Well that was fun, wasn't it? From trying to give the game away at the end of the first half, to scraping and clawing their way to OT, and finally having to execute in OT the hard way, these Hoos showed a lot of fight and earned every bit of that win on Saturday. Let's see how the keys to the game played out in the outcome.
1) Use the pass an extension of the run game - Going into the game, I hoped the run/pass split would favor the pass, and through the first half, it looked like an ineffective run game would once again doom the Cavaliers. However, tip your hat to the Virginia play caller in the second half and overtime as, though despite the overall run heavy outcome, Fairchild was able to get the ball to the running backs in a myriad of ways. It wasn't just the same personnel as, besides Taquan Mizzell and Albert Reid, Olamide Zaccheaus, Daniel Hamm, and Jordan Ellis all got in on the action. In all, the Hoos ran for a season-high 184 yards, but it was the creativity that really stuck out. Whether it was Zaccheaus on an end around or short pass over the middle to Hamm, the Hoos used the whole field and got the ball moving with ease not recently seen in Scott Stadium.
2) Pressure the Freshman Quarterback - That Eric Dungey was a slippery little fellow, now wasn't he? Despite being in the backfield for much of the game, the Hoos defenders just weren't able to bring the kid down. Dungey looked like the second coming of Eric Crouch out there. On the day, Dungey only threw for 150 yards, but it was execution of the option that gave the Hoos fits. Overall he ran it 18 times for 111 yards highlighted by a 26 yard touchdown run at the end of the first half where he hurdled Quin Blanding before taking a shot by Micah Kiser as he crossed the goal line. In the end though, on Syracuse's third drive in overtime, Virginia's defense clamped down and came up with a huge sack of Dungey. The play came on third and ten and forced the 48-yard Cole Murphy missed field which gave the Hoos the chance to win it.
3) Take care of the football - If the Hoos had lost this game, turnovers would have been the reason why. While they only gave up one fumble and Matt Johns only threw one interception, it was the timing that almost doomed Virginia. While the defense held the Orange in check, Syracuse got on the board thanks to a 44 yard fumble recovery early in the second quarter. Then, after Virginia looked to be taking control of the game, a Johns interception deep in UVA territory gave Syracuse the ball led to Dungey's highlight-reel run that gave Syracuse a 21-14 halftime lead.
Virginia must go 4-2 in their final six games to be bowl eligible. It is a monumental task that begins next Saturday at 3:30 PM in Chapel Hill against the North Carolina Tar Heels.