Tuesday, November 8, 2011

weekend review

UVA just beat Maryland, in College Park, to earn bowl eligibility and officially deny Maryland theirs, so I think you'd forgive me if I just rode the high from the weekend and posted a bunch of :)'s and left it at that.  But maybe not.

There are way too many impressive things from this weekend to list them one by one, so how about this: three more Hoos earned player of the week honors in the ACC, one of them being Austin Pasztor, which makes it three out of five starting offensive linemen (so far) that have done so this year. 

Rodney McLeod's three picks made him a no-brainer for defensive back, but honestly, I only liked one and a half of them.  Knock it down on fourth down, man!  McLeod's second pick actually nearly cost the Hoos; two plays later, Rocco threw a pick that gave Maryland the ball at the edge of the red zone.  If he'd have just knocked the ball to the ground, UVA gets the ball inside the 50 instead of their own 20, a 35-yard field position swing.  The third pick was also on fourth down, but in a crowd so batting the ball might have been a risky play; hence, one and a half.

Let's dig into the extensive list of predictions this week.

- UVA running backs total at least 40 carries.
They had exactly 40, but I probably would've cheated a little and counted David Watford's carries too.  Fortunately, I didn't need to.  Once again, Bill Lazor leaned on the run.

- Jones and Parks total at least 30.

They had 36, which qualifies me to start off 2-for-2.  Let me break off into story time here for a second: one thing I loved about growing up watching Michigan football was that Michigan always - always - had a workhorse running back they could rely on game in, game out to pile up the yardage.  Generally a single hoss.  There was Ricky Powers, Tyrone Wheatley, Touchdown Tim Biakabutuka, the A-Train, Anthony Thomas, Chris Perry, Mike Hart.  Perry once toted the ball 51 times in a game.  Running back is my favorite position on the field, and there's no fun quite like watching a dominant one do his thing.

UVA probably will never go with that strategy - in fact, the days of a single workhorse putting the team on his back like that are probably sliding slowly into oblivion - but what we're seeing now is close.  No, nobody's going to average 26 carries a game the way Perry did, but the workload handed these backs is workhorse stuff all the same, and it's just a treat and a half to watch them do their thing.  Plus, UVA is not Michigan and cannot click its heels together three times and make dominant running backs appear out of thin air; this platoon is a great thing for recruiting.  Perry Jones has a terrific shot at getting to 1,000 yards; the fact that he can do so without hogging the depth chart allows Mike London to tell recruits that they can have their cake and eat it too.  Playing time and stats are readily available regardless of the depth chart.  Having a single workhorse is a lot of fun, but it turns your RB recruiting into QB-style recruiting where you can only attract a really good player once every three years or so.  As long as there are this many carries to go around, UVA should be able to do very well for itself in picking up stars to carry the ball.

- All three backs exceed their season averages.

Jones did, but unfortunately for me here, Parks and Richardson did not.  We saw much less of Clifton Richardson than usual and I just chalk that up to Perry Jones having a really good day.

- UVA piles up at least 200 yards on the ground.
And then some - we got to 220.  Maryland's run defense was about as bad as advertised.

- Mike Rocco's season passing average after this game is over 7 yards per attempt.

Rocco had what I think anyone would say was his best game of the year.  His only season high was in yardage (he's put together better completion percentages, passer ratings, etc.) but when it comes down to body of work, this was Rocco's best of his career.  He looked like a seasoned vet and, for one game at least, shed the dreaded "game manager" label and progressed to controlling the game, not just managing it.  And yes, his season average is boosted up to 7.22.  Prior to the Miami game it was down at 6.52; yes, that three-quarters of a yard is a big deal.  UVA's passing attack has jumped from 104th in the country to 73rd in just two games.

- Rocco has about 20 pass attempts for about 170 yards.

That is 8.5 yards per attempt.  Actual stats: 36 attempts for 307 yards, which is about 8.53.  I do not get credit for the prediction because UVA went to the pass almost twice as much as I expected, but let the record show that Rocco played about exactly as well as I expected him to.  And look, Maryland's kinda crappy so don't let your expectations go overboard for when we play teams with defenses like FSU and VT, but averaging 8.53 yards an attempt would make you 11th in the country in that regard.

- In terms of average, C.J. Brown is Maryland's leading rusher.
Should I get credit for this one?  Brown averaged 12 per carry because his day consisted of taking off for a 25-yarder and one carry for -1, which if I remember right was just a fumble that he fell on.  I'll go ahead and say yes because it's plays exactly like that 25-yarder that I was afraid of here, and UVA bottled up Davin Meggett (a 42-yarder and then seven carries for 10 more) and Justus Pickett (didn't do anything much) which was basically what I figured would happen. 

