On a gross, wet night in Indiana, the Wahoos fell 20-16 for their first loss of the season. The game was messy in weather, messy in execution, messy in officiating, and messy in some decision making for the Hoos. While many of the team’s units had some bright moments, Virginia let the Hoosiers do just enough at the critical moments in the game to let the game slip away. For me, it’s a tough game to really analyze for any thoughts on the rest of the season. Hopefully they’ll avoid playing in more tropical storms, but can we really question Perkins’ throwing ability in such? Can we really stress about some breakdowns in the secondary while they were slipping in mud? It’s tough for me to say either way. I think it’s fair for fans to be frustrated with the result and there are absolutely issues with the team that could impact the rest of the season, but it’s hard to see evidence that supports the immediate pessimism (that naturally follows any loss). Facts are: the team went on the road in a game that they weren’t supposed to win, played in terrible conditions, executed some things well and some things not so well, and beat the spread...but lost. Let’s take a look at some of those things - our What Went Wells and our What Didn’t Went Wells.
What Went Well
It might be odd to start off with a unit whose biggest mistake served as major defining moment in the loss, but outside of the fumbled kick return (a relatively forgivable, if not classic-UVA mistake), the special teams unit for the Hoos Saturday played exceptionally well. A blocked extra point attempt for a score completely neutralized the momentum IU had gained from their second score - not to mention the impact on the score. Another block on an Indiana field goal attempt was just as critical in keeping the score close and the game in reach. The kick return coverage was excellent, often making the critical first tackle to prevent any big returns (though there was a big return late in the game for IU negated by an obvious block in the back). Indiana returned three punts yesterday for an average of 0.7 yards. Zero point seven.
Lester is obviously part of the special teams unit but he gets his own bolded shout out because the Virginia punter was killing it Saturday in TERRIBLE conditions. While he was clearly the beneficiary of a couple of fortuitous bounces and rolls, Coleman averaged 44.7 yards on his punts Saturday. The impact that this can have on a close and messy game can’t be overstated and without his excellent performance in the wind and rain, the Hoos may not have had a chance to win.
Bryce Perkins’ Legs
The rest of Perkins’ performance can go in our ‘Didn’t Went Well’ section, but his running game certainly brought a large boost to the Hoos - much like we saw against Richmond. While he may have relied on his running ability a few too many times and sometimes in some clearly questionable situations, the times he relied on it, well, boy did it work well. Once again, Perkins rushed for over 100 yards, with a long 47 yard run that set up an early statement-making drive. Maybe pass coverage or the weather pushed Perkins into some questionable moments otherwise, but his big play ability absolutely kept the Hoosiers defense wary throughout and certainly kept the Hoos in the game.
What Didn’t Went Well
Uhh...everything on Defense?
I don’t know...there are a lot of easy excuses to make for the defense in their performance: the weather, the playmaking ability of Peyton Ramsey, statistically having a decent game, a number of great plays here and there...but I was pretty discouraged by the performance. Indiana was 8-for-15 in third down conversions, but it seemed like those eight conversions each came at hugely critical times in such a close game. Soft coverage on curl routes in third and long in the rain..converted. Runs up the middle when the entire stadium knew IU was going to run it up the middle...converted for big gains. Letting someone named Stevie run for over 200 yards? Woof. Like I wrote earlier, I don’t necessarily think this performance is indicative of any concerns I have for future non-hurricane-impacted games, but it’s hard to shake the nagging classic-UVA feeling of the defense just giving up a few too many back-breaking plays and critical points in the game.
Decision Making. Everyone. All the decisions.
At one point, IU clearly lined up eight men in the box and immediately showed that they had TWO linebackers spying Perkins. Perkins immediately tried to stretch the play wide, resulting in those two said spies combining for a tackle for loss. Now, the Big Ten Network’s lack of actual cameras prevented me from seeing any single UVA receiver on the play...but arithmetic would suggest there were multiple open Wahoos to throw to on the play. Perkins had already decided to run. Maybe it was scripted (bad decision from the play caller then), but it wasn’t an outlier for an offense that suffered from a ton of questionable choices resulting in a largely anaemic performance. But the decision making screw ups weren’t limited to the O. Multiple defensive backs made multiple poor choices at critical times, making contact far too early, making said contact far too early when the contact wasn’t even necessary to the play, and...well there were some dropped interceptions too which really isn’t a choice, I know but I’m still sore about those so they go here too. Ugh.
You could list not going for two in the third quarter score here as well - had the Hoos done so and converted, a field goal on the final drive would’ve tied the game. Now, I completely understand taking the extra point in the situation - such criticism is only vindicated in hindsight with the loss. The odds of making field goal in that situation, with our recent history of not converting easy kicks and the necessity to actually convert on the two point try, were not particularly high. Still, the Hoos lost and they may not have lost if that decision to go for one wasn’t made.
Really, the ‘Didn’t Went Well’ points are always going to sound overly critical. The reality remains that the Hoos didn’t give up a single point in the second half, Indiana is not a bad team, and Ramsey is a flat out playmaker who made enough critical plays. Despite the loss, Virginia beat the spread! I’m not down on Virginia’s chances to make a bowl, but this was a missed opportunity of a game. It makes next week’s matchup again Ohio truly critical - we’ll see how the team responds Saturday.