Well that was a breath of fresh air. It’s refreshing to have a game where the result is never really in doubt. UConn scored late in the game to make a lopsided 24-0 game at the half appear to be more balanced, but Virginia was in control from the start. Coming into the game, here was What to Watch, and here’s how the keys played out in the game.
Maintain the D - While the final stat line might not show it, this defensive unit was dominant from the opening whistle. Through almost three quarters, the Virginia Cavaliers’ defense held UConn scoreless, giving ample time for the offense to race out to a 31-0 lead. Through the Huskies’ first six possessions of the game, Virginia forced two turnovers, one punt, and three turnovers on downs. In all instances, UConn was in Virginia territory and driving. So while the yards allowed might give some pause, the ability of this team to make big plays when it had to shows the strength of this unit. Micah Kiser once again led the way with 15 tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery.
Move the Line, Move the Pocket - Whether it was a product of better line play by Virginia, or lack of pass rush by UConn, Kurt Benkert had all day and then some to sit in the pocket and sling it. The senior quarterback had a day to remember completing 30 of 40 passes for a school-record 455 yards and three touchdowns. He looked much better on deep throws, connecting with Doni Dowling for a beautiful 42 yard touchdown mid-way through the second quarter that staked Virginia to a 17-0 lead. The run game was improved as well and give credit to the game plan devised by Robert Anae. They found ways to run the ball straight ahead with Jordan Ellis running it 20 times for 95 yards. But the biggest key was getting Olamide Zaccheaus involved. The third-year playmaker ran it four times for 47 yards and caught 9 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. Zaccheaus was unstoppable, and it opened up plays for Ellis and for Benkert to find Dowling and Andre Levrone.
Flip the Field - Virginia lost the field position battle for the second week in a row. However, when you only punt the ball once and the majority of change of possessions are coming after scores, that’s a stat that doesn’t really factor into the outcome. That said, the Virginia kickoff coverage team allowed UConn to amass 126 return yards including a 60 yard return with 15 more yards tacked on due to an illegal block penalty. It’s still an area of concern for the Hoos that will show itself in games against better competition.
Virginia has a short week before concluding their non-conference schedule Friday night when the travel to Boise for a match with the Broncos. The Hoos will be riding high after this win, but will have to play just as well if they want to improve on the 56-14 debacle the last time these two teams met two years ago.