Friday, October 21, 2011

game preview: NC State

Date/Time: Saturday, October 22nd; 3:30


History against the Pack: 21-33-1

Last matchup: NCSt. 29, UVA 24; 10/27/07; Raleigh

Last weekend: UVA 24, GT 21; NCSt. bye

Line: UVA by 5.5

Opposing blogs: Riddick & Reynolds, Backing the Pack

Injury report:


S Pablo Alvarez, DE Diamonte Bailey, S Darius Lee, LS Charlie Richards, WR E.J. Scott, WR Bobby Smith, DL Tyler Smith, WR Matt Snyder, S Joseph Williams

OT Tim Cwalina, LS Michael Terrell

S Brian Oden

OG Luke Bowanko, LB Henry Coley, DE Cam Johnson, TE Jake McGee, RB Clifton Richardson, QB Michael Rocco

NC State:

CB Jarvis Byrd, LB Sterling Lucas, RB Mustafa Greene, FB Taylor Gentry, DE Jake Kahut, DE Jeff Rieskamp, DT Thomas Teal, RB Curtis Underwood


LB D.J. Green, DT J.R. Sweezy


You want to know how to make a week last f-o-r-e-v-e-r?  Put a big win at the beginning of it and a very winnable game at the end.  Mix in the fact that a win on Saturday would put UVA one win from being bowl eligible and this week has been torture.  This game is absolutely pivotal.  Win it and a bowl game is imminent - and there aren't many motivators quite like playing for bowl eligibility.  Lose it, and suddenly the postseason is in serious jeopardy.

-- UVA run game vs. NC State run defense

Top backs:
Perry Jones: 98 carries, 514 yards, 5.2 avg.
Kevin Parks: 67 carries, 368 yards, 5.5 avg.

UVA offense:
193 yards/game, 4.65 yards/attempt
37th of 120 (national), 4th of 12 (ACC)

NC State defense:
172.33 yards/game, 4.66 yards/attempt
88th of 120 (national), 9th of 12 (ACC)

Last week's story was run game, run game, run game.  UVA raised some eyebrows by gashing Georgia Tech for way much yardage, and it wasn't done with smoke and mirrors.  Pitchouts, runs off-tackle.... it was just basic offensive sets that worked and worked and never stopped working.

So?  So that's the recipe again this week.  NC State is practically playing with their backup defensive line (not to mention the questionable status of starting linebacker D.J. Green) and have been getting killed by opposing running backs week after week.  Cincinnati ran up 240 yards, and I wouldn't hold that against the Pack (Cincy's run offense is excellent overall) but for the other teams that've also gashed them.  Central Michigan's Paris Cotton has 296 yards on the season; 158 of them against NC State.  How about South Alabama's Kendall Houston - 117 yards on 6.5 per carry?  South Alabama!  Do you have a kid in preschool?  Congratulations - he's twice as old as the South Alabama football program!

NC State has, on their stat sheet, that ever-dangerous indicator of lousy defense: a safety leading the team in tackles.  In fact, their two starting safeties are two of the top three.  Middle linebacker Audie Cole is the other, and he's a good player, but he's not getting much help.  I look for Bill Lazor to operate a game plan similar to last week's.  The run-pass split was about 2-1; if things are going well, look for something similar here.  With Clifton Richardson a little bit nicked up, there won't be a huge need to play him, so Jones and Parks will get the bulk of the work again; Jones will get 120 yards and Parks 80.

-- UVA pass offense vs. NC State pass defense

Mike Rocco: 102/163, 62.6%; 1,150 yards, 3 TD, 8 INT; 7.06 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Kris Burd: 31 rec., 403 yards, 0 TD
Perry Jones: 27 rec., 236 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
240.5 yards/game, 6.6 yards/attempt
81st of 120 (national), 10th of 12 (ACC)

NC State defense:
239.8 yards/game, 7.7 yards/attempt
95th of 120 (national), 11th of 12 (ACC)

Matt Snyder is out, maybe for the season, with a broken foot.  That's the big news, inviting the question: who's the next man up?  Tim Smith was the "or" with Snyder on the depth chart, so this is his chance.  Or how about Colter Phillips, who has yet to catch a pass this year?

Whoever runs Snyder's routes will find a boom-or-bust defense awaiting them.  NC State gives up a ton of yardage, but they've also picked off 12 passes; only three teams in the country have more.  The primary culprit is cornerback David Amerson, who has six, and safety Brandan Bishop has three.  That's not good news for a quarterback that's still feeling his way around the football field.

