Friday, September 20, 2013

game preview: VMI

Date/Time: Saturday, September 21; 3:30


Record against the Keydets: 56-23-3

Last meeting: UVA 48, VMI 7; 9/25/10, Charlottesville

Last weekend: UVA bye; North Greenville 37, VMI 24

Line: UVA by 44

Injury report: N/A

Chances are, everything you need to know about VMI, you learned from the box score of the North Greenville game.  VMI is typically a lousy team for obvious recruiting-obstacles reasons, but even so they've generally been able to beat the D-II opponents their schedulers put in front of them.  Losing to one - getting creamed by one, actually - is the sort of inauspicious omen that says "this team might not win again all year."  But the games are played for a reason, and UVA is not in any position to take any opponent lightly, even a frosty cupcake like VMI.

-- UVA run offense vs. VMI run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 39 carries, 125 yards, 3.2 ypc, 1 TD
Taquan Mizzell: 13 carries, 30 yards, 2.3 ypc, 0 TDs

UVA offense:
116.5 yards/game, 2.88 yards/attempt
113th of 125 (national); 13th of 14 (ACC)

VMI defense:
206.3 yards/game, 5.16 yards/attempt
85th of 114 (national); 5th of 6 (Big South)

I have to admit, I'm a little surprised at how much the run game thus far has leaned on Kevin Parks.  I mean, Parks is a solid back, if he's ever given an inch of running room, which he has not, but I did think more work would've been handed to Khalek Shepherd and Taquan Mizzell by now.  But by their powers combined they have barely half the carries Parks does.

Not that they've shown they deserve a ton of work.  Mizzell hasn't gotten much room to maneuver either, and has done nothing spectacular in his nine carries.  Shepherd has one big run for 45 yards and has otherwise been equally bottled up.  Parks's 3.2 yards a carry - which is an awfully disappointing number - lead the team, minus the big Shepherd run.

VMI is another 3-4 team, but one with a horribly undersized defensive front.  Nose tackle Joe Nelson - a redshirt freshman - is 265 pounds.  The ends are smaller.  Regardless of what stunts and whatever else the VMI defense tries to run, the matchup against Morgan Moses will be patently unfair, and if UVA can't completely own the line of scrimmage then we are going to have issues all year long.

I would expect some redshirts to be burned along the O-line.  Yes, people hate seeing that, but if they're in the two-deep they gotta play, and the depth we have doesn't allow us the luxury of sitting the freshmen out.  Moses can't play every snap all season long.  In fact, those who stick around for the fourth quarter will get a UVA fan's first glimpse at four brand-new linemen: Olanrewaju, Smith, Matteo, and Mooney.

You have to assume that Parks won't be asked to be a workhorse, either.  My guess is that Shepherd and Mizzell will combine to easily surpass Parks's total carries, and Kye Morgan probably gets some burn, too.  This should be a successful day on the ground.  If it's not, you might be better off spending the season in a drunken haze.

-- UVA pass offense vs. VMI pass defense

David Watford: 47/73, 64.4%; 275 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs; 3.77 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Jake McGee: 11 rec., 62 yards, 0 TDs
Darius Jennings: 10 rec., 60 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
144.0 yards/game, 3.6 yards/attempt
125th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

VMI defense:
304.0 yards/game, 7.7 yards/attempt
105th of 114 (national), 6th of 6 (Big South)

Yes, those are some truly shit numbers we've put up there.  I think the coaches realize it, too; it is decidedly not an effective pass offense when your QB hits on almost two-thirds of his passes and has such a truly poor per-attempt average.  They've talked about opening it up some this week.

On the flip side, though, those VMI numbers are even worse.  They don't look that bad, but remember: not just one, but two of their games are against D-II competition (and they needed a last-minute goal-line stand to beat one of those teams), and the only reason the numbers aren't worse is because North Greenville eased off the gas.  At cornerback, VMI starts a redshirt freshman (the entire depth chart abounds with freshmen) and a 5'9" junior.  Watford will double his passing yards for the season if the coaches let him throw enough.  25 passes would about do it.

-- VMI run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Derrick Ziglar: 34 carries, 191 yards, 5.6 ypc, 1 TD
Deon Watts: 20 carries, 47 yards, 2.3 ypc, 0 TD

VMI offense:
68.3 yards/game, 2.9 yards/attempt
108th of 114 (national), 6th of 6 (Big South)

UVA defense:
268.5 yards/game, 5.77 yards/attempt
114th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

These numbers are not quite fair because Oregon.  This game should help fix them.  VMI has actually had some success on the ground, mainly when they hand off to Derrick Ziglar.  Deon Watts appears to have been replaced on the depth chart due to lack of production.  VMI's horrible numbers actually stem from their pitiful pass protection.

