Getting off the schneid with an ugly road win over Georgia Tech was a big step forward for a struggling Virginia Cavaliers football team. A three game losing streak and dwindling fan support meant the ‘Hoos badly needed a win. Georgia Tech played along, providing opportunity after opportunity, including the injury to their starting QB. Still, Virginia was just barely good enough to hold on.
This week’s opponent, the Miami Hurricanes, came into the season with high hopes under new head coach Manny Cristobal. However, things have not turned out as expected for the Canes, which seems to be a theme for them recently. Miami sits 3-4, with home losses to Middle Tennessee, UNC and Duke. In the Duke loss last week, the Canes turned the ball over 8 (!!) times in getting blown out on their home turf. It might be time to give Duke some credit this season.
Miami is favored by 2.5 on the road.
Virginia on Defense
Every year, it seems Miami’s offense is led a by QB with huge expectations. And every year that QB disappoints. Perhaps the expectations are too high?
Tyler Van Dyke stepped in for an injured King last year and never gave up the starting job. Three thousand yards and 25 TDs as a freshman will generate some hype. Some projections had him in the first round. But Miami struggled out of the gate, and Van Dyke was bad in losses to Texas A&M (no shame in that) and Middle Tennessee (little bit of shame in that). Van Dyke was benched against the Blue Raiders and redshirt freshman Jake Garcia was solid in relief (10-19 169 yards).
This was his second pass after coming in. His first was a 23 yard pass which was mostly YAC. This was a thing of beauty. Didn’t quite get in the end-zone, but this was better than anything Van Dyke (16-32 138 yards) had done.
Van Dyke was much better following the benching, but was injured against Duke and is unlikely to play against the ‘Hoos. That means we get Garcia. Solid against MTSU. A bit of a disaster against Duke. He did this.
He also did this.
His line for the game: 13-21 198 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT. And four sacks. And this fumble.
That’s some hit. It’s a safety blitz and the Miami OL never sees it coming. He’s untouched.
Duke brought pressure all game, and really bothered Miami’s QBs. Again, eight turnovers. Four from Garcia. Here was the play on which Van Dyke was injured.
Again, this one is a safety blitz. In this case, Duke actually shows blitz on Van Dyke’s right, but the blitz comes from the left. Two OLs are blocking nobody while two free rushers come on his left.
Surely John Rudzinki has seen this film. He knows Miami’s OL can be beaten with a well disguised blitz. Miami ranks 96th nationally in sacks allowed, over 2.5 per game. The ‘Hoos are 11th nationally in sacks after racking up eight last week.
We haven’t seen many DB blitzes, but this is a similar look.
Nick Jackson doesn’t show blitz, and delays a beat. Then he actually takes too wide a path to the QB and almost misses out on the sack. But his speed lets him recover. Similar to the Duke plays above, Jeff Sims does not see the blitz coming and that’s why it is successful.
Miami’s leading receiver right now is actually TE Will Mallory, a former four-star recruit who has been starting for five years. Six Miami WRs have started at least one game this year, and they have combined for 92 catches.
But it’s a young group, and the starters have changed multiple times. Guys to watch are Colbie Young (the long TD throw from Garcia above was to Young) and Frank Ladson, Jr. Young leads all of the WRs in yards, and he’s actually he’s missed two games. He’s the big play guy. Ladson was a five-star recruit at Clemson who just never really materialized there. He’s done more in seven games with the Canes than he did in three years with the Tigers.
Also, Xavier Restrepo may be the best WR on the team, but he hasn’t played since Week 1. He may be back this week, so keep an eye out on that front.
As always, Miami’s skill position guys are talented. Their leading rusher is Henry Parrish, another four star recruit who started his career at Ole Miss. He totaled over 1000 yards in two years at Ole Miss, and has 441 yards this year on five yards per carry. But his longest run is just 24 yards. That highlights two things. One, Parrish does not have great top end speed. Two, Miami doesn’t get the home-run plays in its running game that the Wahoo defense can often give up.
Miami has the 35th ranked offense in the country. But their rushing game is 96th while their passing game is 13th. They might lean more heavily on the run with Van Dyke out, but their strength is throwing the ball. That plays into Virginia’s hands well, as Virginia’s defense is far better at stopping the pass than the run. The Wahoos are 36th in pass yards allowed, 38th in passing efficiency allowed, 11th in sacks and 29th in turnovers forced. Meanwhile, they are 93rd in rush defense and 66th in TFLs.
Virginia on Offense
Wow. We are seeing glimpses of the offense waking up. It started with the deep ball to Wicks against Louisville. This was amazing from Wicks, and the kind of thing we expected to be seeing this year.
This Miami defense can be had for big plays.
Virginia has speed at WR and, if they can keep Armstrong upright, there will be big plays available. Georgia Tech can get after the QB, and the Yellow Jackets did not sack Armstrong last week. The protection allowed Armstrong to have his best game of the season, with almost 350 total yards.
Miami’s defense ranks 34th overall. Their rush defense ranks 24th and their pass defense ranks 78th. Virginia is going to need another big game from their QB if the ‘Hoos are going to win. Getting Armstrong going on the ground will be key. In Virginia’s three wins, Armstrong has rushed for 250 yards. In the four losses, it’s 36 yards.
This was Armstrong’s rushing TD last week.
And this was the first of Riley Leonard’s two rushing TDs last week against Miami.
Similar plays. Drop back to pass, and then take off. Armstrong runs this play very well. In fact, it’s the first thing we saw him do, way back in 2018. Man that feels like a long time ago.
Much like trying to confuse the Miami offense, Virginia should use misdirection to confuse the Miami defense. This defense is immensely talented. It’s four and five stars all across. Multiple All-Conference selections for several conferences. You really aren’t going to win too many battles going straight up on them. But get them looking one way and bring them back the other way? That can work.
This comes on fourth and goal, after a “normal” third down run was stuffed. Yes, technically this is a pass play, but the OL is run blocking. It’s a run play.
The Canes play a 4-2-5, but they move people around quite a bit. On this play, there’s only one down lineman. It seems to confused the Hokie OL.
This play comes back because of a penalty, but there’s only one down lineman, and three rushers coming out of two-point stance. They run a stunt on their right, and it confuses the OL. The pressure comes from both inside and outside. They had six sacks against the Hokies.
Of the team’s 25 sacks, 19 come on the DL. It’s talent, but it’s also scheme. That play above is very tough to block, especially with elite individual talent.
Corey Flagg Jr. led the Canes in tackles last year, and is currently leading in both tackles and TFLs. The two safeties are right behind him in tackles. Both are talented, but they are both better facing the play than going back on it. On the MTSU highlight at the beginning of this section, the safeties are supposed to provide deep help, but you can see the safety come up on the underneath route, leaving the deep middle open.
Virginia has the speed and depth at WR to run similar concepts and get Miami defenders going the wrong way. Virginia’s offense has not been consistent enough to convert long drives, so they need to hit some big plays. At least we’ve finally seen a few big plays over the past two games.
There is far more talent on the Hurricanes’ roster than there is on Virginia’s. But the Canes have not handled adversity well. When they have fallen behind, they have struggled to come back. And, last week, Duke scored the final 28 points of the game, as Miami completely fell apart in the fourth quarter.
Virginia should be able to slow down Miami’s offense. Missing Van Dyke hurts, and the offense hasn’t been great even with the starting QB. But Virginia’s offense needs to be a lot better if they are going to do anything against Miami’s defense. The turnovers, the drops, the penalties? Not gonna cut it against the Canes.
As I said last week, prove me wrong.
Prediction: Miami 24, Virginia 14