A half that seemed to be going according to plan fell apart in the last four minutes for the Virginia Cavaliers. UVA leads 10-7 at the break. Our quick thoughts on this game so far:
Running game bounces back
After gaining just 81 yards on 24 designed rushes against Illinois (with Jay Woolfolk’s garbage time 31 yarder carrying that total), the Wahoo rushing game has bounced back in this first half with 26 total carries for 142 yards and a solid 5.5 yards per carry average.
UVA’s been using a running back by committee approach with Perris Jones, Xavier Brown, Cody Brown, and Mike Hollins all getting carries. Brown in particular has impressed as his burst is evident with a 38-yard run was the offensive highlight of the first half. Not only is he quick but surprisingly tough for such a small back as he broke multiple tackles to break that run.
Two fumbles change the course of the game
If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a bajillion times. Mike Hollins struggles with ball security. After fumbling on the goal-line and only recovering it by the grace of God against Richmond, Hollins fumbled inside the five-yard line once again after a really nice offensive drive. Armstrong and the passing game had started to establish a rhythm and UVA had a chance to take a 17-0 lead with about four minutes left in the half. But Hollins’ fumble — where the ball seemed to just slip out on contact — made life far more difficult.
Perhaps worse than that though was the fact that Brennan Armstrong fumbled the ball after the Wahoo defense got a big stop and gave the UVA offense very good field positioning. The fumble seemed more an unfortunate coincidence of how the southpaw was hit, but it was still a killer as the ‘Hoos had another opportunity to go up by three scores.
But, instead, Old Dominion took full advantage, scoring a touchdown with 19 seconds left in the half and making it a three-point game. Really poor for the Wahoos.
Also thought the offense should’ve at least tired something with 19 seconds on the clock and a timeout left. Wouldn’t have hurt.
Passing game starts slow but gets going
After a quarter and a half it looked as though Brennan Armstrong and Dontayvion Wicks were inexplicably off as the quarterback under-threw his wideout on the throws that the receiver didn’t drop.
While it only resulted in three points following those two drive-ending fumbles, Wicks and Armstrong racked up 61 yards on three receptions, not including a tough catch over the middle which was flagged for defensive holding and was wiped off. Hopefully that connection can continue to be profitable in the second half cuz the ‘Hoos need it.
Armstrong was still only 9-17 for 118 yards. But he was better as the half progressed and his offensive line was at least stable. One note, Jestus Johnson ended the second quarter in as the center instead of Ty Furnish.
Defense continues to bend but not break
The UVA defense continues to be the strength of this team. Inexperienced guys including Lex Long, Jonas Sanker, and D’Sean Perry all impressed as John Rudzinksi’s unit continued to bend not break. The one score the Monarchs had can’t really be blamed on the defense considering the positions the offense has put it in. A few big short yardage stops were highlights as well.