So, again - the ground game.  Even though NC State's yardage numbers look lousy, I don't think the passing game will be used for much this week except to keep the run defense honest.  Rocco will improve his yardage average again, but another INT at some point looks inevitable.  With Amerson likely covering Burd, Tim Smith could have a breakout game, and I think I'll get crazy and call him for five catches, even with UVA keeping the passing game halfway under wraps.

-- NC State run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
James Washington: 92 carries, 409 yards, 4.4 avg.
Curtis Underwood, Jr.: 42 carries, 226 yards, 5.4 avg.

NC State offense:
116.17 yards/game, 3.43 yards/attempt
99th of 120 (national), 10th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
142.33 yards/game, 3.86 yards/attempt
51st of 120 (national), 4th of 12 (ACC)

 Let's be fair: NC State's run game isn't the complete disaster that it looks like.  The Cincinnati game was totally the shittiest thing ever witnessed; State's leading rusher was Underwood, with 6 yards on 6 carries.  All told, they went backwards 26 yards on the game.  Take that game away and NC State is a middling attack, not the barely-top-100 suckfest that the numbers show.

On the flip side, Underwood - the guy with the team's best average - will miss the game.  And the competition hasn't been too stiff.  NC State gashed Georgia Tech, of course - who hasn't? - and there's Liberty and South Alabama and so on.

Underwood's absence means James Washington will carry the load with Tony Creecy spelling him.  Break it down to its essence, and this is the reverse of last week's game.  The test will be if UVA can stop NC State's running attack with minimal manpower effort.  Neither back is a major home run threat; dependable, but not electric.

I don't expect us to do to the Pack what Cincy did, but if NC State wants to try and beat their head against a wall establishing the run, that should be fine with us.  We're going to be a lot happier watching Mike Glennon handing off than throwing.  I think Washington will get around 60 yards - let's say "under 75" - and ultimately the NC State running game will be a nonfactor either way.  Not bad, not good, just sort of there.

-- NC State pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Mike Glennon: 124/193, 64.2%; 1,486 yds, 16 TD, 4 INT; 7.7 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
James Washington: 23 rec., 204 yards, 0 TD
T.J. Graham: 21 rec., 484 yards, 4 TD

NC State offense:
258.7 yards/game, 7.5 yards/attempt
51st of 120 (national), 8th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
166.8 yards/game, 5.6 yards/attempt
10th of 120 (national), 1st of 12 (ACC)

If this game is going to be lost, this is where it'll happen.  Mike Glennon is an accurate thrower and he really spreads the ball around.  UVA won't be able to concentrate on shutting down any one player.  T.J. Graham is a major speedster and a threat to go deep; he'll be a major challenge for Chase Minnifield.  Washington is also to be watched out for in the passing game.

Glennon takes care of the ball and is possibly at his best in the red zone.  NC State will not line up anyone that isn't a threat to score a touchdown, so our linebackers need to stay honest and not get suckered in on play-action.  Part of the reason we did so well against GT was because the linebackers were allowed to basically forget about pass coverage.  Southern Miss is a good approximation of the kind of thing that can happen.  It's not the same style of attack, but they were able to do to us what NC State wants to do with their own passing attack.

I expect Glennon to rack up at least 250 yards here.  That's about his average, and I think he'll go over it, despite the great-looking stats that our pass defense puts up.  That said, I also think a lot of that will be out of necessity.  James of R&R spoke of wanting to focus more on establishing the running game, but I expect the circumstances of the game will force them to air it out more in the second half.  That could make for some scary moments, especially if T.J. Graham gets open deep, and limiting this kind of heart attack will make all the difference in the game if the defense is up to the task.

-- Outlook:

This week, I made a guest appearance on the Riddick & Reynolds podcast - you can check that out here and find out why I ain't ever goin' into a radio career** - and at least twice hammered home the following theme: stop fucking up after you do something good.  We beat a ranked Miami last year and then never won again.  We beat a top-five FSU team in 2005 and then laid a shit-egg the next week in Chapel Hill.  This is not a Groh thing or a London thing, it's a UVA thing.... but it's up to London to fix it.

This preview has been written with the assumption that we will.  NC State is a beat-up team with weaknesses that we've proven the ability to exploit.  They have a dangerous quarterback, which makes them a dangerous team, and I've said on these pages and on the podcast too: this UVA team is not good enough to beat anyone with a B effort.  This is the perfect opportunity to chase a few ghosts and take a big step toward an important goal.

**Like, have you ever heard Bill Simmons speak on a podcast or on the radio or something?  There's a reason he's a writer and not an announcer.  I'm no Bill Simmons with the pen, but I'm no Keith Jackson either.

