhere near the intended receiver. It was underthrown, probably by 10 yards.
That play was the game. The Hoos played well enough, at times, afterwards to briefly make it a game. But was the outcome really ever in doubt? I don't think so.
The Hoos defense did an admirable job of shutting down Giovani Bernard, holding him to just 57 yards rushing. However, by doing that, they made Bryn Renner's job way too easy. Over and over again, UNC picked up easy yards on short passes into the flats. WR screen after WR screen went for 7-10 yards every time. That is what happens when you play your CBs 10 yards off the line.
I can understand playing 10 yards off the line in certain situations. Especially with one of the starting CBs out with a concussion. And especially when your CBs are small compared to the WRs they are facing. But on 4th and 2, you simply cannot play 10 yards off the line, because it makes the conversion entirely too easy. That baffles me. You play on the line and if the offense wants to go deep and is able to hit it, then you congratulate them on making a good play. But simply giving up a 4th down conversion without any real attempt to stop them? That is unacceptable.
I feel like this game being senior night was kind of a turning point in its own right. This is probably the last team that will be led by Al Groh recruits. While there will still be a few Al Groh recruits on next year's team (such as Tim Smith, Jake Snyder and Luke Bowanko), the leaders of the team will be Mike London recruits (such as Rocco, Jake McGee and Kevin Parks). Next year begins the part of Mike London's career when we can really judge the job he's doing.
As always, some notes:
- How many times are we going to fail on short yardage before Bill Lazor realizes that we aren't a very good power rushing team? When you get near the endzone, use some misdirection. Use play-action. Use a QB sneak. Using the same play twice in a row on 3rd and 4th doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
- When we got to 4th and 1 from the UNC 8, down 20-13, I said we should kick. Trailing by 4 with a lot of time left wasn't a bad place to be, considering how well the defense had been playing. Once we went for the first 4th down, I agreed that we had to go on the second 4th down. We all know what happened there. I still believe kicking was the better call. Too much time remaining to be gambling on 4th down, especially considering how poor we've been at special teams all season.
- UNC brought in Marquise Williams a few times, and he rushed for nearly 6 yards per carry. As I wrote in my preview, Williams comes in to run. No reason for the Hoos to not be ready for it. When he was in, Bryn Renner would split out wide. On at least one of those plays, Demetrious Nicholson was lined up across from Renner. That might be the biggest waste of talent I've ever seen. Move Tra inside and send somebody else to stand opposite Renner. Considering the success Williams had running the ball, maybe leaving Renner open would've been the better play. I'm betting he wouldn't have thrown to Renner anyway.
- The last 2 or so minutes of the first half was about the worst coached stretch of football I've ever seen from a clock management standpoint. First, the Hoos punted with 15 seconds left on the play clock and the clock just over 2 minutes. Why? Why not take all the time off the clock before giving UNC the ball back. UNC, of course, would return the favor a drive later, by not taking allowing the clock to run down. Mike London should've called TO before the UNC punt to save the time. Then the Hoos threw incomplete on 3rd down, again saving time. And then UNC's started a drive at the Virginia 43 yard line with 2 TOs left and couldn't even get into FG range. The two teams finished the half with 2 TOs each remaining. Very poor from both sides.
- For at least the 3rd time this season, Kevin Parks had more rushing yards that Perry Jones, with less carries that Perry Jones. I know I keep repeating this, but Parks is a better runner than Jones and needs to be getting the bulk of the carries. Jones is a 3rd down back.
- Another thing I keep repeating: Chris Brathwaite needs to play more. He is the best DT on the team right now, and should be starting. Will Hill didn't get onto the stats sheet at all.
- Speaking of players who need to play, I once again reiterate my "Free Rijo Walker" message. Brandon Phelps is not a safety. He doesn't tackle well, he doesn't read plays well and he makes far too many mistakes. I don't know if Walker would be better, but it'd be tough for him to be worse.
- We're going to miss LaRoy Reynolds next year. There are others we'll miss, including Steve Greer and Oday Aboushi. But Reynolds plays the game with attitude and aggression and it's fun to watch. Who is going to take over the reins and be the emotion leader of the defense next year?