Friday, October 19, 2012

game preview: Wake Forest

Date/Time: Saturday, October 20; 12:30


Record against the Deacons: 34-13

Last meeting: Wake 28, UVA 17; 11/8/08**, Winston-Salem

(**I never miss an opportunity to remind you that this is stupid and the fact that the ACC is doing nothing but exacerbating the situation is stupider.  My last football season as a student was 2003.  If you had told me that I would graduate, and then UVA would play Wake Forest twice between then and 2012, which is exactly what has happened, my jaw would've hit the floor.  Are we in the same conference or what?)

Last weekend: Md. 27, UVA 20; Wake Forest bye

Line: UVA by 3.5

Opposing blog: Blogger So Dear

Injury report:

Virginia -

S Pablo Alvarez, DT Marco Jones, WR Mario Nixon

DE Billy Schautz


OT Morgan Moses

DT Justin Renfrow, WR Tim Smith

Wake Forest -


Such is my appreciation for you readers that I just spent the afternoon watching the Tigers sweep the Yankees and win their 11th American League pennant, and I have put off getting shitty drunk and dancing naked in the streets just so I could write you this post semi-on-time.  (This is not to say that this is a sober post, mind you.  A number of posts over the years have been brought to you by the juice of the barley or some other fine liquid intoxicant.  This is one of them.)  Anyway, the Hoos host Wake Forest in the final game before a badly-needed bye week.  Silly me, I thought I could spend this bye week examining bowl possibilities.

-- UVA run offense vs. Wake run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 93 carries, 475 yards, 5.1 avg., 3 TDs
Perry Jones: 86 carries, 318 yards, 3.7 avg., 2 TDs

UVA offense:
139.57 yards/game, 4.04 yards/attempt
82nd of 124 (national), 7th of 12 (ACC)

Wake defense:
206.33 yards/game, 4.49 yards/attempt
84th of 124 (national), 9th of 12 (ACC)

I'm no coach, but it sure looks like Kevin Parks is taking over - if he hasn't taken over - the primary tailback role here.  The way things have gone at tailback this season, that's a good thing; Perry Jones has been weirdly inconsistent and indecisive, not at all what you'd expect after seeing him play last year.  Parks, on the other hand, has seized the opportunity.  He's been looking like the guy who changed the North Carolina high school record book to one page that just says KEVIN PARKS.  To top it off, lately he even looks like a better pass-catcher than Perry has.

Wake suspended a host of players for the Maryland game two weeks ago, but it looks like they'll be back, with the exception of a couple more dunderheads who were suspended this week.  By and large it won't affect anything, however.  Wake isn't really good at defending the run regardless.  They play a 3-4, but instead of asking their nose tackle (Nikita Whitlock) to gum up a bunch of space, they want him to use his excellent quickness to get into the backfield and force running backs outside, where the linebackers will theoretically go find them.  The problem this year is that Whitlock has been slowed by a bum ankle.  Normally his job is to line up right over the center and make the center guess which way he's going, but with that ankle, even if the center guesses wrong he can still recover and get a block on Whitlock.  This has turned Wake's run defense problematic.

It even offers a slight glimmer of hope that UVA's biggest issue can be fixed: that of suddenly turning incompetent inside the 20 and being utterly unable to gain one yard when one yard is needed.  Maybe, just maybe, if Whitlock's ankle is causing him problems, he can be blown off the ball, along with the rest of Wakes line - they use a very undersized group, especially for the 3-4.

Expect UVA to be able to at least move the ball.  That hasn't been the problem; you're well aware of how we've infamously outgained basically everyone we've played and still gotten our asses beat.  Another five yards a carry from Parks is a strong likelihood; the only I-A team that hasn't gashed Wake is Maryland, and Maryland is bringing a loaf of bread to a gunfight in this respect.  The real question is whether or not we'll once again be a living embodiment of Zeno's paradox, and get halfway to the end zone on every play.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Wake pass defense

Phillip Sims: 62/116, 53.4%; 747 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs; 6.44 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Darius Jennings: 26 rec., 370 yards, 1 TD
Perry Jones: 23 rec., 228 yards, 0 TDs

UVA offense:
283.6 yards/game, 7.1 yards/attempt
76th of 124 (national), 11th of 12 (ACC)

Wake defense:
216.0 yards/game, 7.2 yards/attempt
77th of 124 (national), 9th of 12 (ACC)

Ayyy.  If we're not already at the territory where if you have two quarterbacks you have none, we're moving rapidly toward it.  It was probably a gracious and merciful God that caused Khalek Shepherd to be just slightly late in looking for that first-down pass from Mike Rocco last week, because if he'd caught it he'd probably have scored.  And if he'd scored we might have won, and if Rocco had coolly and calmly driven UVA to a win after Phillip Sims spent most of the day floundering, the resulting quarterback controversy would have melted everyone's head.

