Tuesday, September 3, 2013

it's a start

And 1-0 is better than 0-1.  They called it winning ugly, but it's not our fault the game was played underneath a waterfall.  (And really, it was Andrea Adelson calling it ugly.  Adelson is worse than Heather Dinich when it comes to being a haterz.  One of the dumbest things I've ever seen written was a backhanded compliment in which Adelson declared that UVA's defense "found the toughness it had been lacking last season."  Our defense was pretty good last season, minus a few turnovers; Adelson didn't look any farther than the 4-8 record for that line of BS.)

Ugly, anyway, is what they call it when you win with defense and not much offense.  That much, at least, is true.  The running backs mustered barely three yards a carry and nothing longer than 13, and David Watford got very little help from his receivers.  Breaking in a new offense is hard.

Which also made the defensive performance open to interpretation.  Let's face it, you can't just roll up to the field with a brand-new hurry-up offense in hand and expect it all to go beautifully.  BYU's execution was inconsistent, no surprise for a team used to doing things very differently.

But listen to me sound like the haterz.  That's not my job.  First of all, BYU is consistently a good team, and they didn't just stop being a good team this year.  Bronco Mendenhall has never failed to take BYU to a bowl game in his eight years on the job.  They might have a tough time going this year, but they certainly can get there.  Regardless, they're a team that has always commanded respect. 

And what were the reasons for 4-8 and no bowl game last year?  Special teams, turnovers, and the quarterback platoon, I'd say should be the top three reasons.  What happened this weekend?  Special teams shined, there were two huge turnovers (I count the safety here) and one quarterback took all the snaps.  Well how about that.

I said that of the games against BYU, GT, Miami, and VT, we most likely had to win half to go bowling.  So even though we're one game into the season, we're halfway there.  Hard to top that.

Other more specific game notes:

-- Watford's performance was pretty meh, but the numbers make it look worse than it was; with generally good protection and enough scrambling to buy time when necessary, there ought to have been far more open receivers than there were.  Some of this might have been due to inexperience at reading the scene, and honestly I have no way of knowing how much that played a role.  But let's not kid ourselves: the receivers were way below expectations.  Tim Smith dropped two tough but catchable balls on the opening drive alone.

-- It would also have helped if Fairchild had been much more relentless in pounding the WR screen to take advantage of the absurd cushions the BYU cornerbacks were allowing.

-- Overall, I think you have to ignore that the defense was facing a revamped offense, and then you see a lot of great plays.  Not even counting the safety, which was more a crappy BYU play than a great UVA one, or Ant Harris's pick.  I look at the first quarter: Maurice Canady makes a really nice pass breakup, and then DreQuan Hoskey informs us that the cornerback competition is real and makes an even better one on the very next play.  (Hoskey anticipated the slant - he couldn't have made such a quick break unless he was selling out and assuming a third-down slant - and popped the ball free to force a punt.  Great instincts and great speed on that play.)

-- Stars abound on the defense.  Eli Harold made a mess in the backfield.  Harris did everything.  And Daquan Romero looks a lot like the star linebacker I've been expecting.

-- Kyle Van Noy: Not impressed.  A gambling style leads to a lot of his TFL, and Watford broke a Van Noy tackle attempt and turned a TFL into a first down.  If his foray into the backfield doesn't bear fruit and the play isn't near him, he's a ghost.

-- A 53-yard field goal - in sort of a pressure situation, actually, with less than ideal footing - gives me a world of confidence in the future of the kicking game.

-- This has nothing to do with the game, but I'm a little disappointed that SB Nation let the Blogpoll go by the wayside this year.  Asking for a spot in the Blogpoll when I'd been writing for like two months (it had put a call out for more ACC membership) is the main reason I have any readership in the first place.  I might do a top-25 this year anyway.

Prediction roundup!

-- Khalek Shepherd and Taquan Mizzell split carries and targets in the first half, but as the game goes on, one or the other takes a back seat.  Hard to say what to make of it.  They did indeed split the work in the first half; essentially, both took a back seat in the second.  I'm giving myself credit for this one; the idea was that the coaches, in a close game, would roll with the guy they felt most comfortable with.  That turned out to be Kevin Parks.

-- Dominique Terrell has a huge day, to the tune of at least six catches.  Terrell had one, and the receivers overall were a major, major disappointment.  Only Darius Jennings had more than two catches, and his average was less than nine yards a catch.  Good receiver play could've made this a fairly easy win.

-- The run offense generates about 3.5 yards per carry from the primary backs.  It was about 3.09, which is close but not enough for me to take credit here.

-- If Taysom Hill rushes for 90+ yards, BYU wins.  I didn't go with the flipside and say fewer than 90 means a loss, so this prediction is null - neither a win nor a loss.  However, it's fair to point out that I wrote this: "UVA can win if [Jamaal] Williams gets his yards, but they can't let Hill burn them with his feet."  Williams had 148 yards and Hill did not burn UVA with his feet, and that put UVA in position to win.

