Pretend, for a minute, that it's not the case that Miami didn't bring their A game to Charlottesville on Saturday. (What we saw could charitably be called their D game. If the prof is in a forgiving mood.) Forget for a sec that Jacory Harris got knocked out of the game. Ignore for a bit the lingering issues that tried to poke their head around the curtain and spoil the show, and will try to do so again in future games.
Rebuilding programs need to put something on display that looks like rebuilding. Otherwise you're just chucking bricks on a pile and hoping they become a house. The USC game was nice, but it was still a loss and it was way after midnight and not really on TV and it was a loss. Take the opposite of every "but" in that last sentence and you get the Miami game. Here is the full list of people that will care, even in the not-distant future, about Miami's horrible coverage breakdown on the Phillips touchdown or the gift-wrapped short field UVA was given on the final Payne one:
That goes for Mike London's recruiting targets in May 2011, the history books, and anyone else interested in the words "Virginia 24, Miami 19."
Also, bowl games (ohhhhh no it's the forbidden word) don't care much about either degree of difficulty or level of effort put in by the opponent. They're looking for one thing, and it's a yes-or-no answer. I told you that getting to a bowl would now officially require an upset win over Miami or VT plus three straight over Duke, Maryland, and BC; part one is achieved. Part two is to put together a long winning streak. And because forgetting about all that stuff above doesn't make it go away, that'll be the last time I mention bowl games until and unless both Duke and Maryland fall victim to the mighty Virginia onslaught. In that case I'll probably talk about it incessantly for a week.
The short term big picture (what? yes.) however, is where the impact of the win hits hardest. It was plainly obvious what kind of an emotional investment Mike London - and by extension, his players - had in this game, and oh, what confidence must there be now in the locker room? In two weeks, to go from being humiliated and piling on the humiliation by getting chewed out at the 50-yard line, to being exalted and piling on the adulation at the 50-yard line. I wish we could play Duke tomorrow.
Stuff that didn't fit....
- UVA fans are such a fickle lot, no? Before the season there was nothing but adoration for Jim Reid. He's been successful in the state of Virginia, by God, and he's a tough old football dude that garners equal parts love and respect. Now there are already mucho calls for his firing. Piling on the love before the defense even plays a snap and then calling for his head because the defense didn't, apparently, play well enough in the biggest win of the last couple seasons; the logic is thoroughly baffling. To quote Mike Scott: smh. It goes to show one thing: if you are from the state of Virginia or have connections there, UVA fans will probably overrate you.
- And no, I can't say I'm happy with the defense up to this point of the season either, but what was wrong with yesterday? Let me make a few points for you:
1) In the first three quarters, Miami gathered just 253 yards.
2) During that time, they ended drives on a punt or on downs more often than on a turnover. I make this point to counter the notion that we got lucky with all those picks.
3) It wasn't luck that knocked Harris out of the game. It was John-Kevin Dolce making a play, and a hell of one at that, to beat his blocker and make a perfect tackle.
4) It wasn't luck that Chase Minnifield intercepted two passes, it was being in the right place at the right time and making athletic plays.
- P.S. this is why Dolce needs to be a pass-rush specialist.
- Anyone else catch Lou Holtz's wicked backhanded compliment? "Virginia played great physical football. They didn't play like Virginia." Say wha?
- Anyone else think you couldn't have better timing for an interception than the play directly following a montage of your interceptions?
- I am a prophet, by the way. What were my keys to the game? Intercept passes and favor the run on offense. Some numbers: 5 interceptions; 46 runs against 27 passes, or nearly twice as many runs as throws. I did forget "brass balls of steel on fourth down." That would've been a good one to throw in. The message London sent on 4th-and-3 by going for it was priceless; the fact that the Miami secondary forgot to cover the tight end helped it sink in.
- Attention Virginia fans who wanted to scrap Marc Verica and name a freshman the starting quarterback: Thank God that Mike London doesn't listen to you because we would not be talking about a win.
Seriously: Verica played a beautiful game. The coaches deserve a lot of credit for that with an intelligent game plan designed to minimize Verica's opportunities to screw up. (And an interception on 3rd-and-long only helped to drive this point home; that one and the one about please just run the ball and punt rather than have Verica try and make a high-risk play.) But Verica had a terrific game. He found his receivers in the clutch and put perfect passes on target when he had to. What else can you ask?
- I have a different DVR setup right now than I used to; one which doesn't allow downloading things straight from the DVR to the computer. (What is the matter with you, AT&T? Why can't I put what I record onto my computer like I can with TiVo? Why do you hate freedom?) This is why there's no YouTube awesomeness yet. I've been itching to be able to do that. But I ought to be able to find a workaround. So I promise this game will have highlights available at some point.
- Edit: now with new last bullet! Sandmeistr reminded me of the bullet I meant to have and forgot. The pitchout at the end of the game, and the fumble on the play, is the source of much heartache among fans, given the ugly possibility of a turnover and a golden chance for Miami to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. I don't have a problem with it.
Remember, Miami was out of timeouts; if we could have gone to the victory formation and knelt, we would have. But there was too much time, and a play that didn't burn about four or five seconds would have required a punt. So the coaches had to try and burn that extra time, and failing that, at least wanted a little yardage. What are the odds of a fumble on that play? About what the odds might be of a blocked punt, or a punt return TD, or a Hail Mary pass? Plenty of other doomsday scenarios, and the blocked punt would be a major concern; if I were Miami, I'd have sent the house without worrying about a roughing-the-kicker penalty. If Lazor just runs it up the gut like they did before, Miami's ready for it and the play doesn't kill the time it should.
Yes, we got bailed out by the offsides penalty, but Jones probably fumbled in part because they were offside.