The Virginia Cavaliers got the 2018 football season started off the right way with a big W over in-commonwealth foes Richmond. Before they face a power five road test at Indiana on Saturday evening, we asked our staff who impressed the most in the first victory of the season, and if the game changed any predictions or feelings they had going into the season.
Danny Neckel: I think Bryce Perkins impressed me the most. We had heard about his running abilities but it was impressive to see it in action. Two touchdown runs of 20 or more yards in the first quarter is quite a statement. Now this does not change my opinions I had about the team or Perkins since it was against Richmond. I know, I know we lost to Richmond two years ago, but now that upcoming teams like Indiana and Ohio have tape on him I do not expect such an easy outing again. If Perkins runs for over 100 yards in wins against those two teams, then yea, my opinions and expectations will go through the roof.
Tiki: Well since Danny took the easy answer, I’ll say the OL impressed me the most. Richmond’s front four is solid, and we completely gashed them. Last year, against a poor W&M team, Virginia ran for under three yards per carry. Yes, the offense is different, with all the option plays, but the OL still has to win their 1-on-1 battles. Last year, as often as not, they didn’t win those battles. Last week, they won them. Still some issues in pass protection, but the run blocking was outstanding. Indiana’s defense really may not be any better than Richmond’s, so we’ll see if it was a one-off or actual improvement we can count on. As Danny said, the performance against IU will likely alter my expectations a lot more than last week did.
Pierce: JORDAN ELLIS. Tied into both the OL’s great game and Perkins’ big game on the ground, Ellis really set the tone for UVa and absolutely bossed Richmond around. He ran with power, often straight through Richmond’s front seven and by the end of the game, it was clear that the Spiders were too gassed to deal with him. UVa’s going to need a lot more of that to be successful this season - things look good so far. I can’t say it’s changed my expectations though, as the other’s noted. I expected UVa to be rebuilt enough to dominate Richmond...I don’t expect a win this weekend (so that would change things for sure).
Sayer Paige: How about their resiliency? I know it was early on, but Perkins’ pick-6 scared me, especially knowing how many times Virginia teams in the past have been thrown off by plays like that. The offense’s ability to respond quickly, scoring back to back touchdowns, I think says a lot about the team’s new mindset and culture.
Emily Caron: Jordan Ellis was the most impressive for me as well. The offense under Benkert didn’t really allow him to play to his full potential, so it was encouraging to see what he can do when given a few more carries and some freedom on the field. I think it’s too early to tell what will happen with the rest of the season -- this weekend’s win was a good start but we can’t forget that we *were* playing Richmond (no offense Spiders fans).
Ryan Reese: I’m going to pivot from the rest and go with the Defensive Line. Probably the most raw of any unit for the Hoos, I thought they played very well holding Richmond to 34 yards rushing. A lot of that was likely game script dependent, but regardless, they gave the Spiders nothing in the way of holes. In particular, Chris Peace and Richard Burney were disruptive adding 2.5 tackles for loss between the two. I’ll echo the rest of the staff and say it’s hard to glean anything from a win over Richmond, but I will add we weren’t saying that after the last two season openers.
Hobes: I was most impressed with Robert Anae, someone who I haven’t been shy to criticize when it’s fair. When the pass protection wasn’t there at times (a concern of mine going forward), Anae seemed to open up the playbook a bit for designed runs that Perkins could use to his advantage. Of course, it remains to be seen whether that will be a trend going forward, and all the great things I’ve told about the game to co-workers and family has come with the caveat of “now, it was against Richmond...”. But I’m as impressed as I could have been.
Darns: All of the above are great answers. I’m going with Shawn Griswold and the UVA Strength and Conditioning team. The Cavaliers looked as fit as I can remember seeing them lately, and that was the case for everyone from the first years to the returning players. Did you see Jordan Ellis’s thighs on his first touchdown run of the season? My goodness, y’all. This team is strong.
Who impressed you the most, Wahoo fans? Leave a comment below!