Monday, November 14, 2011

weekend review

There's a lot to like about this weekend.  Getting off the schneid against Duke is huge, of course.  Moving up on the bowl ladder and staying in position to shock the world with a miracle run to the division title - also huge.  A terrific defensive effort to get the hoops season started - very nice.  Just one of those all-around decent weekends.

Let's start with football, where UVA is 7-3.  You knew that, but I just wanted to type it so I could look at it.  For any definition of "expectations," they have been exceeded.  The rest of the season is about answering the question "by how much?"  I think we should take a pinky pledge right now: "I will of course be rooting like hell for UVA in the next two games, but I promise not to be too disappointed if they lose them both."  We did, after all, just beat two of the conference's three worst teams.  (Not a given, just ask NC State about how that Boston College game went, but regardless, it's easy to get carried away.)

And I wouldn't call this a convincing win, not 100%.  The defense gave up some big plays; I had to ask myself during the game why Corey Mosley kept biting on play-action when it had been pretty well proven that Duke's running game was less productive than a community college dropout.  Chase Minnifield appeared to have been burned on a deep throw to Conner Vernon, but his gesture to Mosley shortly after making the tackle clearly indicated he was expecting help over the top and didn't get it.  Big plays of 40 or more yards (and one bullshit-ass pass interference call) preceded every one of Duke's three touchdowns - or was the touchdown in the case of the first score.

Fortunately, UVA can make big plays too, and Minnifield's pick-six was crucial in that department.  That was brought on by Cam Johnson's physical abuse of Duke's left tackle; Johnson was thisclose to hauling Sean Renfree down for a sack.  Johnson was killing that left tackle - Takoby Cofield, I think - all day.  Renfree hurried the throw, threw it behind his receiver, and I screamed TOUCHDOWN before the ball even settled into Minnifield's hands.

Making the win even nicer was the fact that, apparently, Duke has decided to act out as the conference, uh, Dukeheads.  To put it in a SFW fashion.  I dunno, maybe it's just one player - here are some reports from fans and media types regarding the actions of one of Duke's guys:

-- "He is the classic punk modern day football player ....After the terrible pass interference call on the goal line, he eggs on the crowd for a couple of minutes. He catches one pass on a WR screen and falls
down in the fetal position so he doesn't get hit. Then tops it off by spearing Chase on the interception that didn't count."

-- "It was a Duke player that ran through our band, got in the faces of our players before the game until the refs had to chase him back to his sideline. It was the Duke wide receivers mouthing off that lit Chase Minnifield up."

-- "The sophomore wideout started jawing at UVa players from the moment he stepped on the field. He made it a point to taunt each Virginia player as they ran out of the tunnel with the exception of Cam Johnson. He side-stepped the senior defensive end before resuming his yapping …"

So many apologies, because I did a no-no and ganked that last one from behind a paywall, but it ought to be seen by as wide an audience as possible because it really rounds out the picture here.  All of this is the same MFer - and it happens to be the same MFer who used to be committed to UVA, and, thank the football gods, decommitted shortly before Signing Day 2009: Tyree Watkins.  As that story goes, Watkins made a lot of enemies on his official visit to UVA (which he took in January, after committing), mostly by - you guessed it - trash talking and generally being a punk.  Doing that on an official visit to future teammates is baffling.  It wouldn't surprise me if the coaches de-offered him after that visit.

So you can see maybe why Chase Minnifield took a swing at Duke's quarterback.  That bogus PI plus the yammering from the Dookies - and I'm sure Watkins wasn't the only loose cannon - tends to set one off.  The only complaint I have is that if our senior captain is going to get involved in the chippiness, at least let's not do it in a way that gets you suspended if the refs see you.  Fortunately, it apparently was Three Blind Refs week all across the ACC, so the only penalties and ejections were phantom ones.

A couple other names have to be mentioned before we mosey on to the other stuff:

- Max Milien, for being the team's leading receiver.  Big day for Milien, and he looked good.

- Perry Jones - they call him Superman, and one day I will have to photoshop a cape onto a picture of him taking that flying leap over the pile for his touchdown.  Jones did a lot of things that - well, I don't want to say they "don't show up on the stat sheet," because they involve adding yardage to the total.  But the stat sheet hides the fact that Jones was constantly, constantly turning negative yards into positive, and turning small positive gains into bigger ones.  Then we toss him out there for a punt return and he takes it back 21 yards.  The stat sheet shows a kind of run-of-the-mill day, nothing special, but Jones's work in keeping drives going just by getting three yards when it looked like minus-two, that was huge.

