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Report Card: Where Did Things Break Down Against Indiana?

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Virginia badly struggled on offense and special teams.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Well that wasn’t fun. I think it is safe to say that nobody in the UVA locker room was particularly happy with their performance after Saturday’s loss to Indiana. With that in mind, let’s break down how each unit fared.

Offense

Ugly. That’s really the only word that can describe the offense. The running game went nowhere. The passing game wasn’t much better. The Hoos gained just 314 yards on 91 plays. That is 3.5 yards per play. That is atrocious.

Seven drives went 3-and-out. Two drives had double-digit plays, and yet registered less than 50 yards. There were no explosive plays. There were dropped passes. There were missed assignments. About the only good thing I could say about the offense was that it committed just 1 penalty all game.

Grade: D (The saving grace was no turnovers, only one penalty and, somehow, 2 TDs.)

Defense

In my opinion, the defense was as good as the offense was bad. Yes, they allowed three long TDs: a 29 yard catch and run by Simmie Cobbs and a 26 yard run by backup QB Peyton Ramsey and a 32 yard TD pass to Donavan Hale.

But the defense largely shut down Cobbs, who had just 4 catches for 33 yards other than his TD. And they had starting QB Richard Lagow completely flustered. Lagow, you may recall, threw for over 400 yards against OSU. The Hoos battered him and forced him out of the game. Ramsey proved up to the task, both running and passing.

Other than the big run from Ramsey, UVA’s run defense was outstanding. All told, they gave up just 3 yards per carry. Micah Kiser, despite suffering a knee injury during the game, was a monster. Jordan Mack was outstanding. Andrew Brown had the big game he should’ve had the previous week. Juan Thornhill stepped up bigtime at CB in Tim Harris’ absence.

The Hoos may not be good this year as a team. But this defense is going to turn some heads.

Grade: B+ (Dinged for the 3 long TD plays and for 4 penalties called against the defense.)

Special Teams

Somehow, UVA’s special teams were even worse than the Cavalier offense. I mean ... just horrendous. Obviously, the touchdown UVA yielded on a punt return was the biggest high(low?)light. But the mistakes ran deeper than that.

Let’s start with the fake field goal. It’s awfully strange to run a fake in a scoreless game, especially a scoreless game that the Hoos were dominating. Why not take the 3 points and give yourselves a much-deserved lead? Bad decision. With the way the Hoos were running the ball, it was exceedingly likely that they would’ve ended up kicking a FG anyway even if they’d converted the fake.

Indiana also had a big kickoff return following UVA’s first FG of the game, which ultimately led to the Hoosiers first TD. That return was aided by a penalty on the Virginia kickoff team, which gave Indiana 5 free yards. Then a big punt return after the ensuing drive led to Indiana’s 2nd TD. Then, just before the half, Lester Coleman shanked a 19-yard punt, which led to Indiana’s end-of-half FG.

That sequence began with 8 minutes to go in the first half, and basically decided the game. A series of special teams mistakes turned what had been a dominating performance by the Hoos into a blowout by the Hoosiers.

Grade: F (A.J. Mejia did convert his only FG attempt and was 2-2 on FGs, but that is little consolation.)

Highlight

This week, we’re focusing on the DBs. After Tim Harris’ injury, there was fear that the defensive secondary would struggle.

That turned out to be far from the case. Playing an explosive offense that totaled 410 yards in the air the previous week against Ohio State, the Hoos held Indiana to just 197 yards passing. The DBs totaled 30 tackles, 2 pass break ups and an interception.

Juan Thornhill moved from safety to CB (his position last year) and was outstanding. Redshirt freshman Brenton Nelson received his first career start at safety and had 6 tackles, including 4 solo. And nickel back Chris Moore looked good.

The defense going forward is still going to be led by Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding. But the secondary as a whole is going to be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season and for the next couple of years.

Grade: B- (Dinged for giving up 2 big pass plays, including several missed tackles on Simmie Cobbs’ TD.)