-- Prediction summary:

- UVA owns the time of possession battle by about 34-26.
- If UVA wins the game, the run-pass split will be about 2-1 again.
- Perry Jones carries for about 120 yards and Kevin Parks carries for about 80.
- Clifton Richardson gets minimal or no carries as a precaution.
- Tim Smith catches at least five passes.
- James Washington carries for between 55 and 75 yards.
- Mike Glennon gets over 250 passing yards, the majority coming in the second half.

- Final score: UVA 29, NC State 21.

-- Rest of the ACC:

North Carolina @ Clemson, 12:00 (Clemson can put a chokehold on the Atlantic Division with a win.)
Wake Forest @ Duke, 12:30 (And believe it or not, Wake Forest can keep the pressure on with a win of their own. Yes, they still control their destiny.)
Boston College @ Virginia Tech, 3:00 (Oh God.)
Maryland @ Florida State, 3:30 (I don't root for FSU very often, but this is an annual exception.)
Georgia Tech @ Miami, 3:30 (This has the potential to make an ungodly mess of the Coastal race.)


Anonymous said...

Ugh. A very winnable game gone down the drain. That was ugly to watch. Defensive miscues and offensive inconsistency. Outside of his athleticism, I'm still not sure why so many people are intrigued with Watford, tbh. That said, Rocco isn't doing anything to force London's hand at it.

Anonymous said...

A couple hours later and that game still grates at me. I don't think he should've pulled Rocco and gone with the plan, but Rocco has to complete a pass or two after, instead the 0-fer.

The unwillingness to attack vertically enough allowed the Wolfpack defense to play more aggressively, IMO. Glennon didn't seem to get pressured that much - going to have to check the numbers but it sure didn't feel that way.

The QB situation has to be figured out. This isn't Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson - two veteran QB's. These are two kids that deserve a chance to prove themselves, and neither one is really being given that chance. I simply don't get the fascination with Watford, but honestly, giving Watford the keys to the kingdom is better than this mess. Otherwise, give Rocco a chance to lead. There were some bad bounces in game, but it does no one, not the QB, not the receivers, any good to have this rotation as the receivers have to adjust to different balls thrown at different trajectories, the offensive line has to adjust to 2 totally different QB's, and well, the QB's can't develop any rhythm.

Um ... Greyson Lambert, come on down.

Daniel A said...

I have no problem with London pulling Rocco after his atrocious 0-10 portion of the game. If you cannot hit Kris Burd or Tim Smith on a 10 yard crossing route sorry you shouldn't be a D1 QB. What I don't understand is why would you pull him after his long TD drive? I don't get why the coaching staff makes a change just for the sake of it.

My biggest issue is our vanilla defense. Outside the GT game where Jim Reid had two weeks and played a gimmicky D what game has he done a good job on? Reid gets no pressure basically plays a Cover 2 in every situation and seemingly refuses to blitz. He has absolutely no creativity and if NC St. decided to catch the ball in the first half this game would not have been close.

Big picture question. Bowl game chances look slim and next year I dont see us making a bowl game. So is year four make it or break it? Next year's schedule looks absolutely terrifying. PSU and TCU out of conference although both may be down this year are still miles ahead of us.

I kind of don't like how many red shirts we burned this year. Like why play guys like Phelps? Is he getting any meaningful reps? Wouldn't it be better if we saved his year. I look at Wake and how they redshirt everyone and do a decent job winning games. I wonder why we aren't doing the same. Kevin Parks redshirted and thats worked out well. Anecdotal evidence sure but a great example imho. Is there a list out of the true Freshman who have played and can't redshirt?

Brendan said...

I'll deal with year four when it's time. When we know for sure we're not going bowling this year or next. I have to say I don't understand the dichotomy of thinking here: writing off a bowl season based on one week's play (way too short term of thinking) and fretting about 2013 (way too long term of thinking.) Let's worry about 2011 for now.

Here are the freshmen who've played this year:

Thompson Brown
Anthony Harris
D.J. Hill
Darius Jennings
Kelby Johnson
Kameron Mack
Demetrious Nicholson
Brandon Phelps
Clifton Richardson
Daquan Romero
Dominique Terrell
David Watford

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't write off a bowl season because of one week's play. But given the schedule we have, I figured our most likely path to bowl eligibility (by far) was to beat NC State and Duke... and now that that path is gone, I'm not at all optimistic. (Of course as a fan I still hope.)

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, one very simple thing has to happen in the next year or London will likely be packing his bags in due time. And that is developing a D-1 worthy college QB. Groh was never able to get another one going after Hagans, and so far, London isn't doing a great job. It's possible neither guy is a consistent starter in D-1 ... but the way he's utilizing them, it's unfair to prematurely put that label on them.