- If Brown is held to less than 20 yards rushing, UVA wins by at least two touchdowns.
Well, he wasn't, and we did.  I'm gonna call this one void and not count it because the "if" wasn't met, and I'll count my blessings that it wasn't, because the reason it wasn't is that Randy Edsall did exactly what I didn't expect.  Brown just wasn't even used as a rushing threat.  That quarterback situation looks eerily like our Rocco/Watford platoon from pre-Miami times, right down to the coach claiming that Brown has certain skills they want to take advantage of, and then just running the same plays for both of them.  Danny O'Brien isn't a bad quarterback, and Maryland would be well-advised to drop the platoon or figure out some better way to utilize it.

- Tight end Matt Furstenburg leads Maryland in both receptions and yardage.

He did not, and wasn't even close.  Maryland's receivers were targeted extremely heavily, and I was gonna say they had a much better day than I expected, except that would've sounded silly after watching them drop O'Brien's throws like they were poisoned.

- Neither Maryland quarterback completes more than 50% of their passes.

Thanks partly to the aforementioned dropsies, this proved true.  Well.  OK, fine.  Mostly true.  Brown was 4-for-7.  Whatever.  The total tally was 20-of-43, which is what I'm gonna defer to here and give myself another point.  O'Brien was probably accurate enough to make me miss this one, but his receivers let him down too much, and catching the ball is half the battle.

- Maryland passes for less than 150 yards.
OK, maybe I was a little overenthusiastic on how well UVA might shut down the Maryland passing game.

- Official attendance is less than 40,000.
37,401.  It was neat how stocked full the visitor's section was and how spotty and barren was the rest of the joint.  Reports from people who attended said that Maryland fans spent their energy berating Edsall, not the visiting fans, which was a welcome change from the usual College Park atmosphere.  The profane jerk-asses don't tend to be the ones willing to sit in the cold watching a terrible team get killed; they'll wait for fair weather, both literally and figuratively.

Mike Rocco had his best week passing, and I had my best week predicting: tally them up and it's 7 for 11.  That brings me to 29-for-70, which looks bad because of the 2 and the 7, but it's 41%.  Getting both the outcome and the spread right gets me to 5-4 both ways.  In case you're wondering, winning 55% of your bets would make you rich if you could do it consistently, so all hail the 5-4 record.


A busy Senior Seasons week; not as many games going on, but, playoff brackets are getting set left and right.  Here's how your boys did this week:

Victory Christian 58, Santa Fe Catholic 20: Demeitre Brim ran for 227 yards and three scores, and - here's the part you might be more interested in - intercepted a pass as well.  Victory finishes the season 8-2 and district champions, and has a week off next week before the playoffs begin.

St. Joseph 37, Egg Harbor Township 0: Max Valles caught a touchdown pass.  St. Joe's finishes unbeaten at 8-0, and their defense with Valles and one-time UVA recruit Kaiwan Lewis has allowed an average of two points a game.

Franklin 41, Ridge 3: Kye Morgan had four rushing touchdowns and 139 yards, then sat for the second half in a rout.  Franklin finishes the season 6-2 and playoff-bound.

Central Bucks South 61, Central Bucks East 40: As you might expect in scoring 61 points, Matt Johns had a big day, with 291 yards passing and four touchdowns.  CB South is 7-3 and also headed to the playoffs.

Landstown 34, Kempsville 0: Kyle Dockins had four receptions and 101 yards.  Landstown is 8-2.

Ocean Lakes 21, Kellam 12: Eli Harold had five carries and five catches for a total of 158 yards and two touchdowns.  Ocean Lakes is 8-2.

Varina 42, Hanover 3: Maurice Canady went apeshit on Hanover; he carried for 148 yards and three touchdowns, threw for another, and returned an interception 70 yards for yet another.  Varina is 8-1.

DeMatha 21, Bishop McNamara 8 (Michael Moore; DeMatha is 6-3.)
Malvern Prep 17, Haverford School 14 (Michael Mooney; Malvern is 8-1.)
Brenham 28, Stratford 3 (Kelvin Rainey; Stratford is 6-4.)
Worcester Academy 28, Phillips Andover 6 (Canaan Severin; WA is 4-3.)
Hampton 13, Phoebus 10 (Jamall Brown; Hampton is 8-2.)
Green Run 30, Tallwood 0 (Mark Hall; Green Run is 5-5.)
Hermitage 51, Thomas Jefferson 0 (Andre Miles-Redmond; Hermitage is 9-0.)

I should add that two of those games in the "other" list look as run-of-the-mill as the others, but aren't; Hampton's win over Phoebus and Malvern's win over Haverford represent two very large rivalries in which this year's winner hadn't done so for quite a while.  For Hampton I think it's six years and for Malvern it's about the same.  Bravo to the UVA-bound winners.

