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Three Things I Learned from Virginia-Oregon

Turns out, Virginia’s running game could be potent this year.

Virginia v Oregon Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

In some ways, Oregon’s 44-26 win over Virginia late Saturday night on the west coast played out exactly as many predicted. The Ducks’ offense had a field day, amassing 632 total yards on a defense that still has room to grow. Virginia still gave up two turnovers, and the 24th-ranked Oregon looked in control from start to finish.

Still, we learned three things from watching this game. Let’s get right to it.

1. The defense looked better, but the woes will probably continue for some time.

Even if it was because of a typically fast Oregon team that put themselves in position time and time again, the defensive unit looked rough past the second level. Compared to the Richmond game, where the issues stemmed from a kind of “analysis paralysis” with the new 3-4 scheme, on Saturday they looked more prepared but mismatched at virtually every position. Oregon receiver Devon Allen, who finished fifth in the 110m hurdles at last month’s Olympics in Rio, had a monster game with four catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. The secondary was torched all night, but that’s not exactly a shocker when you consider the speed that Oregon has. Leading up to the game, I had said that a successful game for the UVa defense would be holding the Ducks under 50 points, and they did. Even late in the game, the energy was there with hard hits and teammates congratulating each other on good tackles.

2. Whatever happened with the run game against Richmond was something of a fluke.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Albert Reid had 126 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, while Taquan Mizzell had 48 and a touchdown on 10 rushes and Jordan Ellis had 46 yards on six carries. Ellis especially had a breakout game after not playing against UR due to injury, and that bodes well heading into UConn next week. In all, the Cavaliers picked up 193 yards on the ground, compared to a dismal 38 last week against FCS Spiders. An improved ground game will almost certainly help to open things up through the air, which leads me to my final point.

3. Kurt Benkert looked decent, but he has room to improve.

Benkert’s completion percentage nose-dived from 76 against Richmond to just 51 on Saturday. Oregon’s speedy defensive backs often put themselves into a good position, giving Benkert no easy shots. His quick release was a huge positive, and 9.7 yards-per-completion rate was big reason as to why his short and mid-range throws led to first downs. Benkert clearly has the arm strength for the long balls, but with so many of them either overthrown or errant into the sidelines, Virginia lost out on some big opportunities. With increased accuracy, Benkert can open up the field and give the Hoos more options both in the air and on the ground. The offensive line gave up six sacks in Eugene, although even under pressure, we liked what we saw from Benkert’s short- and mid-range game.

We’re listening — share your observations from the game below!