Wednesday, September 8, 2010

i'm late to the party

Like, really late. Right, normally the blogpoll ballot and game impressions go up on Sunday, not Tuesday and Wednesday, but Delta Airlines doesn't have any planes that fly and every spare part in the world is in Boston, and never the airport I'm trying to fly out of, so there you go. Kids, here's a nickel's worth of free advice: if you like seven-hour delays without being offered so much as a meal voucher, fly Delta!

Anyway, the Richmond game. This is why I don't like playing I-AA opponents. If you schedule a patsy like, say, Akron, or San Jose State, you have a pretty good idea of the level of impressiveness that your win generates. I-AA is less predictable. So UVA beats Richmond 34-13 - is that like beating, say, Middle Tennessee 34-13? Or maybe someone even a little better like a crappy C-USA team? Or is that like letting the Sisters of the Poor score 13 on you?

In a vacuum, though, it was still a lot better than I expected. No, you probably shouldn't be up by just four at the half and then let them engineer a field-goal drive on the opening sequence of the second half. The football team that we want Mike London to build for us, the one that contends for ACC titles, would never let that happen. But this isn't that team. This is the one that just went 3-9 and lost to a worse I-AA team than Richmond is. So, for starters, not bad. Journey of a thousand miles and all that.

The big stars of the game, of course, are running backs Keith Payne and Perry Jones. If they kept a yards-after-contact-per-pound stat, Jones would lead the nation when we're done. If it turns out we have a whole stable of tailbacks who can break tackles like that, the running game will be productive no matter the opponent. Payne had nobody to blame but himself for his disappointing Groh-era career: for some reason he thought he was 175 pounds and should be tiptoeing through holes and moving east-west to find them. This is the Keith Payne that finally uses p=m*v to his advantage.

But you know what my favorite part of the game was? Payne dragging a cadre of Richmond defenders ranks, as does "Richmond: o-for-2 on 4th down," but lemme tell you about something we haven't had since Bill Musgrave was the OC: playcalling. Bill Lazor is an assassin. Richmond's only worth-a-damn defensive lineman (Martin Parker) goes down with a really bad-looking knee or something, and what does Lazor do? He breaks out the heavy guns and sends his 250-pound cannonball directly at the space left behind by Parker. Attacks the newly-opened weak spot in the defensive line with the biggest weapon he's got. That's cutthroat, man. I believe we finally have an OC that knows how to call plays. This guy is not from the Ron Prince school of playcalling where a draw play on 3rd-and-4 into the teeth of a run blitz is the signature move.

As for Verica, he was Verica. Very good game overall, but his lack of interceptions is more the product of Richmond being unable to take advantage of his bad throws rather than the lack of them. He did what Verica does: make some really hideous, what-are-you-thinking throws, and mixed them up with some really gorgeous passes with a touch that'd make Peyton Manning applaud. The bomb to Burd was a thing of beauty. (The deep threat is still basically missing from the arsenal, though. If Burd was a true deep threat he wouldn't have been bagged by the safety. That play was set up by the run game and Verica's excellent pump-fake.) The hope going forward is that, like on Saturday, the good throws will greatly outnumber the bad ones.

On defense, the obvious star of the game is Laroy Reynolds. Three full years of that at linebacker? Yes please. Reynolds was all over. Wish I could say the same about the other linebackers. Ausar Walcott might have had the kind of game that only coaches notice, but his name wasn't called even once during the broadcast, and he wasn't around the ball much. Aaron Taliaferro was more visible than Steve Greer, but not by a lot. I wonder if this is indicative of a more populous D-line that's being asked to make more plays and is doing so, or if it's because we've got a bunch of guys playing linebacker that haven't played a lot of linebacker.

Chase Minnifield also had a terrific game, with that INT and one picture-perfect tackle and generally being in the right place at the right time. That's about it for stars on the defensive side. But that's also about it for bad things to say. About the worst you can say about anyone in that game was that they weren't visible much, but not everyone can be. And though I waffle between calling the 70-yard touchdown run by Kendall Gaskins either unlucky or inexcusable, I lean toward the former. I mean srsly wut? How does that happen? Gaskins proved difficult to tackle most of the game, but I mean, the whole defense was at the ball, which is where you want them.

All in all, very satisfying. And a relief. The final lesson to be learned? This year doesn't have to be a painful 13-week struggle.

1 comment:

Bird said...

please explain the goofy-ass mascot that showed up at the game...