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Tiki's Game Analysis: Penn State

LB Steve Greer (53) and CB Demetrious Nicholson (1) led the Virginia defense in the win over Penn State. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-US PRESSWIRE
LB Steve Greer (53) and CB Demetrious Nicholson (1) led the Virginia defense in the win over Penn State. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-US PRESSWIRE

For the first time in I-don't-know-how-long, I wasn't able to watch the UVA game. I was on an airplane, which had Directv and every channel imaginable except for ABC. So, I watched K-state destroy Miami and I watched Auburn lose to Mississippi St. And I watched some Top Gear, because those games were just reminding me about how pissed I was that I couldn't see the Virginia game.

Anyway, I have since watched the game on DVR, and seen the highlights about a thousand times and read everybody else's opinions. And, since I'm betting most readers of this will have already read Tim's view, Justin's game wrap game recap and Schwartz' analysis, I am going to keep this short.

We won. That is all that matters. Pretty wins do not look any better in the standings than ugly wins. Of course, the real question is what does this mean going forward? Should we reassess the quality of the team and the expectations for the season?

In a word. No.

Many of the things that happened on Saturday were things we expected. The OL was breaking in 2 new starters, so we knew there could be some growing pains there. With an inexperienced secondary, we knew there'd be breakdowns in coverage and we knew that Jim Reid would have to bring pressure to help the secondary. Is the OL going to get better? They almost have to, because it would be difficult to be that bad again. The secondary is clearly improving, and Demetrious Nicholson is beginning to look like a dominant cover corner.

We also knew that Penn State was a proud football team that was coming off a bad loss at home to Ohio. So we knew they'd be ready to go and they'd play a tough game. We also knew their front 7 was very good. Finally, we knew they had talented WRs who could put pressure on our young, small DBs.

What we didn't know was that our guys wouldn't be able to hang on to the football. Three fumbles is unacceptable. It's also a big unlucky. The botched snaps are concerning, but hopefully will go away as Luke Bowanko gets more comfortable at center. Paul Freedman's fumble was a bit unlucky, and frankly I'm not sure he ever fully had possession. And Phillip Sim's fumble is just one of those things that happens to QBs.

There were positives. Yes, Sam Ficken missed those kicks. But the pressure we put on him helped. Demetrious Nicholson had a very strong game. All of our LBs had very strong games. Darius Jennings has clearly turned a corner in his career and is beginning to become a real go-to receiver. Jake McGee has done the same.

Finally, heading into the ACC part of our schedule, the coaching staff has a lot to work with. It was difficult to tell from the Richmond game exactly what the team's strengths and weaknesses were, because of the quality of competition and the fact that we led 22-0 early. This game was much better from a perspective standpoint. Now, the staff can watch film and really say "OK, this is where we need to improve."

And, again, the best part about the game is that we won. We get all the benefits of a crappy performance (reality check to the players, teaching points for the coaching staff), and all the benefits of a win (we are 2-0, and 1/3 of the way towards a bowl game).

As always, a few notes:

  • The game winning drive was a thing of beauty. It obviously wouldn't have happened without Jake McGee's amazing catch, which frankly was a terrible decision by Rocco. If that ball is intercepted, the game is over. Then again, if we don't pick up the first down, the game might be over anyway. But passes to Perry Jones, E.J. Scott and Darius Jennings were also big plays that weren't quite as dramatic.
  • I simply can't say enough about the game Steve Greer had. Any questions about his health are gone. He was, quite simply, the best player on the field. Fifteen tackles, 2 sacks and 2.5 TFLs.
  • Henry Coley was also great. I think a lot of people questioned starting him over Romero, but I never did. Coley is a better all around player and the stat like shows it. Eleven tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pass broken up and a blocked PAT. Yes, I'll take that. Not that Romero wasn't good, because he was.
  • Ausar Walcott was very strong off the edge, as was Eli Harold. They are both so quick off the edge that it forces teams to be wary of them on passing downs.
  • While our defense played well, they failed to force any turnovers for the 2nd game in a row. Turnovers are, in large part, luck. This is especially true for fumbles. Nonetheless, we're going to have to force some turnovers if we're going to continue to be successful.
  • Drew Jarrett has impressed with his FG kicking. It's early of course, but I think we're set at PK for the next 2 years.