Monday, September 10, 2012

weekend review

Back in 1999, Alabama had a kicker named Ryan Pflugner.  Besides the fact that my brain is calibrated to remember absurdly trivial details (and forget that I have homework due this week) there's no good reason for me to remember this, except for one: the 2000 Michigan-Alabama Orange Bowl.  I don't even remember who kicked for Michigan in that game.  But I remember Pflugner, because Michigan needed overtime to win that game and won it when Pflugner honked an extra point wide right.  Wasn't even blocked.  Just, oops.

The UVA side of me might now have its own Ryan Pflugner in the person of Sam Ficken, the poor bastard who Penn State depended on for points after its sputtering offense failed to muster any forward progress for most of Saturday afternoon.  Ficken failed in a way that only a small fraternity of fellow kickers can empathize with (oh hell, I'll come right out and say it: Ficken's kicking looked like my golfing), and Penn State's kicking game left 13 points in all on the field instead of putting them on the board.  Bill O'Brien will probably talk all week about how it wasn't an individual failure, the whole team could have done better, and then trot someone else out for placekicks next Saturday, because that is how coaches handle this.

So it's obviously natural to assume we only won because of that.  It's true, but it's just as true that you have to put the other team in position to make those mistakes.  You might call it an ugly game because the offense looked so out of sorts most of the time, but you couldn't have asked for a better performance out of the defense.  Most teams aren't going to be as offensively inept as Penn State, but that doesn't take away from the yeoman work done by the defense.

As a result, we sit here, 2-0 for the second straight year, and for the second straight year after a narrow, come-from-behind win against a Big Ten team, with a game-winning drive (OK, last year it was game-tying) engineered by Mike Rocco.  Fans are rightly concerned about the rest of the season what with that offensive line looking pretty offensive and affording us no running game whatsoever, but one thing people always do too much of is to assume the rest of the season will look like the most recent game.  Hence the college football tradition of hilarious overreaction to losses.  The possibility for improvement (or injury, or regression, or other teams getting better faster) is rarely considered.  Therefore we see a lot of gloomy predictions for the season.  I am unapolegetically optimistic at this point, despite all.

These next two games - Georgia Tech and TCU - are tough, but keep in mind I said I'd be OK if we won just one game in this three-game stretch, and we've accomplished that.  After that....

-- After TCU, we could easily see a four-game winning streak - Louisiana Tech, Duke, Maryland, and Wake Forest await. 
-- Wake, Miami (which is not a good team), Maryland, and UNC (which lost to Wake) are all at home. 
-- If Wake can beat UNC - this is the same Wake that beat Liberty by three - then so can we.
-- NC State isn't too remarkably impressive so far either.

There should be no reason that a repeat of last year's 8-4 season isn't achievable.  Achievable, I said, not guaranteed.  I won't be all kinds of surprised if we don't make it.  You shouldn't be all kinds of surprised if we do.

Short-form items:

-- That run-blocking was horrible, though.  When Penn State didn't stack the box, typically we ended up with no gain.  When they did, we went backwards.  The coaches will need to keep the possibility of moving Morgan Moses to guard in their back pocket, just in case.

-- Steve Greer: 15 tackles, two sacks.  Henry Coley: 11 tackles, one blocked kick.  Laroy Reynolds: 9 tackles.  And Daquan Romero looked decent when he was in.  The linebackers definitely ruled the day.  On both sides of the ball, mind you, but ours turned out just a little better.

-- Jake McGee looks like an absolute matchup nightmare.

-- Mike London needs to forget about this fascination with quarterback rotations.  It has yet to ever result in good things happening.  About the only useful thing gained from putting in Phillip Sims for two drives was to bring the hype train back to earth; Rocco wasn't having an awesome game, but Sims clearly isn't ready.  It's one thing to look really damn good when the game is in hand and there's no pressure and you've been set up for success, but it's a completely different story with the game on the line.

-- PSU's offensive line is pretty crummy for the most part, and they have one wide receiver worth a damn, and even that guy (Allen Robinson) had a really bad drop that cost them a ton.  And all that said, I'm still coming out encouraged by the pass rush and the play of the secondary.  We did have to dial up some blitzes in order to record any sacks, but Eli Harold and Ausar Walcott got into the backfield pretty effectively.  There is some solid tackling going on in the secondary, too; I like the fundamentals that I see out of Demetrious Nicholson and Anthony Harris in that respect.  Nicholson had a good day outside of getting torched on Robinson's touchdown, and kudos also to Drequan Hoskey for sticking with his assignment and ruining Penn State's flea-flicker. 