This is the one area where a suspension might affect things; starting safety Duran Lowe is out.  However, he's replaced by Kenny Okoro, who's well-experienced in his own right, although he's managed to watch his playing time steadily decrease since his freshman year.

It looks as though Tim Smith will finally get back on the field.  Will it much matter?  I kind of doubt it, as I expect Smith to be eased back into it.  Unlike last week, Darius Jennings doesn't appear on the injury list, and should be at full speed, and E.J. Scott has of course been impressive.  So I don't think there'll be a big rush to toss Smith right back into the fire, but I do expect him to be targeted a little bit early just to get him back into the groove.

However, Sims must have a good day against a highly unremarkable pass defense.  Wake can be carved up by dinking down the field, which of course is Rocco's specialty and which Duke did almost perfectly to the Deacs.  Sims is less consistently accurate and doesn't have the timing down right.  He's proven a fast learner in certain areas - after obvious missed opportunities against Duke, he scrambled for a few yards against Maryland and at least one first down.  As Sims goes this weekend, so goes the offense.

-- Wake run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Josh Harris: 88 carries, 377 yards, 4.3 avg, 3 TDs
Deandre Martin: 57 carries, 279 yards, 4.9 avg., 5 TDs

Wake offense:
123.17 yards/game, 3.54 yards/attempt
99th of 124 (national), 9th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
154.43 yards/game, 4.36 yards/attempt
74th of 124 (national), 7th of 12 (ACC)

Last week's game finally freed me, for the most part, from having to always caveat the Georgia Tech game in an effort to point out why the run defense doesn't actually suck.  The stats are now a lot more normal-looking and better reflective of the actual effort being put forth here.

Wake's Josh Harris continues to be a boom-or-bust kind of back, though he's done a better job of smoothing out his production spikes this season and being more consistent.  The Deacs have also found a solid change of pace in redshirt freshman Deandre Martin, a big bruiser who's been used as a short-yardage back but is very capable of a workhorse role and is very hard to bring down in the open field.

Wake's offensive line is slowly coming together.  In the preseason I called it one of the biggest disaster units in the whole conference.  It's better than that, but it's still working toward respectability.  In later games it's been improving after having been completely throttled by Florida State (no surprise there.)

However, I think you have to at least nod your head appreciatively at the work done by the UVA defensive line.  It has missed Billy Schautz, but it's learned to cope without him, and Ausar Walcott and Eli Harold have been improving each game in his absence.  Wake will absolutely need a running game, as we'll see in the next segment, so this could well be the deciding factor.  If their backs can generate some life, and they've been able to do so in Wake's most recent games, they'll have an offense.  If our front seven can get another inspired game from guys like Laroy Reynolds (who played very well against Maryland despite the nonsense with the PF penalty) and the front four can continue to do some quality unsung work, Wake will struggle mightily.

-- Wake pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Tanner Price: 98/188, 52.1%; 1225 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INTs; 6.52 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Michael Campanaro: 38 rec., 429 yards, 3 TDs
Terence Davis: 18 rec., 280 yards, 1 TD

Wake offense:
210.2 yards/game, 6.6 yards/attempt
91st of 124 (national), 12 of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
223.0 yards/game, 6.9 yards/attempt
58th of 124 (national), 5th of 12 (ACC)

The first thing, and probably second through seventh things, that you need to know is this: no Campanaro.  Wake's leading (and only good) receiver has a broken hand and won't be playing.

That alters things immensely.  Campanaro had potential to be a nightmare.  Our safeties generally don't do well when assigned to do tricky things like help out the cornerbacks on one particular receiver.  (I'm not being sarcastic.  They're inexperienced, and get confused easily when their assignment is deep help on a Stefon Diggs type but the route patterns make it look like they should be doing something else.  That's why Diggs was so damn wide open that one time Hills threw him a wobbly can of corn to escape big-time trouble.  Our safety was playing it safe and hanging back, which given the circumstances I prefer that to the alternative.  Anyway, the point is that "keep an eye on this side of the field and defend the deepest route" is a simple assignment; "keep an eye on this side of the field, help out your corner on this really dangerous receiver but also don't let anything go behind you" is trickier than it sounds.)

Without Campanaro, there is nobody at all that will strike fear in anyone.  Starting TE Spencer Bishop has caught two passes all year.  They don't use him.  Campanaro has almost as many rushing attempts as their running backs have pass catches.  They don't use them much.  Tanner Price's completion percentage is so low partly because his receivers have a bad case of the dropsies.  Demetrious Nicholson is still a work in progress, but you can damn sure bet he's good enough to cover Terence Davis.  He and Brandon Terry comprise the biggest threats; Terry could sometimes be a problem because he's 6'5" and we got short DBs, but ultimately there's no need to overanalyze this: no Campanaro, no problem.

