After years of futility in season openers (and most other games), the Virginia football team provided exactly what was needed Saturday: a comfortable 28-10 win over William and Mary. It wasn’t always pretty, but the outcome was never in doubt. The Wahoo defense was solid for most of the afternoon. Kurt Benkert was great, and after connecting with nine different receivers it looks like he has plenty of offensive options.
All that said, there’s certainly plenty places where the Hoos can improve. They weren’t as dominating as they should have been against an FCS opponent. But a win is a win...and a welcome one at that. If you missed it earlier in the week, here is what I was looking for and here is how it played out...From the Upper Deck
Continuity at Quarterback - Color me impressed. With so much inconsistency from the quarterback position, Virginia might finally have a playmaker under center. Kurt Benkert was great all day. He made all the throws and looked comfortable doing so. For the afternoon, he was 27-39 for 262 yards with three touchdowns and ZERO interceptions. Benkert looked sharp in the pocket, but was much more dangerous out of it. The offense did sputter at times, and with as well as Benkert played, the score should have been much more lopsided. There’s no use in complaining, however. Given where Virginia has been the last decade, this was a great outcome.
A Dominant Defense? A season after giving up 446 yards per game, the Virginia defense was stout against the Tribe. The Hoos held their Williamsburg counterparts to 240 yards on the day. The pass defense was particularly strong, only allowing Tommy McKee to throw for 63 yards.
Specifically, the defense was successful by keeping plays in front of them. William and Mary connected on a short plays over the middle on several occasions, but the Virginia defenders did a good job of swarming to prevent bigger gains. Quin Blanding was his usual self and registered 12 tackles, but it was Malcolm Cook who returned to the field with a bang. The senior tallied a team high 13 tackles and came up with a huge sack that got the team energized after a somewhat sluggish start.
Despite the yardage totals, it was somewhat disconcerting that William and Mary had great success running the ball right at the Virginia defense. UVA will want to tighten that up going forward: the lines and runnings backs will only get better from here.
New Faces on Offense - Andre Levrone and Jordan Ellis aren’t actually “new” faces, but they both had promising starts in bigger roles. Levrone caught two balls for 56 yards, including a sweet grab on 4th & 9 for a 34-yard touchdown. Ellis ran effectively despite not getting much push from the offensive line. He rushed 20 times for 80 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two receptions for 11 yards and another score. Doni Dowling, while also not a new face, was simply electrifying. The senior caught six balls for 76 yards. Along the way he broke tackles, tiptoed sidelines, and even hurdled a dude. Coupled with Benkert looking solid, it was refreshing to see several different Cavaliers making plays.
It’s exciting to open the season with a win. Let’s not forget, however, that this was the easiest game on Virginia’s schedule. The hill gets steeper next week when Indiana comes to town. The Hoosiers looked good early before ultimately being blown out by Ohio State. If the Hoos want to show progress and have a shot at a bowl game, they’ll need to find a way to win.