Another week, another game that is difficult to swallow. This time, though Virginia dominated for the majority of the game, game mismanagement from the coaching staff ultimately did the Hoos in. Different from previous years, though, we expect this coaching staff to both recognize and improve upon it. If you missed it, here’s what we were looking for going into the game, and here is how Virginia’s 13-10 loss to UCONN played out...From the Upper Deck.
- Get off the Field. For much of the game, Virginia was extremely effective at shutting down the Huskies on third down. On the day, the Hoos held UCONN to a paltry 3-13 on third down conversions. The three that the Huskies did get, however, hurt. Each of them came on UCONN’s final two drives of the game, including two passes to Noel Thomas (more on that later) and one crippling pass interference call. Virginia’s third down defense played a big role in keeping Virginia ahead for most of the game. As well as Virginia was able to stifle drives, however, they just couldn’t get the stops when it mattered.
- Contain Shirreffs and Thomas - I am going to sound like a broken record, but if you look at QB Bryant Shirreffs’s and WR Noel Thomas’s stat lines, you’d think the Hoos won handily. On the day, Shirreffs was 13-24 for only 154 yards and an interception while running for only 33 yards. His go-to receiver Thomas had a nice afternoon pulling down six balls for 91 yards, but not the dominant outing he had been accustomed to. But, like Virginia’s success on third down, the Hoos weren’t able to shut down the duo when it mattered. On UCONN’s final two drives, which earned the Huskies the ten points that were the difference in the game, Sheriffs connected with Thomas for two huge third down conversions going for 22 and 23 yards apiece. Shirreffs would add a 20 yard run and a one yard touchdown. The game plan worked for 50 minutes -- and certainly a couple critical penalties kept UConn’s drive alive. Virginia held the two in check, until they didn’t. And that was an unfortunate difference.
- Who is Virginia’s go to Receiver? At least for this week, the nod goes to Keeon Johnson. The senior pulled down six balls for 73 yards, none bigger than a 34 yard reception on 4th and 10 that got the Hoos down to the nine yard line in the final minute of the game. While Johnson led the team this week, the notion that Virginia’s three receivers — Johnson, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Doni Dowling -- form as solid a Virginia receiving corps as any in the last ten years was confirmed. Dowling had three catches for 51 yards, while Zaccheaus added six receptions for 35 yards. Johnson was again Kurt Benkert’s safety blanket, Dowling was the downfield threat, while Zaccheaus was the “get this guy the ball any way you can” weapon. Another week, and we still don’t know much about who the next great Virginia receiving star is, but either way, there are three guys fit for the role.
Virginia returns home next Saturday to face Central Michigan. The Chippewas are riding high after their upset “win” over Oklahoma State two weeks ago, and a 44-21 win over UNLV on Saturday. They’ll give the Hoos all they can handle as Virginia looks to get into the win column for the first time this year. Follow Streaking the Lawn all week as we bring you all your UVA football coverage.