- Laroy Reynolds, for no other reason than the MANTACKLE he made for a TFL.  I don't even remember when, but I remember the hit.

- And finally, Matt Conrath for his third FG block of the season.  Special teams, man, I don't know what to make of them.  They are really bad, except for when they're really good.  Completely miserable blocking on the opening kickoff, a kickoff going out of bounds, Dominique Terrell's bonehead decision to get near a punt - special teams wasn't too cool, man, and it's had its ugly-ass moments all year.  But then Conrath busts through to get a paw on a kick to prevent Duke from taking advantage of Terrell's blunder and it's all good again.  And that had another effect on the game, or it should have: No doubt with that block in mind, Duke later went for it on fourth down inside the 10 and was stuffed by Mosley's pass breakup.  Which the refs then decided to cock up with the first bogus PI call.

Oh, and I started to write the next section and then I remembered this one, too: Conrath getting to Renfree on a handoff.  That is the single most awesome thing a defensive lineman can do, period, full stop, exclamation point but no question mark, end of discussion.  That is hilariously awesome when that happens.  It is bad-ass.  Conrath killed that play and then he killed the field goal.  Duke was forced to double-team him or he would have torn someone's ribcage out, which is part of the reason Cam Johnson was allowed to work Cofield over one-on-one.

Let's see how I did on the predictions.  Spoiler: not too well.

- Perry Jones has 20+ carries, 100+ rushing yards, and 4+ receptions.
Jones had the all-around do-everything day I expected, but he still fell just shy of each of these marks; 15 carries, 74 yards, and 3 catches.

- UVA's running attack will have another 200+ yard game.
Only 166 minus the kneeldown, but I feel gypped.  Lazor inexplicably went to the pass on several occasions when Duke had shown absolutely no inclination to stop the run.  Especially when it would've been advantageous to put a little bit of clock behind us.  Take four Rocco passes, turn them into runs, and we would've gotten 16 yards closer to that goal of 200 and added more plays to the total number that we ran besides.  I believe this.  Don't get me wrong: Lazor is a godsend and I do not look forward to the day when he gets an opportunity elsewhere.  I think, however, that he has a pattern of sometimes passing too much and abandoning the run too soon.  This is a damn good rushing team.  If we find an opponent that can't stop us, we ought to be handing off 50, 60 times a game til they can.

- Mike Rocco throws a Verica-style interception that makes you wonder what the hell he was looking at.


- Duke has less than 100 yards rushing.
Oh hell yes, and in a big way.  Duke ran for 34 yards.  OK, 47 if you take out what Renfree was credited for.  (But not the -3 "team" rush, because that was Conrath's handoff destruction.)  Duke's inability to run the ball at all, and their insistence on trying anyway, was the largest slice of the "why we won this game" pie chart.

- Donovan Varner hauls in at least six catches.
That he did as well, with seven.  I expected this because Minnifield was assigned Conner Vernon; it helped that Vernon left the game for a spell, and also that Varner was covered by a linebacker on his 64-yard touchdown sprint.  Not good times.

- Sean Renfree throws the ball at least 30 times, but for less than 250 yards.
Big plays got him to 303, which sucks for my prognostication because I was even allowing for a big play or two in that number.  Got to cut down on those big plays; however, it should be noted that Renfree had 145 yards on 35 "other" passes, so the pass defense wasn't the near-disaster that the stat sheet claims.

The spread that I was picking against gave Duke 10 points, which turned out to be the final margin, so my ATS record goes to 5-4-1 on the season with a push this week.  But I'm 6-4 overall, and 31-for-76 on the specific predictions.  I guess that's OK - it's a little shy of 41% - but I'm hoping to finish stronger, of course.


The basketball, that was nice too.  It's all about the defense.  Defense defense defense.  The UVA players were almost always perfectly positioned.  One thing that was nice as well: TV deals being what they are, usually the only UVA games I get to watch are against ACC opponents, or the top nonconference games - ACC/B1G Challenge, tournaments, what have you.  So the competition is usually at least equal, and often better.  It was a nice change for once to watch UVA in a game where they were clearly and obviously athletically superior.

That helped, for sure.  All the usual caveats apply about the level of competition.  SC State is one of the worst teams in one of the worst conferences; Winthrop, which is Tuesday's opponent, isn't much better.  Still, no matter how bad your opponent, you're doing something right when you're going on a 24-0 run that lasts seven minutes.  The Hoos didn't block a lot of shots and didn't get an absurd number of steals, but they were in front of every SC State shot all day long.  Any that went in were definitely earned.

