Tuesday saw the release of the latest in EA Sports' NCAA Football franchise, NCAA 14. Having bought every version since 2008, this made Tuesday my favorite day of the year: better than my birthday, better than Christmas, better than the last day of exams. Of course, the first thing I did was check out our own Virginia Cavaliers. And by "check out," of course I mean "simulate the entire season and take notes to do a recap piece."
I simulated on the Xbox 360 version. I didn't mess with the default rosters at all, other than to move Phillip Sims off the QB two-deep (even though the game's default rosters have Watford starting anyway). Without further ado . . .
BYU (8/31) – W, 38-21
Our Hoos start the season in style with a big win over the visiting Cougars. David Watford shows why he earned the top spot under center: 12/21 passing for 206 yards and 2 TDs, plus 116 yards rushing and 2 more TDs on only 10 carries. Watford creates big plays with his arm and his feet, scoring on a 60-yard TD run and a 41-yard TD pass to Tim Smith (who finishes the day with five receptions for 123 yards and a TD). The Watford-to-Smith TD in the 3rd quarter makes the score 31-7 and puts the game out of reach. Daquan Romero leads the defense with eight tackles and a pick, while Eli Harold contributes with four tackles for loss and two sacks.
#6 Oregon (9/7) – L, 7-38
Honestly, I'd take this result in real life. But in the game, the first signs of youth and inconsistency have appeared. We see the flip side of the dominant Watford from last week: from Beast to Least. Watford's 9/24 performance through the air nets only 103 yards passing; he picks up another 43 yards on 11 carries, but coughs up two fumbles. The defense is overmatched by Oregon's hyperspeed attack, allowing 302 yards rushing. De'Anthony Thomas has a hand in all five Ducks scores: four on the ground and one through the air. Henry Coley notches a game-high 11 tackles, with Mark Hall recording 10 from his OLB spot.
VMI (9/21) – W, 38-22
After a bye week to recover after Oregon, the Hoos get back on the winning track against FCS opponent VMI. VMI opens the game with a safety and a touchdown to take a 9-0 lead after one quarter. But the Hoos come storming back and score 38 unanswered points, shutting down the Keydet attack for the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Beast Watford is back: 20/29, 229 yds, 3 TDs. Taquan Mizzell makes his first major impact of the season, rushing 12 times for 78 yards with a 41-yard kickoff return to his credit as well. Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd each record rushing TDs, while Jake McGee scores his first two of the season. Demetrious Nicholson and Maurice Canady each record an interception.
@ Pitt (9/28) – L, 13-34
The Hoos drop their first road game of the year to ACC newcomer Pittsburgh. This time it's Virginia's turn to feel the wrath of a big scoring run, surrendering 31 straight points to the Panthers. The offense musters only 256 total yards and gives away two turnovers. Watford goes only 5/13 for 70 yards and throws an interception; he's replaced by Greyson Lambert who performs admirably: 9/14, 97 yards and a TD. Nicholson gets his second straight game with a pick. But the defense gets a double-whammy of bad news: Jake Snyder breaks his foot and is lost for the season, and Justin Renfrow suffers broken ribs that sideline him for four weeks.
Ball State (10/5) – W, 37-31
An absolute barn-burner in the Cavaliers' return to Charlottesville. U.Va. jumps out to a 31-17 lead going into the 4th quarter. Ball State scores two TDs to tie it at 31, the second score coming with 2:30 left in the 4th. David Watford seals the win with a 5-yard TD run with 0:23 remaining, his third rushing TD of the game and fifth score overall. Tim Smith is Watford's main target for the day, totaling 6 receptions for 162 yards and 2 TDs.
@ Maryland (10/12) – L, 9-35
The on-again, off-again Hoos are off again. From the 1st quarter through the 3rd, Maryland scores 28 unanswered points and puts the game out of reach. Guess who had a shaky performance? 18/40 passing, 253 yards, 0 TD, 3 INTs. Mark Hall paces the defense with six total tackles, including two for losses. Ian Frye is perfect on his three FG attempts, including a long of 45 yards.
Duke (10/19) – W, 48-3
And now they're on again. Duke opens with a 1st quarter field goal; they won't score again. The Hoos respond well to some bad news suffered early in the game: Kevin Parks has a broken collarbone and won't play again this season. But Khalek Shepherd steps into the void with 4—count them, FOUR—touchdowns and 84 yards on 22 carries, plus a 25-yard punt return. Good Watford is back: 18/32 passing, 193 yards and a TD, plus 151 yards on 11 carries; he scores a rushing TD on an 88-yard run. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's aggressive style pays off as the defense tallies seven sacks: two from David Dean, two from Eli Harold and one more from Brent Urban.
Georgia Tech (10/26) – L, 23-35
The Hoos still can't string together back-to-back wins. The two teams play a very evenly matched game: the Yellow Jackets outgain the Cavaliers by only 43 yards and give up both of the game's two turnovers. But Virginia is only 27% on 3rd down conversions. When Tech converts its first drive of the 2nd half with a 45-yard rushing TD, the score is 28-10 and the Hoos are effectively done. Watford posts a strong performance in a losing effort: 13/23, 230 yards and a score, with 75 more yards on the ground. Shepherd continues to thrive as the backfield workhorse, notching 85 yards and a score. Dominique Terrell has a breakout performance: he's the only Wahoo to record a reception, but gets 13 of them for 230 yards and a score. Daquan Romero gets another interception, his second of the year.
