And so the line is crossed. At some point on Saturday you all came to the same conclusion. Maybe at different times, but you all ended up at the same place: the season is over. Mathematically speaking, perhaps not, but the amount of denial it takes to not accept the idea of a postseason without UVA is seismically large.
The slot machine that is this football program is easily the most maddening in recent memory - certainly, at least, with the five years covered by this blog. Will we get good or bad pass blocking this week? Good or bad run blocking? Will the quarterback complete passes or not? Existent or nonexistent pass rush? Horrible special teams, or really fucking horrible special teams? At least this last one is easy to predict. The rest are a prognosticator's nightmare. It's not that I suck at predicting what'll happen in any one particular game; it's just that past performance with this team is completely worthless as an indicator of future results. Oh, so we have a pair of offensive tackles with major NFL potential? Just for fun, how about in this game, they completely blow? Mike Rocco has been slowly regressing as a passer and looks more like Marc Verica and less like Matt Schaub with every throw? How about in this game, he directs an 89-yard touchdown drive (starting with 2nd and 18) in less than two minutes? Awesome! One of these weeks, the slot machine will turn up a winning combo and some future opponent is gonna be really pissed off we wrecked their chances at the ACCCG, but otherwise, this team has no identity, nothing it does good consistently, and is prone to screwing up in all facets of the game at any time.
Some more than others. Let's take special teams for an example, which has hit my breaking point of impatience. I am done with this crap. I went through the play by play and counted 28 special teams plays that were something other than an extra point. The only actual good plays that were made were mostly the punter, Alec Vozenilek, who averaged 48 yards a kick if you take away the very ill-timed shank at the end. That's pretty good. Then I counted three penalties, a blocked field goal, and two long kick returns for Maryland, one for a touchdown. As with every week, we got nothing worth talking about on returns.
The penalties are undisciplined shit and have been happening every week. The touchdown was undisciplined shit - failure of the most simple task, which is to stay in your lane and run through the play. The blocked field goal was a nice play by the Maryland DT, but clearly avoidable since the result was to pull Drew Jarrett and put in Ian Frye - Jarrett's kick was low. There's no getting around it: the special teams lost us this game. The terrible pass blocking was a close second - seriously, both Moses and Aboushi had just about the worst game of their careers and probably graded out in pass protection at minus a billion percent. But the special teams was worse. Worse because it was undisciplined bullshit for which being freshmen and such is not an excuse. (Especially not in Zach Swanson's case, who is a redshirt sophomore and should know better than to commit the brainless personal foul that killed every ounce of momentum we had scraped together up to that point.)
I don't lightly call for the jobs of coaches - Lord knows I probably stick by them for too long - but that time has come: UVA cannot afford one more week of Anthony Poindexter's totally ineffective coaching of the special teams. Dex is probably not a good coach in general, given the number of different positions he's been bounced around to. Vincent Brown was added to the special teams duties last year in an effort to help Poindexter, because special teams also sucked in 2010, and obviously that's worked about as well as Professor Echols's decision to blow up the Rotunda. London needs to seriously evaluate whether Poindexter's recruiting chops are a net positive compared to his coaching. Bringing talent into the program is cool and all, but Dex's special teams just cost us the Maryland game, which besides losing to effing Maryland is a huge blow to recruiting in Dex's own geographical assignment (he's responsible for NOVA and Maryland.)
If the answer is no, we can't afford to lose his recruiting skills, then it's still time for a staff shuffle, starting with the special teams, which should be under the purview of the head coach for the rest of the year. That's the level of attention they need, and that's the way to send the message to the brickheaded dumbasses who think it's a good idea to throw a block in the back while our runner cruises out of bounds - or throw post-whistle shoves on routine field goals - that their mistakes are being watched. Christ, even the one really good, applaudable play on kick cover was a last-second, shoestring, touchdown saving tackle that wouldn't have been necessary if we could cover kicks.
We can kill two birds with one stone if the staff is reshuffled, even if Dex is retained. Move Dex to RBs and give the safeties over to Chip West, who already coaches the corners. Give the QBs and WRs to Mike Faragalli, who's done both before. Bill Lazor likes to be on the sidelines during the game so he can coach the QBs, but he's the OC - he needs to be in the booth. It'll improve his playcalling, which is a little goofy at times. (Although, I don't fault him for the screen passes on third and long. Shit, if the O-line is going to let pass rushers have free shots at our quarterback, might as well do it on purpose and get it out of the way faster. There was some running room there and those screens damn near worked.)
Further reactions in brief:
-- Where the heck did the run game come from all of a sudden? As bullshit as that game was, you have to give a huge tip of the cap to the run-blocking, which only made the game even more bullshit really because we really should win with that kind of performance. Also, Kevin Parks needs to start eating into Perry Jones's carries.
