Thursday, October 27, 2011

game preview: Miami

Date/Time: Thursday, October 27; 8:00


History against the Canes: 3-5

Last matchup: UVA 24, Miami 19; 10/30/10; Charlottesville

Last weekend: NCSt. 28, UVA 14; Miami 24, GT 7

Line: Miami by 13.5

Opposing blogs: The 7th Floor, Canespace

Injury report:



S Pablo Alvarez, LS Charlie Richards, WR E.J. Scott, WR Bobby Smith, DL Tyler Smith, WR Matt Snyder, LS Michael Terrell, S Joseph Williams


G Luke Bowanko, OT Sean Cascarano, LB Henry Coley, DE Cam Johnson, QB Michael Rocco, DE Billy Schautz



DL Luther Robinson, DL Shayon Green, DL Curtis Porter, WR Rashawn Scott, OL Jon Feliciano, DT Marcus Forston, LB Ramon Buchanan, TE Corey White, LB Erik Lichter, TE Blake Ayles

So: Miami time.  The time of year where I still can't quite get used to the fact that Miami is a regular, every-year opponent like Maryland, and NC State is not.  Maybe when we add Pittsburgh or Syracuse to the division, Miami will feel like an old familiar.  But probably not.  I need a few more years.  Anyway, on the plus side for this matchup, the team had no time to dwell on the ugly showing against NC State, and they go into a place that shouldn't be too hostile.  Miami's only been drawing like 45,000 a game, a crowd that will disappear into the cavernous spaces of the NFL stadium they borrow.  On the down side, this is Miami's first game of the season for which nobody is suspended, so all their talent will be brought to bear this week.

-- UVA run offense vs. Miami run defense

Top backs:
Perry Jones: 113 carries, 576 yards, 5.1 average
Kevin Parks: 74 carries, 386 yards, 5.2 average

UVA offense:
183.14 yards/game, 4.55 yards/attempt
45th of 120 (national), 4th of 12 (ACC)

Miami defense:
179.43 yards/game, 4.35 yards/attempt
74th of 120 (national), 8th of 12 (ACC)

Miami's stats don't impress, but I think they're largely the results of early-season upheaval.  Even without a passing game to back it up, Ohio State's run game was effective, and Kansas State did a real number on them.  But recent results have been much more impressive; Miami held UNC pretty well in check and crushed the Georgia Tech attack.  You thought we did a nice job on GT, but Miami allowed about half the yardage we did.

Meanwhile, what to make of the UVA run game?  Are we the bully that did whatever the hell we liked against GT?  Or the weakling that couldn't muster a peep against a similarly-talented NC State defense?  Unfortunately, I think the possibility exists that NC State exposed the game plan to beat us: eight men in the box and dare the quarterback to throw over their heads.  Watford was able to do that once, but otherwise, the running game was stifled and the passing game played into that scheme by not throwing the ball more than a few yards downfield.  If Miami does this, the run game isn't going to go anywhere.  Strong safety Vaughn Telemaque and linebacker Sean Spence are guys that can fly around the field.  And defensive tackle Darius Smith is the size of a Buick at 360 pounds, so there are obstacles whether you go left, right, or middle.

If I were Bill Lazor, I'd expect the Canes to try eight in the box, and counter with a blocking fullback or an extra tight end.  UNC, even though the run game was slowed down, was still able to slog its way to some decent yardage.  Spence plays on the weak side - the side normally with no tight end - and having him dealing with one might change up his usual look.