That said, there is no depth on the VMI O-line.  They do have a pair of massive, 325-pound tackles, but the backup right tackle is 6'2, 260.  So is Will Lucas, the starting center.  Just from that matchup alone, Brent Urban and the rest of the gang at DT should have a field day.  Ziglar has some talent - he's a bowling-ball style back who measures in at 5'9", 230 - but as eminent a rush defense as Richmond held him to 26 yards.  Ziglar's build is rare in D-II, but the Hoos should be able to contain him without much trouble.

-- VMI pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Eric Kordenbrock: 68/109, 62.4%; 818 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs; 7.5 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Derrick Ziglar: 13 rec., 164 yards, 1 TD
James Rogers: 9 rec., 105 yards, 1 TD

VMI offense:
272.7 yards/game, 7.5 yards/attempt
25th of 114 (national), 1st of 6 (Big South)

UVA defense:
191.0 yards/game, 5.5 yards/attempt
24th of 125 (national), 6th of 14 (ACC)

Largely out of necessity, VMI has thrown the ball a ton this season, especially against North Greenville; Eric Kordenbrock had 47 throws in that game.  Kordenbrock isn't a bad quarterback as I-AA signal-callers go, but he's also a big, tall statue (6'4", 220) with zilch running ability, which contributes to the poor pass protection he's been getting.

As mentioned, VMI's tackles are huge, so in the pass-rush department, I'd expect Jake Snyder to have a quiet day; Eli Harold off the edge could be interesting, though.  If those big guys can handle his speed, maybe Kordenbrock won't get killed on the blind side.  If not, it'll be an all-day kinda thing for Harold.  Urban is also going to have some fun going up against VMI's undersized interior; it's likely he'll have to be double teamed because putting his height against VMI's lack of it will result in plenty of swatted passes.  Lucky for VMI their QB is tall, but their passing game is also oriented largely to the middle of the field.  The leading receivers are RB Ziglar and slot receiver James Rogers, and tight end Mario Thompson is heavily involved, too.

The one matchup issue UVA might have is 6'5" outside receiver Sam Patterson.  But if he were fast, one, he'd average a lot more than 10.8 yards a catch, way at the bottom of that list for VMI, and two, he'd be playing I-A football.

Our secondary is going to have an athleticism advantage because every unit should have an athleticism advantage, but I'd say it's that pass rush that should make life miserable for VMI.  The DTs could well have a turkey shoot out there, and Harold has the potential to be a major X factor.

-- Favorability ratings

I had some trouble with these, because, look, things like our pass offense have really sucked so far.  But VMI is so .... bad.  This is still a new thing, so, still in need of calibration if you will, but let's try:

UVA run offense: 10
UVA pass offense: 9.5
UVA run defense: 10
UVA pass defense: 10

Average: 9.86

-- Outlook

It's hard to write one of these things without sounding arrogantly dismissive.  But VMI did lose to a D-II team.  The difference between D-II (36 scholarships) and I-AA (63) is much greater than that between I-AA and I-A (85).  And this wasn't just one bad game.  VMI struggled to beat Glenville State - a bad D-II team! - and was totally uncompetitive against Richmond.  They could neither move the ball nor stop Richmond, on a crappy rainy day, against the quarterback that came in third in the same QB competition where David Watford came in second in 2011 (as a true freshman.)  This is a worse VMI team than the one that lost 48-7 to a bad UVA team in 2010.  There's no reason at all this should be competitive.

-- Prediction summary:

-- Mizzell and Shepherd combine for at least five more carries than Parks.

-- Watford averages 10 yards per attempt, enough to double his seasonal passing yards if allowed to throw 28 times.

-- At least five new redshirts are burned, two on the O-line.

-- Defensive tackles account for at least two sacks.

-- So does Eli Harold.

-- Urban bats down at least two passes.

Final score: UVA 59, VMI 0

-- Rest of the ACC:

Clemson 26, NC State 14  - Thu. - Probably closer than it should've been, which could be a storm cloud for Clemson, but their defense was excellent.

North Carolina @ Georgia Tech - 12:00 - A big Coastal matchup that would take place later in the season if the ACC schedulers were smart.  I mean, at least in October.

Virginia Tech vs. Marshall - 12:00 - Tech's quest continues to find a defense they can move the ball against.

Wake Forest @ Army - 12:00 - Not remotely a guaranteed ACC win.

Pittsburgh @ Duke - 12:30 - Could already be a Bowl Eligibility Bowl.

Syracuse vs. Tulane - 12:30 - Second part of the epic ACC-CUSA matchups this week.

Maryland vs. West Virginia - 3:30 - A big chance to learn something about Maryland.

Florida State vs. Bethune-Cookman - 6:00 - Wildcats to the slaughter.

Miami vs. Savannah State - 7:00 - Likewise.

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