-- Yes, we are past the point of no return at quarterback. It's Sims or bust, in the hope that he can figure out the timing with more playing time. I said it here and I said it on the messageboards and I said it for weeks: judging Phillip Sims based on garbage time without the game on his shoulders and with the coaches purposely setting him up for success was stupid. Expecting him to just come out slinging and hitting every receiver in sight was stupid. But it's too late to go back, now. Consider Rocco a very experienced insurance policy.
-- Yes, it's also way too damn early to be calling for the head coach's job or giving up on the London era, even as I'm so damn done with the special teams coaching. But certain troubling examples are starting to show. Consider: Laroy Reynolds (a senior, mind you), in pass coverage on the sidelines, draws a bead on his assignment and zeroes in so hard he fails to notice the ball was horrendously overthrown. If he's able to catch it, with his speed it's probably six points and a huge momentum booster, what with being down two touchdowns at the time. Instead he laser-focuses on the big hit, and delivers it - way, way late. Everyone on the planet could see a flag coming. Everyone, that is, except Reynolds and Mike London. The former sits for a play and the latter bitches at the refs. Well, Reynolds doesn't exactly "sit" - he stalks the sidelines loudly bemoaning the unfairness of the obvious flag. I don't hold with calling for a coach's job two and a half seasons into his tenure, but can you blame anyone for being irritated at the coaching staff for putting more energy into complaining at the ref than actually coaching? Informing Reynolds to shut up and pay attention to the ball would've been infinitely more productive.
-- October baseball is a pleasant and welcome distraction from October football when the Tigers are cruising like they're cruising, so: an observation on that instead. Which is: someone please shut Joe Girardi the hell up about instant replay. Hey Joe, maybe if your 200 million dollar lineup didn't swing noodle bats and could score one stinking run against someone besides Detroit's strugglin'-ass closer, maybe it would've mattered that the umpire blew that call. Maybe if your shit bullpen didn't give up RBI singles to rookie outfielders while you spend $14 million on a second baseman to go zilch-for-twenty-six and biff double plays while the winning run scores from third, you'd have a case. And maybe if you could hit when it was 0-0, you wouldn't sound so silly complaining that 3-0 makes a real big difference. If you can't hit Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez, I can't wait to see what happens when it's Justin Verlander on the hill. Wheeeeeeee.... go Tigers!
Let us delve into the prediction summary:
-- UVA finally picks up more than one sack. We got two! I don't expect this to ever happen again all year! And Maryland had five!
-- Perry Jones is UVA's least productive running back on the ground. As I was looking this over I realized it was fairly ambiguous and left me too much wiggle room. Then I realized it didn't matter. Jones had 23 yards on 10 carries, which gives him both the lowest total and the lowest average. He found no room at all. Kevin Parks found a ton and has more or less officially supplanted Jones as the feature back. He even caught more passes than Jones.
-- Neither team has a back gain more than 50 yards. Well, I grossly underestimated UVA's running game skills, but not til I got right to this point did I realize how dominant our run defense was. Holy balls you guys. Maryland's leading rusher was Perry Hills - that's their QB in case you weren't paying attention - with seven yards on seven carries. Justus Pickett carried 15 times for minus-eight yards. Counting kneel-downs and sacks, Maryland's rushing "attack" went backwards: 29 attempts, -2 yards. Holy hell.
-- Jake McGee catches a pass of 30+ yards. Neg.
2 for 4 is a slight bump upwards to 13 of 34, or 38%. But I'm 4-3 in outcome predictions and 0-5-2 ATS. Next week I'm picking Wake Forest no matter what. Either my record gets better or the team's does.
Now for the Blogpoll:
-- Ohio went yet another week with a terrible win over a terrible team. I said I would stop rescuing them from my own system if they did that again, and they did that again, so I'm not.
-- South Carolina's fall from grace seems a bit steep, doesn't it? I explain this by saying that a lot of their SEC wins (Vandy, Mizzou, UK) are looking worse and worse by the week. Still, perhaps that's too low for a team I had as the best in the country last week.
-- Notre Dame, however, is a thoroughly deserving #1.
-- Oregon State might be top five if they hadn't had two off dates.
-- This ballot is proof of the Blogpoll's superiority to the media poll. I have Mississippi State 28th, right where they belong since their best win is a 10-pointer over 3-3 Tennessee. The media thinks they're a top-25 team because they beat Auburn when people thought Auburn was good, and the media doesn't remove you from their poll if you keep winning, regardless of how bad the teams are that you beat.
This week's pool of eligible teams dropped to 37 from 44. Three teams were added, and a few teams dropped out because they fell below the limit for wins (4-3 is out, 4-2 is in) and some more because I changed the rule so that now, you have to either be undefeated or have a win over a Big Five team with at least a .500 record. This is known as "just because you beat Kansas doesn't make you cool." Sharp-eyed viewers will notice that one or two teams don't fit this rule (not telling which) but they were on the ballot last week so I grandfathered them in.
The Senior Seasons feature will have to wait til tomorrow because I got way busy with school this week (take-home midterms, yo) and what with the Tigers and Lions and all else I didn't get around to the ballot til today.