Monday, September 26, 2011

weekend review

Well, that was disappointing.

You'll recall in the game preview that I dredged up some thoughts from the aftermath of the previous game in this home-and-home with Southern Miss: the game was the last straw, for me, of the Al Groh era.  I came to a similar conclusion this week.  I see the game this Saturday as having been lost for two reasons:

- Inferior quarterback play as compared to the opponent.
- Coaching.

There's nothing we can do about the quarterback thing right now.  Austin Davis is a very experienced senior who's in his fourth year of starting and is wiping Brett Favre out of the Southern Miss record books.  Mike Rocco has less than 12% of Austin Davis's career passing attempts.  We have nobody more experienced than Rocco.  There's nothing we can do about this quarterback gap except develop what we've got and wait a couple years.

Coaching is different.  I've become convinced that the game of football has passed by Jim Reid.  I'll stipulate to this: he's a 3-4 guy being asked to run a 4-3.  Part of the reason the scheme is so simple is probably because he's never worked the nuances of the 4-3 before.  This is not his fault; on the other hand, it doesn't make him any better for the job.  I simply think he's got no answer for the kind of offensive schemes that have developed in the past 15-20 years.  Reid is still coaching in the 1980s.

Southern Miss ran a quick-tempo spread-ish look at us, with quick-hitter passing routes that our very traditional defense was powerless to stop.  But the play that ended the Jim Reid era in my mind was the 3rd and 23 that Southern Miss converted.  Reid preaches that the defense must aggressively flow to the ball, and flow to the ball they did.  The players fixated on the ball, not their opponent, and lost track entirely of Tracy Lampley on the opposite side.  The defense flowed one way, the ball suddenly flew the other, and the only prayer at making a play was a hopeless attempt at an arm tackle.  That play is not especially complicated - it's the perfect nothing-to-lose call for that occasion - and I don't think it ever occurred to Jim Reid that such a play can exist.

For most of the rest of the day, the defensive playcalling was completely out of sorts.  It felt like Reid was playing Madden for the first time; having no idea what to call for a particular situation, often he said "screw it" and pushed the buttons for a blitz.  Larry Fedora coached circles around our defense all day long.

I don't know if we can get much better on defense under Reid.  I suppose it is premature to mentally close and lock the door on the Reid era the way I was forced to come to grips with the Groh era, but if Reid's UVA career were an injury report I've just downgraded my opinion from probable to doubtful.  I see the appeal of a pure football guy like him at practice and on the recruiting trail, but if you want to run the 4-3 defense, perhaps it's time to hire a 4-3 coach.

Other game observations:

- Despite the wired-in tendency of UVA fans to fire up quarterback controversies at the drop of a hat, I don't see one happening yet.  Mike Rocco had his worst day of the four that he's started, but I loathe the microwaveable attention span that it takes to demand he be replaced after four starts.  I mean, if you don't get that a first-time sophomore starter is going to have his ups and downs, then please, have some Ritalin or something.  David Watford, at times, looks pretty good - even to the point where sometimes you don't see much dropoff from Rocco.  And it's tempting to suggest (or demand) that London make the switch now.  I'll predict right now that Rocco starts against Idaho, though.  Rocco throws a more consistently accurate ball than does Watford, I suspect that more of the playbook is open to Rocco, and it's Rocco - as long as his midsection is feeling fine - that still gives us the best shot at winning.

Remember, too, that Marc Verica was booed off the field against North Carolina last year - in the third quarter after throwing much interceptions - and Rocco finished the game after a series or two from Ross Metheny.  Verica kept the starting job regardless and finished the season that way.  Given that precedent I don't expect Rocco to lose his job if he's healthy.

- Argh fake punt.  Argh another drop by a senior receiver.  (Not long after a terrific diving catch by said senior receiver.)  Argh extra tape on Kevin Parks's ankle.  Welcome to the frustrating wide world of fixing a busted program.  Consistency is not the hallmark of rebuilding.  Even the punting stank, which is something I don't expect out of Jimmy Howell.

- It is interesting that when Rocco left, Watford finished and Metheny stayed on the sidelines.  The depth chart this week no longer has an OR between the backups; this appears to essentially be confirmation of what we saw in the game.  That Watford is the backup, Metheny the third string.


All that said, let's get to the prediction review this week.  I think I probably did not very good.  I won't know til I'm done typing this out.

- UVA runs for more than 170 yards and more than five yards per carry, which were the numbers against UNC.
Hmmm (checking).....nope.  Hell, we barely scraped five yards a pass play.  17 yards short of my yardage prediction and way short on the average.  This is undoubtedly a big reason why we lost: the run game took as much of a step backwards as the quarterback.  Consistency dammit.

- Mike Rocco averages better than 13 yards per completion.

Holy fuck.  No.

- Jamal Woodyard carries for more than 100 yards.

I was 101 yards off, as Woodyard went backwards.  He had -1 yards on five carries.  Here is your Surprising Bright Spot of the game: our run defense crushed Southern Miss.  Take away the fake punt, which went for 31 yards, and Southern Miss averaged less than a yard a carry.  Consistency dammit.  By which I mean do that again to someone else.

