Welcome back to What Went Well and What Didn’t Went Well, our poor grammar is purposeful, I assure you.
Following the Virginia Cavaliers’ huge win in Durham, the team has a couple of wins in the Coastal wrapped up and certainly control their own destiny in the division race. Let’s take a look at a few things the team did particularly well on the road (and a couple of things that they didn’t do well):
What Went Well
There are a ton of things to be excited about in UVa’s performance this week - and while we could start of with some of the amazing individual efforts, I want to get going with this team effort and great turnaround from the previous week. Following a three INT performance against Miami, Bryce Perkins and the entire Wahoo team committed zero turnovers on Saturday - a hugely beneficial performance that kept Duke from having very little comfortable field position during the day. The excellent special teams play (more on that in a second) obviously also contributed to the field position, but by simply keeping possession of the ball, the Hoos offense and return team limited the ways in which Duke could turn around the game.
Starting with Joe Reed’s opening 37 yarder, the Hoos were phenomenal in the kick return department this week. Special Teams Coordinator Ricky Brumfield definitely earned his paycheck this week - not just in statistical production, but also via a scheme that clearly had the Blue Devils befuddled. The Hoos sent both Tavares Kelly and Chuck Davis back on punt returns, resulting in some confusion for the kick coverage unit, 3 sizeable returns (of 27, 29, and 43 yards), and an interference penalty to boot. Creative...productive...and antagonizing! I love it.
Pretty Much Everything the Defense Did
Call this broad answer a cop out if you will, but it’s impossible to single out one or two stars in an outstanding performance by the entire defense in Durham. Bryce Hall was his usual magnificent self (outside of the late hit out of bounds…) and made multiple fantastic plays in big spots. The pass rush accounted for four sacks, including two HUGE ones on a late series that helped Virginia regain some momentum before their touchdown that put the game out of reach. Some UVa teams of recent memory would’ve conceded a lead-switching drive to Daniel Jones in the fourth quarter and the game on the line - but this team slammed the door shut on any hopes for a Duke comeback. Speaking of Daniel Jones - he REALLY loves to throw it to UVa players apparently - as both Juan Thornhill and Bryce Hall padded their interception stats on Saturday.
What Didn’t Went Well
The Field Goal Kick in the First Half
I feel bad for picking on Delaney here - especially after he essentially won the game last week against Miami - but when everyone played so well, it’s hard to come up with negatives to gripe about! While his first miss was certainly makable, the second one was more of a “what the heck” try late in the first half. I’m fine with taking the points in scenario #1 (fourth and short up 14 early...makes it’s a 3 score game)...but when you miss the kick, the decision looks terrible in hindsight.
Regardless, one major complaint I had with the team (which ended up amounting to nothing, thankfully) was having only 14 points to start the game following four trips to Duke’s side of the field - and missing two kicks is an obvious part of that. Really this is my larger point of my second Didn’t Went Well:
Not Putting the Game Away Early
I know Virginia won by 14, but the game wasn’t really wrapped up until late in the fourth quarter and it could have been much closer to a sure thing much earlier in the game if the Hoos had taken more advantage of their complete domination of the Blue Devils in the first half. Duke couldn’t get anything going on offense in the first half and UVa largely looked unstoppable in their offensive execution - until drives stalled on the Duke side of the field. I know it thankfully didn’t matter - but when we talk about the team making the jump from “not terrible” to “good!”...good teams put teams away. UVa let Duke hang around a little more than they should have.
All is well, though - the Hoos are in great shape to make consecutive bowl games and can even start thinking about challenging for the Coastal title...which will probably require beating the Heels this weekend.