-- Outlook

I did promise on Monday that I would predict a loss regardless of what I wrote in the game preview.  Call me stupid, or a homer, or a Lions fan (nobody is better than a Lions fan at rationalizing why our crappy football team will be good) but I can't do that.  If the game is close, it could be a problem given the shattered wasteland that is our special teams.  And Wake is coming off a bye week, probably with a whole bunch of tricks up their sleeve.  But I'm going to hang my hat on the hopes that our run defense is as good as I think it is; that the Wake passing offense is as bad as it looks without their one legitimate receiving star; and that we'll finally be able to run the ball on every yard line between the goal lines, and not just from 20 to 20.  If we lose this one I swear every game prediction from here on out will be for a loss of a billion to three.

Also, I'm always forgetting to mention this, but I'll be using the Tweeta during the game to spit out random stuff.  Follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for 140-character reactions to the game.

-- Prediction summary:

-- Five yards a carry for Kevin Parks.
-- Parks both catches the most passes, and has the most carries, of any UVA back.  (Made easier, of course, if Perry Jones's concussion turns out to be a problem, but he wasn't on the injury report.)
-- Tim Smith, in his welcome-back party, does not catch many passes (three at most) but one is a big one.
-- Tanner Price completes fewer than 50% of his passes.
-- Brandon Terry, not Terence Davis, is Wake's leading receiver.

Final score: UVA 21, Wake 14

-- Rest of the ACC:

Virginia Tech @ Clemson, 12:00 - Somebody's division hopes are going to take a major hit.

Boston College @ Georgia Tech, 3:00 - The natives are restless in Atlanta; they'll go ballistic if they lose this one.

NC State @ Maryland, 3:30 - You'd've been slapped in the face if you suggested before the season that Maryland would lead their division and control their destiny in October.

North Carolina @ Duke, 7:00 - UNC has lost this game once since 1989, which is the last time it meant anything.  Now it's for Duke's bowl eligibility - yikes.

Florida State @ Miami, 8:00 - Wouldn't be surprised to see this one overrun with Noles fans.


Anonymous said...

I'm pissed off (as can be) about this team, about Coach London, and somewhat about the fans. Just because Sims final stat line doesn't look awful, people seem to be singing his praises a bit.

Yes, the big arm is great, but what I see is still a QB that just does not know the reads, the situation all that well. You take away the two bombs, and he was what 20-37 for 140-150 yards (too lazy to check right now). A fairly mediocre day.

That said, it isn't just the fan base. Coach London seems to have forgotten the basic thing about college sports - winning improves your chances of getting consistently good recruiting classes. I see no reasonable explanation for why we've wasted the last three weeks watching Sims waste the season. Rocco certainly didn't do himself any favors, but the same level of expectations should have been held for whoever was the starter - if you don't perform, you are out and someone else comes in.

This is just a piss awful season when it didn't have to be, and this goes on the head of the HC who just doesn't want to see what's obvious - Sims wasn't ready. Now, the bye week is here ... but now ... it is too late.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I saw someone make a good point - this team seems to have no heart. Part of it is the players. Part of it, though (along with the lack of discipline), IMO, is on London. By jerking around the QB situation and not recognizing his team's strengths and abilities, he ruined the season, and while 18-21 years old was a long time ago for me, I can understand a bunch of kids getting down on the mess that is this program.

Anonymous said...

Sims is still better than Rocco, did you guys completely forget how Rocco played against La Tech? The line didn't block worth shit for Sims today but when he had time he made good throws. I think the receivers weren't getting open probably in part because of London rotating them in and out way too often. Smith and Mcgee should have been in much more today. Morgan Moses is way too slow for tackle but i think he would be a very good guard.

Anonymous said...

Here's the problem - Sims isn't. He's a better raw talent than Rocco, but Rocco operated the offense better. Rocco understood the reads ... Rocco trusted his receivers and threw to spots, which is what the offense dictates. Sims isn't doing that, and while it looks good when it completes a bomb, what it does is it messes with timing of the offense.

In time, Sims may be a better QB. The bye week may help him. It's possible. We just pissed away three winnable games, though. A large chunk of it is on the Special Teams, no doubt. But the fan base is putting on some extremely rose-colored glasses when it fails to realize that, at least in the Duke and Maryland games, had a consistent short passing attack existed to complement the run game, we would've won those games.

Bill Lazor is taking a beating from the fan base this year. There are some things I wish he had done better, but in his defense, the schematics of this offense, the X's and O's of the offense, are good. This is, in terms of fundamentals as to what the offense seeks to do and accomplish, a good offense by design. Now, he was a bit slow in reacting to the slow start of the run game earlier in the year, and he didn't anticipate the loss of Mihota being that big (or so it seems), but when you put guys in a position to succeed, sometimes, guys have to make the plays. There's a lot of bitching and moaning from the fan base about how the offense has been simplified the last few weeks ... but HE HAD TO!! Sims didn't know the offense. What the heck was Lazor supposed to do? (People should go back and compare the tape of last year, and the tape of Rocco's starts this year in regards to the offensive schemes and plays ... they are far different than with Sims).