This week in the Virginia Cavaliers’ big 27-3 win over the Louisville Cardinals gave Wahoo fans just about everything they were hoping to see to instill a little bit of confidence as the Hoos open up ACC play and head into a treacherous stretch in the coming weeks. And while some things went really, really well, it still wasn’t quite a perfect game. So here’s what we saw go well and go not well.
What Went Well
Oh, I don’t know...the motherflippin defense?
Goodness gracious did the D come to play Saturday. Certainly there were some outstanding individual efforts (Charles Snowden, Juan Thornhill, Zane Zandier, I could go on) — but this whole unit deserves recognition for the smackdown they laid on the Cardinals. Virginia held Louisville’s two quarterbacks to QBRs of 10.9 and 14.4, to a total of 148 yards passing, and only 66 yards on the ground. It was a completely dominant performance, including forcing multiple turnovers, 4th down stops, and an ABSOLUTELY HUGE goal line stand as a response to the Hoos’ one major mistake. The defensive line got consistent pressure (leading to those turnovers), the secondary made some excellent plays, and regularly Virginia defenders were able to make important tackles on first contact.
The game was impressive statistically, of course, but in terms of the eye-test, I couldn’t have walked away more impressed. UVa looked like the dominant team — particularly on that side of the ball — and I think as fans, we truly saw the best example of the results of Bronco’s program building in year three. Charles Snowden was a three-star .8246 composite on 247 out of high school, enrolled early in 2017, and played in nine games as a freshman. Now as a sophomore, the relatively unheralded recruit looked like the most dominant player on the field yesterday. He fits perfectly into what Bronco is looking for in an OLB, made huge plays in both pass coverage and in rushing, and served as one of the clear examples on the field of Bronco’s system succeeding here in Charlottesville.
Has anyone used that yet? Dibs if not.
Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins was excellent overall against Louisville, when it was clear that Coach Bobby Petrino’s team was focused on stopping Jordan Ellis (and did so to a light-to-moderate level of success). He rushed for 78 yards, threw for 197 and two scores, and while he made a few mistakes including a poor throw/tipped INT - he responded with buckets of exceptional plays. Obviously hurdling two defenders is pretty exceptional, but the most impressive play for me Saturday was his touchdown pass to Joe Reed. Following a conversion to Hasise Dubois on third and long in the third quarter, the UVa offense seemed to have stalled on the Louisville side of the field (keeping in line with the frustrations for the offense in the first half). On first and second down, Perkins was bottled up for losses of two yards and the Hoos were looking at 3rd and 14 on the bad guy’s 44. Whereas most UVa teams of yore would have stalled in such a situation, Perkins responded to his mistake earlier in the quarter on third and long with the strike to Reed.
The touchdown made the score 20-3 and completely deflated the visiting team. If the Hoos end up punting in that situation, Louisville gets the ball back again only down ten and have plenty of momentum and opportunity to come back in the game. Instead, UVa’s leader makes a huge play and a huge statement: Virginia was going to win the game — and probably in dominant fashion. These types of plays, like the hurdles, invigorate the fans and players and really continue give us a glimpse of what this team can accomplish when they’re performing at their best.
What Didn’t Went Well
Special teams...wasn’t perfect?
Our Didn’t Went Wells are always going to sound a little too nitpicky after wins, but particularly after such dominating performances as yesterdays. I’m struggling here to come up with anything to feel down about. There were a couple of bumps in the road throughout the game; the biggest one was probably Perkins’ high throw (and a catch that Olamide Zaccheaus could still be expected to make) that lead to the one interception, but I feel the only real hand-wringing could be directed at the special teams. A.J. Mejia missed another field goal, but the coaching staff decided to switch in Hunter Pearson who proceeded to go 2-for-2 on FGs and 3-for-3 on extra points after touchdowns. Punt and kick coverage were totally fine...and the punt and kick returns were pretty light? While neither Joe Reed or Chuck Davis were able to produce much in the return game, they also avoided any errors. This absolutely a passing performance for the special teams unit - but we’ll consider it an example of a Didn’t Went as Well as Everything Else.