Clemson (11/2) – L, 24-27 (OT)
For the first time, Virginia goes two straight weeks with the same result. Unfortunately, it's a heart-breaking loss in Charlottesville. The Hoos jump out to a 17-0 lead and still lead 17-7 at the half. But Clemson regains control in the second half and ties the game at 24 on a FG with 0:51 to play. The Cavs get the ball first in overtime and Ian Frye misses the FG attempt. Clemson hits its FG and leave Charlottesville with the win. Watford posts a subpar performance: 17/39, 141 yards, 1 TD and 3 picks. Shepherd stays on a roll with 151 yards on 32 carries, scoring twice. Romero and Canady each record interceptions, their third and second of the season, respectively.
@ #25 UNC-Chapel Hill (11/9) – W, 23-7
Virginia gets back to winning ways with a big road win in the South's Oldest Rivalry. UNCCH's offense never gets going after a 1st quarter TD: the Heels finish the day with a paltry 190 total yards, let down mostly by an aerial attack that only musters 62 yards for the game. Brandon Phelps is the standout performer for Virginia, scoring after returning an interception for 46 yards. Shepherd leads the offense with another strong performance: 31 carries, 132 yards and a score. Watford is something of a non-factor. The defense has a heck of a game. In addition to Phelps' pick-six, Nicholson grabs another interception, and Henry Coley and Demeitre Brim each clock two sacks.
@ #10 Miami (11/23) – L, 28-42
The Hoos profit from the extra preparation of a bye week, but it isn't enough to knock off a surprisingly strong Miami squad on the road. The big play does in the Cavaliers: Miami scores on a 46-yard rush, and passing TDs of 29, 33, and 50 yards. The Hoos do record a couple long scores of their own. Watford hits Tim Smith for a 39-yard TD and McGee for a 44-yard score; Darius Jennings hauls in a long pass for 58 yards as well. Miami's 249 yards on the ground help the Hurricanes control the pace and hold off a valiant Virginia effort.
#3 VPISU (11/30) – L, 14-35
Yea. Crap. Not only do we lose to That School Down 81 for the 10th straight time, but the Hokies finish the regular season 11-1, rise to #2 in the rankings, and win the Coastal Division. Jake McGee hauls in seven catches for 149 yards and a TD, including a 45-yard reception from Watford. Shepherd's hot streak seems to have fizzled as he only musters 60 yards on 18 carries. The Hoos finish 5-7, 2-6 in ACC play, and miss a bowl game for the second straight year.
FINAL VIRGINIA STATISTICS
D. Watford: 2,340 yards passing, 16 pass TD, 10 INT, QB Rating 116.6; 843 yards rushing, 5.3 yards per carry, 6 rush TD.
K. Shepherd: 750 yards rushing, 4 yards per carry, 9 rush TD; 541 kick return yards, 289 punt return yards.
K. Parks: 346 yards rushing, 4.6 yards per carry, 2 rush TD
T. Smith: 61 receptions, 896 yards receiving, 7 receiving TD
J. McGee: 37 receptions, 499 yards receiving, 6 receiving TD
D. Jennings: 33 receptions, 389 yards receiving, 3 receiving TD
D. Terrell: 31 receptions, 484 yards receiving, 1 receiving TD
H. Coley: 71 tackles, 9 TFL, 3 sacks
E. Harold: 50 tackles, 16 TFL, 5.5 sacks
D. Brim: 55 tackles, 15 TFL, 4.5 sacks
D. Romero: 65 tackles, 11 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 INTs; 2nd Team All-ACC
D. Nicholson: 60 tackles, 9 passes defended, 3 INTs
I. Frye: 19/22 FGs (86%), long of 50; 2nd Team All-ACC
A. Vozenilek: 40 yard average, 31.5 yard net average, 15 downed inside 20
FINAL ACC REGULAR SEASON STANDINGS
|FSU (10-2, 7-1)||VPISU (11-1, 8-0)|
|Syracuse (8-4, 5-3)||Miami (10-2, 6-2)|
|Maryland (8-4, 5-3)||Georgia Tech (8-4, 5-3)|
|Clemson (6-6, 4-4)||UNC-Chapel Hill (8-4, 4-4)|
|NC State (7-5, 3-5)||Pittsburgh (4-8, 2-6)|
|Boston College (6-6, 2-6)||VIRGINIA (5-7, 2-6)|
|Wake Forest (4-8, 1-7)||Duke (5-7, 2-6)|
Other Season Notes
FSU beats VPISU to win the ACC and play in the Orange Bowl, beating The American champs Cincinnati. VPISU plays in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and loses to Ole Miss in OT. Nebraska finishes the season 13-0, wins the B1G title, and QB Taylor Martinez wins the Heisman. They fall to SEC champs Alabama 37-36 in the BCS Title Game (because yea right Alabama and Nebraska each score 35+ points on one another).