Virginia Beat: The Blueprint

Anyone wanting to find out how to beat the University of Virginia at football need only watch Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech from start to finish.  Once is probably all you need.  It’s all I had the stomach for, anyway.  That was, according to some team historian or media intern or someone, the most points anyone had scored on the Hoos since 19-something.  (I’d go look up the actual year, but when the last century is involved, you get the point.)

So how did the Yellow Jackets get the drop on the Hoos so badly?  They hit every weak point.  Hard.  And repeatedly.  What are those, you ask?

– Inexperience on defense.   That comes down, essentially, to coaching, and I don’t mean to sound like the Virginia coaches were badly outcoached.  When you only have a week to prepare, and you’re also trying to coach up a bunch of sophomores in the secondary and a few new regulars on the defensive line (and in that vein, UVA was also missing its most experienced defensive lineman) you only have time for the basics of GT’s difficult offense.  Paul Johnson started with a new wrinkle (new to UVA, anyway) that surprised the defense, got a 70-yard touchdown out of it, and all day showed the Hoos looks they hadn’t prepared for.  While the UVA coaches were teaching their new faces how to defend a simple option pitch, GT’s were several steps ahead.

– No running game.  UVA fans wanted an improvement in the run game after an ineffective showing against Penn State in that area.  We should’ve been more specific.  A measly 102 yards as a combined effort from the running backs isn’t going to cut it either.  Last season, Perry Jones was not far off from having UVA’s first 1,000-yard rushing season in years; three games in, he still hasn’t even approached 100 yards, and has been bottled up to the tune of 29 yards on 13 carries in the last two games.  The offensive line is much more troublesome than even the pessimists had expected.  Georgia Tech had no problems keeping him under wraps, and the few yards that Kevin Parks got were largely meaningless.

– Poor quarterback play.  Mike Rocco is a very good quarterback, but like every college signal-caller not named Andrew Luck, he’s prone to imperfections, and they were all on display on Saturday.  His usual accuracy was nowhere to be found.  Without a running game, the UVA offense needs Rocco to be on point.  Rocco had little to do with the defense’s ineptitude, but his uninspired play certainly contributed to the ugliness of the final score.

The good news for UVA fans is that there’s nothing like giving up 56 points to focus the attention of the coaches on all that needs fixing.  If there’s anything else we or the coaches don’t know about by now, it’d come as a surprise.  It’s not likely UVA will give up another 56 points to any one opponent, especially ones with a more conventional approach to playing offense, and game preparation for the rest of the season can coincide with, instead of detract from, the development of young players at key positions.  Saturday’s game showed UVA’s opponents how to take advantage of the Cavaliers’ flaws, but the Cavaliers themselves will learn just as much.

Brendan’s bio: I’m just this guy … this ordinary Virginia graduate and fan who woke up one day realizing his opinions on everything UVA could no longer be contained in one space. Thus was born From Old Virginia, a labor of love where you can find obsessive opinionating on Virginia football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and whatever else when the mood strikes. And if that’s still not enough for you, go to the Twitster and follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for the dumb stuff that pops into my head when I’m watching the Hoos.

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