Mike Scott was every bit the rebound hawk we expect, snagging 15 in way fewer minutes than he's gonna get in most games.  Joe Harris and KT Harrell provided the scoring.  I thought James Johnson looked pretty good; not perfect, gave up the baseline once or twice which is the first no-no in Bennett's defense, but good footwork in space and in getting out to the passing lanes and then back inside the pack line.  Assane Sene actually looks smooth with the ball in his hand, instead of the glass-handed ostrich he was as a sophomore.

It appears Paul Jesperson will redshirt, which was my guess, and it's disappointing that we didn't get to see any of Darion Atkins, who's been shut down for three games.  This is not the time you want to be suspended.  Bet he'd have played a solid 15 minutes.  Going four deep at the bigs is fine, for a while, but not if someone gets hurt or in foul trouble or something.  More time for JJ to prove himself, I guess, at least in the next two games, one of which is the most important of the season.


Our Senior Seasons feature is beginning to wind down, as a few of UVA's recruits have finished their seasons, and most others had their first round of the playoffs this week.  But this one was still a busy one, so here goes:

Buford 49, Temple 13: C.J. Moore had a scoop-and-score to get the scoring started in a first-round romp for Buford.  They play Jefferson County next week in the round of 16.

East Orange 21, Franklin 7: Kye Morgan had 11 carries for 50 yards in the loss; he had a 40-yarder but was otherwise pretty much bottled up.  Franklin's playoff run ends, although two weeks from now they have one more game which I guess is a scrimmage; it doesn't count for much.

Bayside 27, Woodside 21: Anthony Cooper caught two touchdowns in a mild upset.

Hampton 16, Green Run 12: Mark Hall had 7 catches for 138 yards, and Green Run came really close but couldn't quite pull off the big upset of Jamall Brown and Hampton.

Salem 62, Ocean Lakes 28: Eli Harold ran for two touchdowns and threw for another before leaving with an ankle injury** and Ocean Lakes got blown the #%&$ out afterwards.

Norfolk Christian 45, Isle of Wight 0: Wil Wahee and Mario Nixon each had a touchdown.  NCS goes for a state title next weekend.

Highland Springs 12, Varina 7: Maurice Canady ran for 131 yards and a touchdown, but was only 5-for-17 passing in a loss to end the regular season.

Gonzaga 28, DeMatha 27 (Michael Moore)
Central Bucks South 52, Plymouth-Whitemarsh 24 (Matt Johns)
Malvern Prep 23, Chestnut Hill Academy 0 (Michael Mooney; Malvern is 9-1.)
Houston Stratford 20, Willis 14 (Kelvin Rainey)
Cushing Academy 31, Worcester Academy 14 (Canaan Severin; WA is 4-4.)
Hermitage 38, Patrick Henry 14 (Andre Miles-Redmond; Hermitage is 10-0.)
Grassfield 17, Landstown 6 (Kyle Dockins)

That ends the seasons for Kye Morgan, Michael Moore, Mark Hall, Eli Harold, and Kyle Dockins.  Michael Mooney and Malvern clinched the Inter-Academic League championship; they have a game two weeks from now and don't have playoffs.  I think, but am not sure, that Canaan Severin's season also is over without playoffs.

Advancing this week were C.J. Moore, Matt Johns, Kelvin Rainey, Jamall Brown, Anthony Cooper, and the Norfolk Christian quartet.  Cooper and Bayside will play Salem, which just decisively knocked out the one team to beat them all season.  Hampton faces Norcom.  Additionally, Demeitre Brim, Max Valles, Andre Miles-Redmond, and Maurice Canady and Tyrell Chavis start their playoff runs next week.  Varina visits L.C. Bird, and Hermitage hosts Thomas Dale.  Valles and St. Joseph play one game for their state title next week; Norfolk Christian is also going for their state title too.


I couldn't find out anything else about that.  Hopefully that's not serious, but Harold's season would be over regardless and he's got all year to get that straightened out anyway.


Anonymous said...

I missed all that- I knew Chase Minnifield got up in Cutliffe's face, but I didn't know what any of it was about. I wish I knew more of what went on, can you enlighten me? Was it just that Duke WR being a jackhole?

Anonymous said...

A bit more fuel to add to the fire!