Thirteen years. Thirteen years. In case you’re wondering all that has transpired in thirteen years, check out this great piece by STL’s Danny Neckel. The season comes down to this game. It hasn’t been the campaign fans and most certainly the team had hoped for back in August, but they can erase many of those bad feelings with a win over the rival Hokies. How can they do it? Let’s take a look...From the Upper Deck.
- Be perfect - Virginia is going to be outmatched in this game. That is a fact. However, the Hoos over the last several years have proven that they punch above their weight class on occasion. Last season they almost knocked off a Notre Dame team that competed for the national championship. Then this year they came within one big play for a TD from beating Louisville. What did both those games have in common? Virginia squandered at least one opportunity to put the game away. In order to complete upsets against the best, underdogs can’t make mistakes. They can’t miss field goals. They can’t give up first downs on third and crazy long. And they can’t not score after turnovers. Against Virginia Tech, keep an eye on what Virginia does when Virginia Tech gives them an inch. If they take a foot, the Hoos can win. If they no thanks and give that inch back, we’ll be looking at a thirteenth straight loss.
- Pressure Jerod Evans early - In Virginia Tech’s three losses this season, quarterback Jerod Evans was sacked an average of three times per game with a whopping five sacks coming in the loss to Georgia Tech. In their eight wins, that number is down to 1.75 sacks per game. The moral of that story is that if you can make Evans uncomfortable, you can defeat the Hokies. It won’t be easy though as Evans can make teams pay both with his arm and his legs. He’s seventh in the ACC in passing, and third among quarterbacks in rushing. Luckily for Virginia, they have already faced and had relative success against a quarterback who is more prolific at both running and throwing than Evans: Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. While Jackson’s stat line against Virginia was Heisman-worthy, it was somewhat misleading. Virginia disrupted Jackson’s comfort level all game long, surrendering just enough big plays to allow the Cardinals to prevail. The key for UVA will be to not let Evans beat them. If he has an ok game, that’s good for the Hoos. If he’s allowed time in the pocket though, he’ll go off. If he isn’t checked at the line of scrimmage, he’ll go off. And if he goes off, it will be a long day for Virginia.
- Thank you Mr. Blanding - While the Virginia secondary has rightfully been the target of scrutiny and criticism this season, the one bright spot continues to be Quin Blanding. The All-American third year is once again a tackle machine racking up 108 tackles on the season. That’s an astronomical figure for a safety, but speaks to both Blanding’s tackling ability and Virginia’s struggles in the secondary. Far too often, Blanding has been called upon to make a tackle in an area that isn’t his direct responsibility. His coverage stats have declined in his three years as opposing teams have avoided the areas where he lines up. And despite that, he has still had a tremendous impact on the Cavaliers’ defense. I’ll be watching him closely this Saturday as it’s likely the last time he’ll play in a Virginia uniform. He will have one season of eligibility left, but I expect he’ll be a high draft pick and opt for a career in the pros vice a fourth year in Charlottesville. So, if that is the case, tip of the hat to Quin Blanding, one of the best to roam the secondary at Scott Stadium.
Kickoff is at 12 noon from Lane Stadium. Come visit in the game thread and make sure to check back on Sunday to see how we did.