-- Hill will average no more than 11.5 yards a completion, but rack up over 250 yards passing.  Hill's completion average was better than that and his total yards were worse.  The first part is not fair, though; 52 of his 175 yards came on the last play of the game with UVA justifiably in a full-prevent defense, and very smartly not contesting the catch but simply ensuring they wrapped up the receiver after the completion.  So I hit that one pretty well.  If the second half had been right, I'd count it.  Halfway doesn't count, though; Hill's passing was much less efficient than I though, and the UVA secondary did a great job making it so.

-- The first team to go up by two scores wins. Killer instinct.  Another null prediction; nobody did this.  The biggest lead of the game was UVA's 12-7 advantage after the safety.  That's not two scores.

That makes for an opening performance of 1-of-4, not to mention 0-1, 0-1 ATS to start the year.  Like David Watford's numbers, though, I think the numbers look worse than the actual performance.  I called for a close, low-scoring game, and that's what we got.  Many of my general instincts were spot-on.  Next week we'll work on translating that to the stat sheet.

Notes from around the rest of the ACC:

-- Part of the reason I'm feeling so high on my prognostication skills is that the FSU-Pitt game played out exactly as expected.  Jameis Winston is the latest media darling, and he did have a tremendous game (25-for-27!) but Pitt is probably just exactly what I said they were.  The main difference: they were supposed to have a pretty good secondary.

-- Logan Thomas's performance is hilarious.  5-for-26 with a pick.  That's a sight to behold.  Except for one lightning strike - a 77-yard TD run by Trey Edmunds - VT's offense is also the shitshow I thought they'd be.  Yes, yes, granted: Alabama.  They make a lot of offenses look like shitshows.  Still: the lightning strike and a Kyle Fuller interception (giving Tech the ball in Alabama territory, which they only converted to a field goal) are the only thing that made that game look like anything but a blowout.

-- Helluva nice job by Clemson.

-- Against Villanova, Boston College didn't look like the surprise bowl team I said they were.


Further weekend-review type stuff occurs tomorrow, and this week I want to also squeeze in a recruiting profile on UVA's basketball commitment, Isaiah Wilkins.


Anonymous said...

Nice call on Pitt, that makes me feel much better about bowl chances. Gotta think the receivers will be okay, even if Tim Smith gets dropped a couple pegs. And aside from some poor execution as far as people knowing if they're in the formation or not, special teams had made a world of progress. In a delayed game in the slop that's more than enough to give me a good feeling.

The national announcers were their usual dopey selves for any informed Virginia fan (Moses Morgan!), but they were scarily accurate in their hints and suggestions about a big special teams play before the blocked punt and the defense producing a turnover before the interception. More precise than I'm making it sound even. So kudos to them on that.


Anonymous said...

Nice job, Brendan. Great game and I'll take a W over a good team any way we can get it. Two questions for you:

1) Assuming Oregon opens up a wide lead on the Hoos, do you think we'll see Lambert in garbage time? If so, will this immediately lead to a QB controversy if he throws a TD?

2) Was it just me, or did London punt on the final drive with 15 seconds left on the play clock? Why not burn the play clock closer to zero? They gave BYU 20 seconds and a chance to run three plays on their last drive when they should have only had time to run one. I was tearing my hair out, but maybe this isn't as big of a deal as I thought it was. Did I miss something?

pezhoo said...

I didn't see the game but London didn't snap the ball. Who says the ST coach didn't say run it down?

Brendan said...

On the punt, UVA had run the game clock down as far as it could after burning BYU's last timeout, and then taken a timeout of their own. So the game clock wasn't running at the snap. I'd really have taken the delay of game penalty myself since it would've made it easier to pin them deep without a touchback.

Re: quarterbacks, I don't have a great feel yet for how this coaching staff would handle this situation. Last year I'd have said Lambert would definitely get in the game, probably even before it got out of hand. This year, it seems like the conventional wisdom might be to try Lambert out, but we'll have to wait and see with the new staff.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I missed the timeout on the last punt, must not have been paying enough attention. I swear I saw the game clock running, but I must have misread it.

And you're right, pezhoo, unfair to call out London on the snap, my mistake. I'm actually a big London fan - it was just lazy writing.

Sandmeistr said...

Lambert - I can't shake the feeling London is so sensitive to QB change criticism after last season that the pendulum has swung too far the other way and we won't see Lambert all season, barring injury.

Smoke - am the only one who thought he looked slow running out of the backfield?

Anonymous said...

Respectfully, you're undervaluing VT's performance on offense the same as the ESPN blowhard. VT receivers totaled for eleven drops in that game. That group is garbage, I'll admit, but VT ran the ball better than most on Alabama and that was with an o-line starting a true-fresh LT and with only one guy starting in a position he played last year. VT couldn't run the ball on anyone in 2012 and proved that they could do so on perhaps the #1 defense this year. The defense will keep them in every game from here on out on the schedule.

- A lurking Hokie who appreciates your blog

Brendan said...

Fair point about the drops. I didn't see the game personally so if that's how it was, then that's how it was.

I'm not sold on the running game, though. The 77-yard run was a nice play, but Edmunds went for 2.9 yards a carry otherwise and Mangus got 3. I'd have to see more than that before I could say they moved the ball on someone.

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