Only 197 seven passing yards given up to a potent passing game, four sacks, and +1 in turnover margin. Final score 34-17. If you had told me those things before the game, I’d have though there was a party in Charlottesville celebrating the Hoos’ ascension to a 2-0 record. Instead, thanks to a woeful offense and struggles on special teams, the Virginia football picked up their first loss on the season. Virginia only mustered 55 yards on the ground and 259 yards through the air, despite chucking it a program-record 66 times. Kurt Benkert didn’t have his best outing with much of that on the shoulders of his offensive line. However, even when he did have time, he struggled finding his receivers on any pass greater than 10 yards down field. In case you missed it on Friday, here is what I was looking for heading into the game, and here is how it played out...From the Upper Deck.
- Contain Cobbs - Contrary to what the score may suggest, Virginia’s secondary did a tremendous job most of the afternoon. Juan Thornhill moved from safety to cornerback, filling the hole left by the injury to Tim Harris, and really stood out playing solid coverage and adding a highlight reel interception. Thornhill and his mates held the Sammie Cobbs Jr. in-check for the most part limiting him to six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Twenty-nine of those yards came from a catch and run that went for a touchdown, and that was just as much a product of Cobbs’ athleticism as it was about coverage. Most importantly, they kept him in front of them all game limiting his over-the-top big play ability.
- Pound the Rock - For the second week in a row, the Virginia offensive line er...struggled. They got very little push and that manifested itself in Virginia runners gaining a paltry 2.2 yards per carry. Furthermore, the offensive line struggles spilled over to the passing game. Benkert was forced into short throws allowing the Indiana defense to key in on Olamide Zaccheaus, Evan Butts, Joe Reed, and Daniel Hamm on short throws near the line of scrimmage. Combined with game script forcing the Hoos to play from behind, the run game was all but abandoned in the second half. One thing is for certain, if Benkert is throwing the ball 60+ times per outing, Virginia won’t be winning many ballgames.
- Pressure from the D-Line - Just like the secondary, the defensive line acquitted themselves very well on Saturday. The unit gave up only 121 yards on the ground with 42 of those coming from backup quarter Peyton Ramsey. Indiana starter Richard Lagow never got comfortable, with the Virginia pass rush bearing down on him all afternoon. The Hoos picked up four sacks, two coming from Micah Kiser. As for the Andrew Brown prop bet? The under won, but Brown did chip in two tackles for loss and made his presence felt in the backfield throughout the game.
Given that Virginia nailed two out of three keys to the game, it’s a wonder that they lost 34-17. But the anemic offense and special teams blunders were just too much to overcome. Defense won’t be this team’s issue going forward, but they are going to have make some significant improvements on offense if they want to get better as the season goes along.
The Hoos stay at home for a Saturday matchup with the Connecticut Huskies. Kick off is at 12:00 P.M. and the game will be televised on ESPN2. Stay with Streaking the Lawn all week for all your Virginia Sports coverage.