Unless there are a few different things up Lazor's sleeve, though, I'd say we'll have a tough time running the ball.  I don't think any of our backs will exceed their season averages.  Our second-worst performance of the year was 153 yards; I think we'll fall short of that.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Miami pass defense

Mike Rocco: 109/182, 59.9%; 1,186 yards, 4 TD, 8 INT; 6.52 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Kris Burd: 34 rec., 447 yards, 0 TD
Perry Jones: 27 rec., 236 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
224 yards/game, 6.1 yards/attempt
104th of 120 (national), 11th of 12 (ACC)

Miami defense:
199.1 yards/game, 7.1 yards/attempt
65th of 120 (national), 7th of 12 (ACC)

The stats again won't really tell the story, but in a good way this time; the per-attempt numbers are down partly because of the now-extinct quarterback platoon.  I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when Rocco has both hands on the reins.  (Hey.  Listen up.  I spelled that last word correctly; those of you who write "reigns," which is 90% of you, are wrong.  It refers to driving a horse and buggy, not reigning over a kingdom.  This has been a special Grammar Nazi bulletin; now, back to your programming.)

What is hopefully a complete unknown is what the coaches do have in store for Watford.  I say "hopefully" because I'm hoping it's not "have Watford go in every so often and run the play Rocco was going to run."  That's just a mini-platoon.  UVA tried one quarterback keeper last week, which was actually effective.  Maybe this week, roll him out of the pocket on a run-pass option.  Who knows?  If the answer is "not Miami" then that's a plus.

As for usual times, though, I think Rocco will look relatively good, as long as the pass rush is kept at bay.  That's a tough call; Marcus Robinson and fellow bookend Anthony Chickillo have combined for seven sacks, and Sean Spence blitzes with some regularity and has three sacks of his own.  Seven other players have collected one, too.  Miami can get after the quarterback and probably gets at least two sacks in this game.

On the flip side, however, their pass defense is awfully eh.  UVA should find room to attack the Miami cornerbacks, none of whom have gathered a single interception on the year.  I'll try again with my Tim Smith prediction: five catches for him, and five for Kris Burd while we're at it.  There's a chance here for our receivers to have a field day if Rocco can find them.  Because of that, and because of not getting pulled from the game at whimsical intervals, I think this is the day Rocco tops 250 yards.  He's only done it once so far - against UNC.

-- Miami run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Lamar Miller: 137 carries, 799 yards, 5.8 avg.
Mike James: 50 carries, 186 yards, 3.7 avg.

Miami offense:
154.14 yards/game, 4.51 yards/attempt
46th of 120 (national), 5th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
138.29 yards/game, 3.74 yards/attempt
46th of 120 (national), 4th of 12 (ACC)

If we're gonna win this game, it'll be the defensive effort that stands out.  Despite appearances, it wasn't actually that bad last week.

Lamar Miller is starting to earn national accolades for his running - it's looking like a 1,200 yard season for him.  He's a load to bring down.  But he can be stopped; Georgia Tech(!) held him to 3.4 a carry, and UNC shut him down completely.  (On the other hand, he went nuts on Virginia Tech, which otherwise has the second-best run defense in the league.)  Potentially problematic for Miami is that starting right tackle Jon Feliciano sprained his ankle last week and will miss the game.

Miller will get yards, there's no doubt about it.  You can pen him in for 18-20 carries, minimum, and 80+ yards without thinking too much about it.  The question is, how many carries to get to 80 or 100 yards?  If it takes til the fourth quarter for Miller to get to 80 yards, the defense has done its job and we might even be winning the game.  Lost in the angst of last week was that the defense did a solid job against the run.  I think they can do so again.  Let's put Miller down for 4.5 a carry, tops.

-- Miami pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Jacory Harris: 90/145, 62.1%; 1,244 yards, 12 TD, 4 INT; 8.58 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Travis Benjamin: 26 rec., 350 yards, 3 TD
Tommy Streeter: 21 rec., 421 yards, 5 TD

Miami offense:
212.7 yards/game, 8.4 yards/attempt
17th of 120 (national), 4th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
176 yards/game, 5.7 yards/attempt
8th of 120 (national), 1st of 12 (ACC)

I think we've reached a point in the season where respect and props must be given to the pass defense.  Today we've been talking about how stats don't tell the story; in this case, they do.  Another challenger approaches in the Miami offense; Jacory Harris is no longer Jake the Interceptosaurus, and Miami's got some good receivers.  Travis Benjamin is a wily veteran, and Tommy Streeter is huge - dude's 6-foot-5.