- Cam Johnson picks up at least two sacks.

I can't do it.  I wanted to give myself this one but I can't.  I'll be rockin' a big oh-fer on this week's predictions but oh well.  Johnson picked up a sack in the third quarter, so I was halfway there.  Later, Southern Miss ran a zone-read; quarterback Davis kept it and was tackled - by Cam Johnson - behind the line of scrimmage....but not far enough that a loss of a full yard was credited.  Even if it had been, it's not really a sack since it was a running play.  Southern Miss's quick-hit offense prevented UVA from getting much pressure in Davis's face.

- Austin Davis's completion percentage is held to less than 55%.

64% is greater than 55%.

In going zero-for-the-week I drop to 12 for 31, and in score predictions I'm now 3-1 and 2-2 ATS.  Well, I told you I knew less about Southern Miss than most of our other opponents.


Maybe our recruits did better than we did this weekend.  It's time for Senior Seasons, where we find out.  First I must boast at you that the Blue Devils of my alma mater Grosse Pointe South defeated hated crosstown rival North for the second year in a row.  South is 4-1 and qualifies for the playoffs with two more wins in the next four games.

Now for what you care about:

Victory Christian 41, Mount Dora Bible 0: Playing quarterback, Demeitre Brim ran for two touchdowns and 159 yards.  VCA is now 2-2.  For those of you who take stock in such things, Brim commented on the article.  It's one of those fancy forward-thinking social-media-connected websites that, when you comment, you comment as your Facebook persona (which ensures that I will never comment on such websites) and Brim's picture is him in front of the large fancy V-sabre that I think is in the stadium offices and halls.  (Or the McCue Center, but I've never been to the latter.)  Take it how you will.

Franklin 21, Philipsburg 13: Two touchdowns for Kye Morgan; long runs of 80 and 67 yards.  Franklin is 2-1.

Worcester Academy 40, Phillips Exeter 27: Newest commit Canaan Severin had four catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.  WA is 1-0.

Bayside 50, Kempsville 0: Anthony Cooper had a pick-six on defense.  Bayside is 3-1.

Ocean Lakes 21, First Colonial 6: Eli Harold ran for all three touchdowns.  Ocean Lakes is 3-1.

Hermitage 14, Varina 2: Maurice Canady was forced into quarterback duty with Varina's quarterback suspended for quite some time.  Canady ran for 67 yards on 21 carries and was 5-for-19 passing.  Because of Canady's lack of QB experience, Varina ran only 9 different plays of the 65 in their playbook.  Hermitage is now 3-0; Varina, 2-1.

Buford 35, Lovett 7 (C.J. Moore - Buford is 6-0.)
DeMatha 27, Dunbar 19 (Michael Moore - DeMatha is 2-1.)
Malvern Prep 55, Penn Wood 7 (Michael Mooney - Malvern is 3-1.)
North Penn 28, Central Bucks South 14 (Matt Johns - CB South is 2-2.)
Montgomery 38, Stratford 7 (Kelvin Rainey - Stratford is 1-3.)
Salem 27, Green Run 13 (Mark Hall - Green Run is 1-3.)
Cox 17, Landstown 6 (Kyle Dockins - Landstown is 3-1.)

Thanks to rain delays, Hampton (Jamall Brown) and Woodside are playing as I type; it's halftime and Hampton is up 17-10.

Last weekend:

(Two of our recruits live in areas without daily newspaper coverage.  Greyson Lambert is from a pretty rural part of Georgia and Sean Karl is from Long Island.  I suppose Long Island's deal is that the New York Times and the tabloids don't condescend to bother with high school sports.  Anyway, Lambert's and Karl's results are on a one-week delay because the papers that cover them are published too late for this update.)

Anyway, after all that: Lambert had a bye last week, and Sean Karl and ESM lost to Comsewogue (making them 1-1) but I don't know the score because the only paper that has it is dickishly making you pay to read articles online.  Screw that business model, man.


Oh, and since this "weekend review" stuff is also meant to cover things that happened last week that didn't get mentioned: yes, I'm almighty surprised that the Big 12, despite also officially losing Texas A&M, continues to cling to its existence.  As a nine-member conference it is probably in fair shape, although that seems like a skinny number when everyone but the collapsing Big East has at least 12.

I wonder if the SEC will stay with 13?  The MAC has shown that it's not completely impossible to have a divisional setup with seven on one side and six on the other, but I just have a hard time imagining the SEC liking that as a long-term solution.  Even though nobody lives in the state of West Virginia, its flagship school still seems like the most likely choice to join the SEC eventually if they decide to go to 14.  They might not, though; it's not hard to imagine the SEC presidents deciding that a tortured schedule is preferable to diluting the money pool.

