Virginia Cavaliers football fans are understandably frustrated and disappointed. But was it really that hard to predict Virginia would be 0-5? They’ve been underdogs in every game this season. Obviously, they could’ve and maybe should’ve won a game by this point. But this really isn’t all that surprising.
This week, the Wahoos finally get a game they are expected to win. They are bad, but they are facing a team from the lower division. Yes, we know Virginia has lost to FCS teams before, including to William and Mary in 2009. But even some bad Virginia teams have won these matchups handily.
Of course, this is also the return of former head coach Mike London. He took William and Mary to the FCS playoffs last year, finishing 11-2. This year, they started 4-0 but are coming off an ugly road loss to Elon.
London isn’t the only familiar face on the sidelines for W&M. Former Wahoo players Ras-I Dowling (DC), Matt Johns (QB), Keenan Carter (DL) and Darryl Blackstock (OLB/ST) are all on London’s coaching staff.
Game Time: Saturday, October 7, 12:00PM Eastern
TV: ACC Network
Three Players to Watch
QB Darius Wilson
The Tribe QB is in his third year as a starter after he broke almost every W&M freshman QB record. He threw for 2200 yards and 16 TDs last year, adding over 500 yards and 4 TDs on the ground.
Last week, in the loss to Elon, Wilson completed 5/14 for 36 yards. 36 yards passing. And 54 rush yards.
This season, Wilson is completing just 52% of his passes, a far cry from the 63% he achieved last year. He is also averaging just 6.3 yards per pass attempt, after averaging 9.4 last year.
This throw, a 46 yard completion, is late. If he’d thrown it a hair earlier, it might’ve been a TD.
RBs Malachi Imoh
A couple of weeks ago, this would’ve included Bronson Yoder as well. He is the Thunder to Imoh’s Lightning, and was technically the starter. But he suffered a shoulder injury and is out. Imoh is now the unquestioned starter. He has rushed for over 100 yards three games in a row and he is 13th in FCS in rushing. Yoder is 24th.
As you can see, Imoh hits the hole hard and runs through arm tackles. And he has the speed to get past the defense.
This is a very good rushing offense, and the Virginia defense is very bad at stopping the run. This is the single most important factor of this game. The Tribe need to run the ball to win. Virginia needs to stop them.
DE Nate Lynn
It obviously isn’t very hard to find weaknesses on an 0-5 team. But the most glaring one for the Wahoos is the OL. They can’t run the ball at all, and they can’t keep the QB upright. This team is 126th in rushing offense, and they are 116th in sacks allowed. That is an indictment of this OL, and that cascades through everything else the offense does.
Mike London’s defense is 14th in FCS in sacks, averaging three per game. That’s 15 sacks through five games, and Lynn has seven of them. He has at least one in each game. He is 2nd in FCS in sacks and 9th in TFLs. He has 27 career sacks, second all-time at W&M.
He’s a little small for a 3-4 DE, at just 260 lbs. But he’s got so much quickness. He beats the tackle around the outside. In truth, the QB here has some time initially. But once Lynn gets around the edge, he’s got a free run to the QB and forces a fumble, leading to a safety.
Two Key Matchups
Virginia OL vs William and Mary DL
Yep. It has to be the OL again. BC came into the matchup last week with five sacks as a team. And They had five more against Virginia! This OL simply can’t continue to perform this poorly.
Is this the least talented front-7 the Wahoos will face this year? Maybe. If they can’t run the ball against an FCS defense and they can’t keep the QB upright against an FCS defense, then how are they going to be successful at all in ACC play?
Virginia DL vs William and Mary OL
The battle in the trenches in this game will be key on both sides of the ball. William and Mary is a running team. They have 233 rushes, against just 106 pass attempts on the season.
Virginia has been very bad at stopping the run. They rank 111th in rush defense, and are tied for 104th in yards per rush. PFF says Aaron Faumui has been solid against the run, but that’s really about it. Jahmeer Carter is meant to be the top run stopper for this defense, but he hasn’t been. Losing Agunloye to an injury early in the season did not help things.
The DL does a good job here of standing up at the point of attack. There is nothing up the middle, where the play is designed. But the RB kicks out wide and there’s no edge contain at all. This was a 4-2-5 set, and both LBs are caught up in the middle, which was already covered by the interior DL. Sam Westfall is the last defender on the edge, but he’s too late and takes a poor angle. Nobody has edge contain at all, on either side of the field. Both LBs are stuck right behind their own linemen. And the DBs are playing so far off the line, they can’t get there in time.
The funny thing is, there haven’t been a lot of big runs allowed. A few, including the one above. The real problem is that there are no negative plays. Even when Virginia plays the run well, it’s still a 2 or 3 yard gain.
If they don’t slow down William and Mary’s rushing attack, Virginia will lose this game.
So is Virginia finally going to win a game? Our staff certainly think so.
The thing is… this isn’t a great matchup for the ‘Hoos. William and Mary’s strengths — running the ball and rushing the passer — are weaknesses for the Wahoos. Meanwhile, Virginia’s strength this year has been throwing the football. William and Mary ranks 4th in FCS in pass defense.
Obviously, on paper, the Wahoos should be the better team. FBS > FCS, right?
Virginia certainly has advantages at individual positions. For example, 6’4” 220 lb Malachi Fields against a 180 lb CB is a pretty big advantage. That’s how they’re going to have to win. There is no evidence that they can play as a cohesive unit and win a game together as a team.
But they’ve been oh-so close over the past few weeks, and have lost three games by a total of 7 points. (And, of course, two games by a total of 64 points.) This is clearly the least talented team they will face this year. That’s just the nature of FCS vs FBS. The Tribe may be a good team, but their athletes simply aren’t as good as Virginia’s. And that is the reason Virginia should come out on top.
Prediction: Virginia 31, William & Mary 21