Thursday, September 8, 2011

game preview: Indiana

Date/Time: Saturday, September 10; 7:00

TV: Big Ten Network

History against the Hoosiers: 1-0

Last matchup: UVA 47, IU 7; 10/10/2009

Last week: UVA 40, W&M 3; Ball State 27, IU 20

Line: UVA by 7

Opposing blogs: The Crimson Quarry

Injury report: none

Going into Indiana, which UVA pretty unexpectedly stomped in the meeting in Charlottesville two years ago, UVA now has a chance to do something it hasn't done since 2005 and has only done twice in the 11 years since I jumped on the wagon: start the football season 2-0.  It's a really good chance: Indiana is coming off a loss to lowly Ball State.  To give you an idea of the oddsmakers' point of view, UVA is a 7-point favorite on the road after being an 8-point favorite last week at home - and the home team usually starts with a 3-point default advantage.

-- UVA run offense vs. IU run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 16 carries, 114 yards, 7.1 avg.
Perry Jones: 12 carries, 56 yards, 4.7 avg.

UVA offense:
240 yards/game; 5.11 yards/attempt; 35th of 120

IU defense:
210 yards/game; 4.57 yards/attempt; 92nd of 120

That's a small sample size, but it's probably big enough.  As with last week, we're looking at a big advantage here.  IU was mauled by Ball State on the ground; the nail in the coffin was a fourth-quarter drive that lasted 9:26; the drive was 80 yards, 74 of which came on the ground.

The problem is that IU's defensive line just isn't very good, and starting defensive end Darius Johnson missed the game, so the depth took a hit.  Javon Cornley played in his place, and he's 235 pounds.  Both ends of the line are undersized, actually, so once again, UVA ought to be able to find good running room on the edges.  And staying with the good news department: Ball State's main running backs are both the short and stocky type.  If you think the phrase "bowling ball back" sounds familiar, then you've heard me talk up Kevin Parks before.

One place where we should see a better opponent than last week is at linebacker; Jeff Thomas is a very good player up the middle.  Leon Beckum is small but fast.

Still, I expect a similar game plan to last week and that means establishing that run.  This could be even better if Austin Pasztor returns in force from whatever little nagging thing kept him from getting starters' minutes against W&M.  Anthony Mihota was impressive last week, which is something because his assignment was often W&M's only actual big guy on the line.  Somebody will go for 100 yards this week; I hesitate to say who, because this looks like a hot hand rotation until someone starts to become indispensible.  But the playcalling tilted pretty heavily toward the run last week with 47 attempts to 36 passes, and I think we stay run-heavy again.  It'll be a working formula.

-- UVA pass offense vs. IU pass defense

Mike Rocco: 21/29, 72.4% 174 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT, 6 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Tim Smith: 7 rec., 72 yds, 0 TD
Darius Jennings: 4 rec., 61 yds, 0 TD

UVA offense:
256 yards/game, 7.1 yards/attempt; 57th of 120

IU defense:
173 yards/game, 6.0 yards/attempt; 50th of 120

This is harder to read because of the game plan; both UVA and Ball State went conservative through the air last week.  Rocco was highly efficient but wasn't offered much of a chance to really air it out.  But it looks like that's an approach that works against Indiana; BSU's quarterback Keith Wenning went 23 for 29.

IU's pass rush was absolute garbage last week; Wenning was never sacked and generally not hurried.  This had a lot to do with Darius Johnson's absence; he led IU with 4.5 sacks last year.  That's not many, but nobody else on the IU line is much of a pass rush threat.  Cornerback Greg Heban recorded one pass defended; nobody else did, and no interceptions, either.  Heban is a former baseball player; it's not a good sign when your best member of the secondary came to school as a pitcher.

All this basically screams bend-but-don't-break, which Bill Lazor's game plan for Rocco is all about taking advantage of.  With a lousy secondary, I'm thinking IU won't be in much press coverage, leaving the door open for screens and underneath routes.  Where the wraps will be taken off a bit, I think, is the red zone.  UVA ran the ball almost exclusively there last week, and I think at least once, that'll change so Lazor can see Rocco's short-game chops when the other team isn't defending the whole field.  Also, there's this: IU reserve tight end Paul Phillips is Colter Phillips' younger brother.  If Colter is healthy (he left the W&M game with an injury) then I expect our coaches to give him the chance to score against his brother's team.

Outside the red zone, expect the efficiency attack to continue except for a couple downfield heaves just to keep things honest.  Rocco will again pass less than the team runs, but another +70% completion rate should be in the cards, which will keep the offense moving nicely.

-- IU run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Matt Perez: 12 carries, 41 yards, 3.4 avg.
Stephen Houston: 9 carries, 43 yards, 4.8 avg.