This conference merry-go-round was a lot more predictable it seemed like more teams would be jumping ship, but frankly now that things have "settled down" a bit it really only seems like now we're waiting for more shoes to drop.  The way things are now is untenable.  The Big East is either going to fall apart or add more schools; its football side can't survive with seven teams, and that's even assuming TCU makes it to the Big East in 2012.  The minutes from the meeting that followed the first ACC raid in 2003 are eight years old, but revealing; the big takeaway seems to be that the dynamic between the football and basketball schools is even riftier than I've been saying.  Or at least was; although I doubt much has changed.  How the Big East proceeds from here will have yet another domino effect, because it can't stay the way it is.


Matt said...

You and JHoo seem to have different views about Reid's performance last weekend. Do you have a response to JHoo's analysis in his 10 Things article? I ask this question here rather than the Sabre so you can answer honestly without being skewered for daring to disagree with JHoo. My own opinion is that looking at the coaching matchup play by play, as he does, is useful but shortsighted. I think the big mistakes (3rd and 23) matter more than whether the right defense was called on 2nd and 8 in the middle of the 2nd quarter. Moreover, we are seeing the same mistakes now for a season and a half. By the way, been reading the blog for awhile now. Great stuff!

Brendan said...

Oh, I think I could disagree with JHoo such that I don't get skewered ;)

Keep in mind I don't "go over the game film several times" and whatnot and everything else like he does, so it's fair to keep a healthy dose of respect for his opinion. That said, I disagree with his analysis that UVA had perhaps a 60/40 advantage in playcalling, simply because I think the majority of plays don't have a playcalling advantage. I would guess that on maybe half the plays in any given game - at most - is there some kind of a rock-paper-scissors playcalling advantage.

Further, I'd agree that you have to weight some plays - especially third downs - heavier than others. At least twice during that game, Southern Miss faced a third and medium-long - 3rd and 8, 3rd and 11, what have you - and I thought in my head "don't blitz don't blitz don't blitz." And we blitzed. And the USM playcall was one that would've ended up in 4th down if not for the blitz.

What JHoo didn't really address, though, is the scheme, and that's where I would disagree the most. I have no problem with a 4-3 get-to-the-ball kind of scheme, but Reid is A) old and B) not a 4-3 coach, and so I think the scheme has gaps that a smart guy like Fedora can exploit.

MoonPie said...

Just want to +1 Matt's comment above that your blog is really coming along. Pleas keep it up, as I don't have time or patience to fixate on this stuff like some of you guys do.

"microwaveable attention span" Love it.

Anonymous said...

One thing I sort of want to note is that Jim Reid, in his defense, hasn't had the type of athletes he'd like for his system. We have one good edge rusher right now, and the way he wants to attack off the 4-3, you need two. We really don't have a great interior push, although with Brathwaite/Hill next year, that might improve. Jenkins and Conrath are really solid guys, but solid is the best way to describe them.

At LB, even Steve Greer is more steady than a great fit, as you'd like a sideline to sideline guy that can add some thump in the middle. Reynolds has the athleticism, but still takes bad angles and is overall inconsistent at times.

As a side note, prior to going to Miami, I'm pretty sure Jim Reid was a 4-3 guy at his previous stops. Maybe my memory is slipping on that, but I thought he was a 4-3 guy at Richmond.

That said, I think a good coach plays to the type of talent that he has. With big ends like Snyder/Urban lining the two deep, occasionally taking advantage of their strength and running 2-gap up front isn't the worst idea, as it can allow Cam Johnson to be moved around (essentially flexing into 3-4 looks at times). I wouldn't mind seeing Henry Coley in there a bit more to give the LB unit a better size/athleticism combination outside of Walcott.

Matt said...

Look at that... an actual thread of comments. The blog really is maturing! Thanks for all the info. This is why I read these things, to expand my football IQ.

Brendan said...

Problem with the desire for Coley is that unfortunately he's injured seriously enough that Tucker Windle is on the depth chart as the #2 guy in the middle.

I definitely agree that we don't have the athletes that we need. There's a reason Aaron Taliaferro is slowly but surely giving way to Walcott. I can't wait til we get Kwontie Moore in here.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I know Coley's hurt. Don't know the severity of it, though. My hope is that, if he's healthy at the end of the year, that he gets some look outside.

I'm not the biggest Jim Reid fan, but the reality is, he really won't get a defense suited to his type of personnel until, say, 2013. Now, he can't have crap defenses before then, but he won't have the multiple edge rushers, the size and explosion inside, until then (assuming guys develop). Having Kwontie in there, assuming he develops, would be a big help, as he's bigger and more athletic than Steve.

I'd like to see Ausar on the field more. They don't have to trust him on base downs, but get him in there on pass rushing downs to have a good athlete opposite Cam.

Unfortunately, this year, and likely next year, our personnel is still going to be geared more towards an Al Groh defense (one of the shames of the Al Groh tenure, defensively, was that, at the end, he started to learn how to recruit for a 3-4 a bit better, by going after lesser rated guys who fit better (Conrath, Parr, Urban). Granted, his inability to develop a solid NT from Hoffman to Collins one good year was a big issue as well)).