However, Miami might be underutilizing the passing game.  They're pretty heavily tilted toward the run, by about 57.5 to 42.5.  They generally eschew the dink and dunk - the passing game is designed to move them downfield quickly.  When they want to move in smaller chunks they hand off.

There's potential for that to play right into our hands.  Not requiring our linebackers to do any pass coverage is partly why the run defense was so successful against GT, and the secondary certainly proved it could handle receivers one on one.  The battle of the game could be Minnifield and Nicholson vs. Streeter and Benjamin.

Still: Harris.  Senior quarterback.  We've seen that movie before and it sucks.  I have an awful feeling that at the end of this game, we'll again be muttering to ourselves about the gap in quarterback play between seniors and sophomores.  That was the Southern Miss game in a nutshell.  I do believe we'll dirty up that interception record - remember, he has only four, and two came in his first game against Ohio State - but I also think Harris would like a measure of revenge after we dinged him up last season.  However many picks he'll throw, he'll throw more touchdowns.

-- Outlook

I tell you what, I almost talked myself into predicting a win here.  Miami's pass defense is exploitable, and our defense has earned the itself enough respect for me to say that they can have a good day themselves.  But you have to remember: this team beat UNC where we didn't, dominated Georgia Tech harder than we did, and totally shut down Ohio State.  They lost to Kansas State, which looked bad, but K-State is undefeated.  That's a pretty legit team.  Miami is talented and they're finally whole.  I think we can keep this respectable.  Last time we went down this way, we gave up 52 points - there won't be any repeat of that debacle.  It should be close enough to keep us interested, but ultimately I have a hard time calling this actually a win.

-- Prediction summary:

- Barring any big plays of 50 yards or more (which are sometimes just random occurrences) none of UVA's running backs exceed their season rushing averages.
- UVA runs for fewer than 153 yards total, giving us our second-worst day on the ground of the season.
- Miami gets at least two sacks.
- Kris Burd and Tim Smith get at least five catches each.
- Mike Rocco throws for over 250 yards.
- Lamar Miller gets less than 4.5 yards a carry.
- UVA picks off Jacory Harris at least once, but he throws more TDs than INTs anyway.

- Final score: Miami 21, UVA 16.

-- Rest of the ACC:

- NC State @ Florida State, 12:00 (I won't be feeling good about things if NC State gets murdered. We have to go to Tallahassee too.)
- Virginia Tech @ Duke, 12:30 (Prepare for a shootout.)
- Boston College @ Maryland, 3:00 (Atlantic Division cripple fight. Also BC's last real shot at a win.)
- Wake Forest @ North Carolina, 3:30 (Can't believe I'm saying this, but Wake needs this win in order to keep up in the Atlantic.)
- Clemson @ Georgia Tech, 8:00 (Groh-haters will enjoy this one.)


Anonymous said...

Well, would you look at what happened. Rocco gets some leash, and he stays consistent all game. Man ... that makes the 2 bad losses (I don't consider the UNC loss a bad loss due to their talent level) feel just downright crappy, as one wonders if Rocco would've been able to maintain his consistency, particularly against the Wolfpack, which might've been enough to push us forward.

Well, we still have a shot at a bowl. And who knows - the way they played tonight, if Rocco gets enough rope, wouldn't surprise me if we won another surprise game ... or two ... down the stretch. Then again, we felt real good after the Jackets game, so one game at a time.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic game all around. Go Hoos!

TBS said...

Congrats on the big win. You guys looked good, and it's always good to see the U go down. I don't know how you managed to faceplant vs. NCSU though. This was a battle to see which opponent that beat us (GT) was better. :) Hopefully we won't embarrass ourselves against Clemson tomorrow night.

Brendan said...

Thanks man. But now you know that NC State faceplant is gonna bug us the rest of the year. I'm just chalking it up to the inconsistencies of a young team.