IU offense:
103 yds/game; 3.24 yds/attempt; 85th of 120

UVA defense:
48 yds/game; 2.40 yds/attempt; 26th of 120

IU's running game last year turned basically into trash when Darius Willis went down with knee surgery.  If he could ever get on the field, Willis would be the Hoosiers' featured back, but he missed the Ball State game serving a suspension.  Assuming he does play against UVA, Willis will probably get the lion's share of the carries, which will help IU's ground game look a lot better than it did last week.

Just about every running back IU will trot out weighs in at 220 pounds or more; however, new coach Kevin Wilson isn't necessarily the smashmouth type.  Wilson wants Indiana's offense to hurry, hurry, hurry, and UVA will have to be ready to defend with little rotation and often out of the base 4-3 set.  The IU O-line is very experienced, but it's taken a hodgepodgey path to get here and the depth chart was shaken up some when Wilson arrived.  It's experienced but beatable.

If Willis plays (and I assume he will), he and Houston should make a passable combo that will never break any big gains but could give the UVA defense trouble at times.  Learning a way new system the way IU is doing, though, leads to the occasional problem, too, so I don't see UVA's defense getting outmatched.

-- IU pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Edward Wright-Baker: 20/32, 62.5%, 272 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT, 8.5 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Dre Muhammad: 6 rec., 68 yds, 0 TD
Damarlo Belcher: 4 rec., 101 yds, 1 TD

IU offense:
272 yards/game, 8.5 yards/attempt; 34th of 120

UVA defense:
121 yards/game, 3.6 yards/attempt; 6th of 120

Time to see if last week's stellar showing was a mirage caused by piss-poor QB play from William & Mary, or if there's something to this, because this is where IU finally has some weapons.  Ben Chappell is not walking through that door, which is good for us because Chappell knew how to tear apart a defense.  Edward Wright-Baker looks at least passable at quarterback, and the Big Ten's leading receiver returns.

That'd be Damarlo Belcher, who's a threat all over the field, both short and deep.  Chase Minnifield covering Belcher should be an entertaining matchup.  Dre Muhammad is newish to the starting lineup, but he's a senior and looks dangerous too.  I expect Indiana to use the pass more heavily than the run this week, so this is the key matchup.

Chances are, too, that the passing game will cause our defense the most trouble.  Assuming "he was playing Ball State for chrissake" isn't the reason Wright-Baker looked pretty good last week, the Hoosiers should have a legitimate passing attack and give the UVA defense some problems.  I think we'll see them try some deep balls and connect on at least one.  Pass coverage is far from the strong suit of UVA's linebackers, so IU's multitude of receiver options and hurry-up game plan could well move the ball, and I think Wright-Baker goes for at least 250 yards - but UVA's veteran secondary should also pop Wright-Baker's interception cherry, too.


Probably pretty good.  Look: Ball State sucks.  They lost to Liberty last year.  LIBERTY.  Indiana was no doubt pretty uptight going into the game last week: their new head coach is a Type A guy to some kind of extreme and the game was being played in Indianapolis at the Colts' stadium.  Getting back onto familiar ground should relax them some, and you know how UVA can be on the road.  That said, screw it: that is not a good defense and IU is one-and-a-half dimensional on offense.  Because of IU's passing attack, UVA's competence on offense and IU's general awfulness on D, expect a high-scoring one.  Take the over, give the points, and watch UVA roll out of Bloomington with that elusive 2-0 record that they can carry into the Carolina game.

Prediction summary:

- At least one UVA running back goes over 100 yards.
- At least 55 percent of UVA's playcalls are runs.
- Mike Rocco will complete over 70% of his passes, most of which will again be short.
- UVA will score at least one touchdown through the air inside the red zone.
- If he's playing, Colter Phillips will be targeted in the red zone at least once, so he can score in front of his family and against his brother's team.

- IU's running backs will average between 4 and 5 yards a carry, but won't break any big ones.
- IU's playcalling split will be at least 55-45 pass and may lean towards 60-40.
- Edward Wright-Baker throws for 250+ yards, and at least one TD and one INT.

Final score: UVA 44, IU 23.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the staff let Rocco let a few rip. At some point, we have to give opponents the threat of a downfield attack, because against tougher ACC opponents, they'll stack the box and ask them to take it over.

Furthermore, I'm keeping an eye on 2013, the year I think UVA has a shot to push hard for a ACC title. At that point, we should have a veteran defense again (defensve front 4 should've gotten experience as starters next year, LB's should be talented and experienced with Kwontie perhaps manning the middle, and secondary should be solid). Offensively, the skill guys from these two classes will have gotten experience, and there should be enough TE options. OL is a concern, but by 2013, we hopefully have an established QB, and that means finding out whether Rocco can lead a charge, or if we have go to give PT to Watford more to see if he can be that guy.

As a side note, since we've burned Richardson's redshirt, I hope he gets utilized enough to make it worthwhile.