Saturday, October 3, 2009

How Ya Like Us Now?

Dear ACC, And By Which I Mean Those Of You Who Follow The ACC For Fun, Or Perhaps Like Me It's Your Job To Blab Your Opinion At Everyone Else,

How's your weekend going? OK? Everything you asked for? Myself I'm doing alright. Maybe some of you are too, but the way I've heard it things aren't the way you were hoping. Sorry about that. You guys in Clemson and Chapel Hill probably have had better days, and there will be some other sad faces by the time today is done, quite possibly in Tallahassee the way things are going. Sorry to hear it.

Ha! No. That was a lie. I'm not sorry one bit. In last week's ACC Roundtable, our Terrapin rep Testudo Times apologized for Maryland's piss-poor showing in the non-conference schedule. Our has been worse, and I don't apologize at all. Was it a little annoying to the rest of you that the bottom fourth of the conference wasn't holding up its end of the bargain against the invaders from the rest of the country? Gee, that must have been some inconvenience, huh?

Well lemme tell ya something. September sucked. No matter how much you guys clucked your tongue and fretted over the ACC's reputation, you didn't have it as bad as it could have been. I'll tell you about bad. That might have been the worst September in UVA history since the Reagan administration. The first Reagan administration. Why should we have to apologize to you?

Because, admit it. You were happy to pile on. You thought it was funny when your rivals were losing to I-AA teams, and while you wished we weren't making the conference looked bad, you were just happy it wasn't you. I get it. I've been there too. I like my schadenfreude as much as anyone. The flip side of schadenfreude, though, is that when it's your turn, you better take care of business.

And if you thought the ACC looked bad before, hooooooboy you ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait'll you see what people say about this conference when two of the three teams you declared the bottom tier, wrote off, and told everyone you couldn't be responsible for how they represented the conference, when those teams sit atop their respective divisions. Undefeated. And you have only yourselves to blame. And We're. Not. Sorry. At. All.




Undefeated. It sounds so sweet, especially when it doesn't coincide with "also, winless." Will it last? No. Come now, let's not delude ourselves. Reality is still out there, lurking. Tomorrow, Al Groh's job will still be in jeopardy. Tomorrow, there will be a game next week, and one of the most dangerous kinds: a bad team with a good offense. There are eight games to play this season, and tomorrow, every single one of us will know that we'll certainly lose our share of them and probably lose more than we think is fair. Today? Today we won, and there's nothing like tomorrow and yesterday to remind us why today is so much fun.

Game balls go to every swingin' dick that has anything to do with the defense, from Al to Zane. It's hard to remember a better defensive performance. We've pitched some shutouts lately - two last year, one in 2007 - but I think you have to go back further than that to find a better all-around defensive game.

Let's get this part out of the way first: It helps that North Carolina is exactly what I've been telling you all this time. Their playbook is like, Tecmo Super Bowl creative, only smaller. They apparently have just three running plays: Left, Middle, and Right, and judging by our linebackers' ability to get at them, their signals are equally complex. They threw the ball downfield I think three times. They make Bo Schembechler look like Mike Leach. They have now scored 10 points in two games, and UNC fans right now ought to be howling for Butch Davis to try adding another page to their play-pamphlet, because right now the offense has fewer wrinkles than a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant's uniform.

That said, let's not take away from the defensive effort today. What went right? Everything:

- The tackling was just outstanding. No other word for it. Shaun Draughn is a guy I've praised in the past for his bullrushing style, and Ras-I Dowling - a cornerback - flattened him. There were no yards after contact today.

- The defensive line made T.J. Yates eat dirt all day long. Minnifield's interception was because Nate Collins made a mess of Yates's throw. Matt Conrath batted down three passes. Zane Parr made a name for himself.

- Al Groh dialed up the blitz at all the right times and kept UNC off-balance with different formations and excellent defensive playcalling in general.

- The secondary had a largely unheralded effort, but make no mistake they were absolutely outstanding. They had a blanket on every deep ball UNC threw, and not one play ever got behind them. You can look pretty good when the quarterback is being pressured, but the safeties were fantastic in run support and the corners didn't give Yates anything to throw at.

On offense? For every plus, there's a minus. UNC has one of the better defenses in the conference, and Robert Quinn is a fine player - that much is true. But he's not quite the player the announcers were talking up, and Landon Bradley had an absolutely brutal day going up against him. And he compounded that with a really dumb penalty that wiped out a big gain. Bradley was the glaring goat of the day; a close second would be the whole wide receiving corps, which spent the day not getting open unless UNC was - for some inexplicable reason - playing zone.

The rest of the offensive line picked it up in a big way, though, mainly in the run game. Mikell Simpson had running room all day. The spread-style shotgun handoff to Simpson worked, and worked, and worked, because both guards, Cabbell and Pasztor, were exploding holes in UNC's vaunted defensive line. Quinn might have had himself a day, but Marvin Austin, who's supposed to be the star of the unit, was anonymous.

So. Sewell was decent. Simpson was good. The offense did what it had to for the most part. (Except convert third downs.) Going forward, though, we're not going to score any points if the wide receivers can't keep defenses honest. We'll face worse defenses than this, but this is becoming a pattern. Five receptions by the receivers is awful - Mikell Simpson had four and Rashawn Jackson had four more. For today, we can let it go - the defense made everything OK. For the future, it has to get better. Has to.

I said it earlier, though: That's for tomorrow. Today, it's Carolina that has to figure things out. We're 1-0 in the only section of the standings that matter anymore, and it's going to stay that way for two weeks. Nothing like a win to make everything seem alright.

1 comment:

Bird said...

Dear UVA,

Please blow your load before October 24th. The curse must end.