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First half observations for Virginia football versus James Madison

What we saw from the ‘Hoos in the first half.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Virginia vs Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Virginia Cavaliers trail the James Madison Dukes 17-14 after thirty minutes of play in the program’s 2023 season opener. Read on for quick observations from the first half.

MIke Hollins continues to be an inspiration

Mike Hollins is a superhero. This isn’t news, but it always bears repeating. His touchdown at the end of the second quarter is just another sign of what an inspiration he is in every aspect of life.

Anthony Colandrea’s got that dawg in him

True freshman Anthony Colandrea is special. His 172 yards on 11-for-12 passing is all UVA could’ve asked for from Colandrea in Tony Muskett’s absence. His dime of a touchdown pass to Malik Washingtonn was an absolute beauty and gave an immediate look into how confident of a thrower he is.

But he didn’t stop there! He kept making smart plays with the football, never truly putting it in harm’s way, and then led his offense on a touchdown drive to close out the first 30 minutes. He completed five of six passes for 67 yards on that possession and clearly had command of the offense.

This has been a majorly impressive first start for a true freshman. If he continues to play like this, then the ‘Hoos can absolutely win this ball game.

Early errors prove costly

Virginia’s first offensive drive was one to forget. A Malachi Fields hold (which was admittedly suspect) erased a 74-yard run from Perris Jones on the Wahoos’ first play from scrimmage before a Brian Stevens hold on 3rd-and-11 canceled out Anthony Colandrea’s nine yard run, and a low snap from Ty Furnish on 3rd-and-21 meant Virginia’s punt team came trotting onto the field.

Things went from bad to worse from there with the Dukes blocking and recovering Daniel Sparks’ punt in the endzone. That put the score at 14-0 after only 7:14 had come off the clock in the first quarter.

UVA only committed two penalties against Tennessee in week one and didn’t turn the ball over once. Those marks being met and surpassed on the first offensive possession was far from ideal, and it dug a hole that the Cavaliers are still trying to climb out of. Otherwise, UVA has been better than JMU in this game. Had Fields avoided that hold or Sparks gotten off a clean punt this game would look far, far different.

Virginia’s run defense is legit

The ‘Hoos have stumped the Dukes in the running game in the first half. One 15-yard rush from JMU quarterback Jordan McCloud made the Dukes’ 16 runs for 56 yards (3.5 yards per carry) look far better. But UVA’s defensive line has gotten impressive and necessary penetration, and linebackers Kam Robinson, Stevie Bracey, and James Jackson are making tackles at the second level.

If they can keep that up and force JMU to throw the ball, then the Cavaliers will be in a good spot defensively.