Welcome back to What Went Well/What Didn’t Went Well, where the takes this week are as lukewarm as the humor.
Our Wahoos bounced back into the win column this week with a victory over the transitioning-to-D1 Liberty Flames. Nascent as they may be, LU was no slouch offensively and Virginia’s victory was an important step in posturing for a better bowl game. Let’s take a gander at some of the highlights and any lowlights:
What Went Well
Joe Reed’s Scoring
Reed’s three scores on the day all were critical moments in distancing the Hoos from the Flames over the course of the game: the opening score was a huge response to seeing Liberty score on their first possession - the kick return touchdown opened the second half, giving the Hoos an immediate 14 point lead after Liberty had kept the game close with 10 second quarter point - and finally, his fourth quarter score sealed the game by increasing the lead to three scores with 12 minutes to go. Reed’s impact in the return game has been evident all year, but it was wonderful to see him double his receiving TD total on the season in one game.
Jordan Freaking Ellis
So there’s been some light frustration among the fan base about the predictable nature of some of the play-calling when Ellis is on the field. Turns out - he’s pretty damn good at running the ball up the middle...so it’s fair to expect that that might be a common play-call. Nonetheless, you never want to be predictable - and in this game, the Hoos returned to feeding Ellis (something that DIDN’T WENT WELL against Pitt) to the tune of 106 yards on the ground and TWO CATCHES. For a guy who had caught the ball a total of three times all season, I’m considering that a great victory for creativity.
Like Ellis, it was Senior Day for UVa’s star defensive back and Thornhill did not disappoint in his final game at Scott. Thornhill collected a season-high (and career-high!) 13 total tackles and added yet another interception. While the UVa defense wasn’t flawless on the day, Thornhill and the defensive backs largely shut down Liberty’s star wideout (Gandy-Golden only caught two balls all game) and helped keep the Flames in check enough to let the offense put the game away. Thornhill has been a star in the defensive backfield for three years and made sure his final game in Charlottesville was a memorable one.
What Didn’t Went Well
Liberty’s sophomore running back Peytton Pickett had himself a game...he eclipsed 100 yards for the first time in his career, cut UVa’s lead back down to seven in a huge response score in the third quarter, and gashed the Hoos for 6.9 yards per carry. While UVa’s defense was missing multiple starters due to injury, an ACC caliber front seven should not get pushed around like that by provisional FBS team. We’ve known that depth on the defensive line was a huge issue for this team - so while it might be a somewhat expected thing to not go well, that doesn’t excuse such a performance against such an opponent.
As after most big wins, any Didn’t Went Wells are going to seem nitpicky, but considering how terrible the run defense looked against the rain-soaked loss to Pitt, I was looking for a more convincing shutdown in better weather. While it certainly wasn’t an end-of-the-world type of performance, with Georgia Tech coming up this weekend, it wasn’t a comforting one either.
That’s it for the negatives this week! I can’t think of anything else that upset me.