-- PSU would later score on that opening drive, but I wasn't actually too perturbed about that.  Penn State needed 17 plays to score.  No offense in the world can replicate that often enough to win.  What was perturbing was handing the ball right back, immediately.  Sure, we needed Sam Ficken to kick the ball everywhere but between the uprights for us to win, but PSU needed our help in the form of friendly turnovers in lousy field position in order to even put Ficken in position to miss.


Prediction summary time: let's see how I did this week.

-- UVA's run game isn't any better than last week's.  In retrospect, kind of a weak prediction.  True, but weak.  If I'd wanted to get really ballsy I'd have said the run game would've sucked giant anteater nuts and I'd still have been right.

-- On the flip side, Penn State is held to about 2.5 yards a carry.  We're going to take out their fake punt, because that's special teams and not strictly the run game, and what we get is 102 yards on 41 carries for an average of 2.49 yards per attempt.  Niiiiiiice.

-- Mike Rocco tops 300 yards again.  Well dammit, he might have if we hadn't seen at least three flat drops.  Adrian Gamble should've had that beautiful fade throw in the first quarter, although that will come with a little experience - that is, he'll learn that when the coverage is to the inside like that, the quarterback ain't throwing where the coverage is.  Dominique Terrell also stonehanded another perfect strike from Rocco.  As it is, I lose this one since Rocco totaled only 258 yards.

-- Darius Jennings goes for 100 yards and a touchdown.  Jennings didn't reach either milestone; if I'd said Jake McGee here I'd have given myself this one since McGee ended up with 99.  But one thing is coming clear regardless: Jennings is rapidly establishing himself as easily the team's most dependable wide receiver, and is on pace for a 900+ yard season.

-- McGloin completes 60% of his passes.  No.

-- But doesn't top 7 yards per attempt.  And yes; he scraped by at 5.6, which is another encouraging thing for our defense.

3-for-6 this week; add to my performance last week and I'm now 5-for-11.  Not completely terrible, but the goal is to be over 50%.  I predicted the win, yay me, but managed to predict a margin exactly the same as the spread, which makes me 2-0 straight up and 0-0-2 ATS.


It's late and you've been waiting patiently all day, so I'm cutting this one off at the knees and moving the Senior Seasons feature to tomorrow.  One last depth-chart note: no substantial changes this week, or changes of any kind really, except that the team announced that Pablo Alvarez is out for the year, which makes Anthony Cooper the backup at strong safety.  I'll get around to putting up the adjusted depth chart sometime before Thursday.


Anonymous said...

Anthony Cooper was a fascinating talent from Bayside, but unless Phelps or Harris falter, he's really stuck in a jam there at safety (and particularly if we add Blanding in a couple years).


I've thought about moving Moses inside, but the question is, who do you put outside and feel comfortable with? Kelby? Speaking of Kelby, I wonder if they would ponder him inside, giving them a bit more bulk.


Dominique Terrell looks a bit disappointing as of now. Here's hoping he can turn it around, but there looks to be a clear pecking order with Jennings/Smith topping the WR charts, and Terrell could get pushed by bigger targets for PT.

Terrell also had a bad false start.

All in all, 8 wins should still be the target for this club. If we can come up with a split of the next two, we should be well on our way. One of the slight positives, for us, in facing Georgia Tech is that the secondary concern and pass rush concerns just aren't as big because of their style of offense. That said, discipline and gap integrity is important, and I still think Laroy Reynolds is a concern in that regard.

On the flip side, their DL is big and could really cause problems for the interior OL. It's not hard to envision the game plan incorporating a lot of roll outs, but their athletic LB's are going to be a handful. Their corners are good too, so we need a WR to step up after Jennings/Smith. McGee could be critical - if he can attack Attaochu/Watts and the safeties, that could relieve some pressure in designed limited read looks.

It's a winnable game, but there's a lot of work to be done by the coaches and players this week.

Brendan said...

"I've thought about moving Moses inside, but the question is, who do you put outside and feel comfortable with?"

I think that question is partly why no move has been made yet. But for now, the answer is most likely Whitmire.