Playoff situations are mostly lined up now.  Pretty much everyone is going, except for those listed last week.  Most are not favored even in their opening round games, though.  Even some teams that are usually top dog types are lower seeds.  Ocean Lakes, Landstown, and Bayside are all hitting the road.  Hampton will host Green Run next weekend, an elimination game between Jamall Brown and Mark Hall with Hampton heavily favored.  Meanwhile, DeMatha is also in the unfamiliar position of underdog; they'll face Gonzaga again (whom they've lost to two years running) with the winner probably getting whomped by undefeated Good Counsel.  Kelvin Rainey's Stratford team is in the playoffs as well, but likely to bow out in the first round.

Matt Johns and CB South, and Kye Morgan with Franklin, are in a little better position to start the playoffs, but nowhere near the bracket favorite, either.  However, there are some teams in strong position to win a state title.  St. Joseph with Max Valles is the one-seed in a three-team bracket - like Virginia, New Jersey separates the private schools.  They'll have a bye to face the winner of this week's game.  Norfolk Christian is also the one-seed in their VISAA four-team bracket.  Down in Georgia, Buford of course starts the playoffs next week as the heavy favorite.  And Victory Christian has to wait a week to find out their playoff position, but it should be solid.

Four teams are still in the regular season: Malvern Prep, which as a private school is also separate from Pennsylvania's public system; Worcester Academy, as Massachusetts gets kind of a late start; and the two Richmond-area teams, Varina and Hermitage.  Why in the hell Virginia operates that way, with the playoffs starting and some of its teams still in the regular season, is a mystery to me.


It seems the better the football team does, the less I say anything about soccer.  It didn't help that my inner soccer hooligan wanted to smash a pub window when I read that the men's team's only actual dependable scorer - Will Bates - tore his ACL a couple weeks ago.  But with postseason brackets being lined up, maybe I should get a small word in here.  The women are a regional 2 seed in the 64-team bracket and will start the tournament by hosting Long Island on Friday.  And tomorrow, the men take on GUESS WHO Wake Forest as the ACC 4 seed.  At this point I think it's written in the ACC bylaws that UVA shall play Wake Forest at all conceivable opportunities.  That's cool as long as we win.


Anonymous said...

"UVA is not Michigan and cannot click its heels together three times and make dominant running backs appear out of thin air"

Why can't we recruit dominant backs? Look at the 90s: Kirby, Barber, Jones and Womack. The 2000s teams had a lot of talent, too, but those players (Lundy, Pearman, Peerman, Snelling) rotated and/or were on teams with other glaring weaknesses, so they don't get "legend" status among us UVA fans. Consider Lundy -- dude set the ACC record for TDs despite platooning with Pearman and running into beat-Groh-with-9-man-fronts his last 1.5 years. Snelling was probably Groh's best RB, but dear goodness the coaching staff and the rest of the offense didn't help him at all.

No question we could have an effective workhorse back if we wanted to. Probably not a great strategy for Perry at maybe 180# though. Parks could probably do it; definitely Richardson.

Sandmeistr said...

I'm guessing we didn't see Richardson again until late in the 4th quarter because of his fumble. Huge (as it turned out temporary) momentum shift as a possible 14-3 lead turned into a 7-10 deficit.

Brendan said...

Problem is that all those Welsh-era backs you mentioned came from Virginia. All of them. All the Michigan backs I mentioned came from all around the country - including FUMA, right out of our backyard.

Plus, none of the Groh-era backs you mentioned were that workhorse type. They all platooned. They were talented for the most part but not talented enough to dominate the workload, whether or not Groh wanted them to.

Back then, in the Welsh era, our fence around the state was a little taller. Times have changed and VT is an actual competitor. We haven't built the program up to where we can even guarantee getting the talent from Virginia yet, let alone scouring the country for the perfect fit with the best talent. Look at Derrick Green. High four-star, maybe five-star junior RB from Hermitage who's got googly-eyes for Ohio State.

Anonymous said...

"They were talented for the most part but not talented enough to dominate the workload, whether or not Groh wanted them to."

You can't know this. None of us has inside knowledge as to Groh's offensive strategies. Really, I think if we did, our heads would explode. Maybe more to the point, Snelling was the "workhorse" back in 2006; Peerman was the "workhorse" back in 2007 until he got injured. We also had horrific offenses those years, which stifled production.

Rotating two equal guys makes some sense, which is maybe what we saw with Lundy/Pearman (again, I'm not going to guess at Groh's warped view of offensive football). And maybe you can draw the conclusion that having two equal guys at a program that recruits at our level means we don't have a guy talented enough to be "dominant." In that case, we've got a definitional issue is all.

As for recruiting, UVA's never had a "fence around the state" or anything resembling that. VPISU hasn't always been such big competition, but, by the mid-90s it was. Other local programs, especially UNC, have always recruited VA hard. Better IT means more access for the more remote big boys, like Michigan or the good SEC programs, but the big boys, collectively, have always had a toe in the pool.