Monday, September 1, 2014

worst-case scenario

Last week I wrote about best-case and worst-case scenarios for the season, albeit summarily.  Good thing, too, because if I'd wasted too many words talking about worst-case, I'd have just been reminded how much more elegantly it can be said by moving pictures.  This weekend was designed purely to make UVA fans go insane.

Play well enough to win, but lose?  Check.  Fire up the quarterback shitstorm all the way to 11?  Check.  Throw in one hair-pulling mistake, and the only thing missing is a season-ending injury to some really important player.  But don't give anyone any ideas.  Henry Coley's knees thank you in advance.

(As a substitute, we can just go ahead and go 5-7 this season now, so that the schedule-for-success crowd is given a whole free offseason to never shut up.  That should complete my trip to the nuthouse.)

The real way to see this game, though, is however you damn well please.  If you're the Kool-Aid type, the defense was fantastic against a hyped-up quarterback and the quarterbacks at least provided a reason to believe someone will be worth a damn; plus, our offense outscored UCLA's.  If you're more the Eeyore persuasion, we beat a pretty damn good team last year to start the season and then watched every other coach actually coach the season while our staff bumbled around and forgot to make any adjustments; plus, the game was more a reason to crash-sell all your UCLA stock than to start buying UVA's.  You wouldn't be the only one thinking that.

I'm pretty confident in saying UVA will get its first win next week.  Beyond that, we learned nothing whatsoever about this team, mainly because most every unit performed about as expected.  The D-line was a terror and the linebackers made hell of plays.  The O-line was a steaming pile of.... yeah.  The receivers looked good sometimes and lousy sometimes.  About the only unexpected thing was the QBs, which of course answered nothing either.

So, check back, I guess, in two weeks, after the game I'm dubbing The World's Most Artificial Rivalry.  We'll have to wait that long to find out who the quarterback really is.  If we still don't know, watch out, because the season is then likely to be one full-bore controversy.


-- I could probably devote a full post and a half to what happened under center the other day, but let's see if I can make this compact enough to read.  Having read about the game before I saw it (I was traveling, and my limit for keeping away from the score before I can get to my Tivo is overnight) I wasn't surprised to see Matt Johns come in.  I was surprised that Greyson Lambert didn't suck.  I mean, that's why you'd pull a quarterback, right?  Here's my theory, actually: London did this to fire up the offense, not because of anything in particular that he saw or didn't see out of Lambert, and the move having worked beyond his wildest dreams, he was left with no choice but to keep this going.

I mean, only one of those three UCLA touchdowns can even remotely be pinned on Lambert (although the third one is 100% his.)  Lambert played just fine.  I wish the playcalling would've asked more of him, but he was fine.

The reason this is now a problem is that Johns was way more than "fine."  Johns was actually good.  Really good, sometimes.  I mean, those touchdown throws.  Give a ton of credit to Andre Levrone and Darius Jennings for fine catches in tough coverage, but those throws were professional throws.  Johns just plain looked comfortable - more so than Lambert, even with the O-line failing to protect either one of them.  The one thing that makes this not really a fair fight is the playcalling, which got a lot gutsier with Johns in the game, and I don't just mean deeper throws.  Johns also rolled out of the pocket at least once, which Lambert was not asked to do.

I fully expect to see both of them against Richmond.  There's no way the coaches can make a proper decision now.  Johns clearly outplayed Lambert; in fact, Johns outplayed UCLA's Brett Hundley (though Hundley was let down by his receivers quite a bit.) and there's no way to toss that aside and hand Lambert the ball without a qualm now.  But there's no way to throw away all of spring and fall camp without a qualm either.  It's the last thing I ever wanted to see, but we're just gonna have to fire up the competition again.  And they'll probably both play very well against Richmond, because Richmond.

-- It's amazing how one team can have such a terror for a defensive line and such a flimsy offensive line.  The only decent running plays came on misdirections and from Kevin Parks's YAC-generating thunder thighs.  But the D-line - wowz.  David Dean was double-teamed almost the whole game, I think, and Hundley was flustered not just because he was pressured, but because he could never be too sure where the pressure would come from.  Some of that is the mad blitzer in the coaches' box, but the line didn't really need the help to make a collapsy mess of Hundley's pocket.

-- I know player safety is important and all but a 15-yard penalty for putting your helmet back on and continuing to play is a truly fart-brained rule.

-- No major new wrinkles in the offense, which isn't surprising when breaking in a new quarterback, but I did like the changing tempo.  Maybe that counts as a major wrinkle.  I think that'll be a plus going forward, though; there's no need to try to be Oregon, and race race race around the field, but a little unpredictability helps.

-- I'm not actually kidding.  Please solve this quarterback thing soon.


Jay said...

How many snaps did we play out of the shotgun? It may have been the alcohol but I didn't notice a single play we ran from under center. I guess our OL is just so bad that we can't risk running plays from under center?

Anonymous said...

Shotgun is often easier for a young QB. They don't have to worry as much about footwork and can survey the defense without ever turning their head, even on play action. Plus, it gives you a few feet of head start over the pass rush, which is especially useful when your o-line is a bit overmatched. That said, I definitely noticed that trend, and the general ineffectiveness of inside runs from the shotgun against UCLA. Remains to be seen whether the offensive line can do better with time, and against lesser competition.

Anonymous said...

With our offensive line, you gotta feel like we're going to need two QBs. I mean, knock on wood and all, but we know our QBs are going to take some knocks. So I was thrilled to see that both Lambert and Johns can hold their own. Both made costly errors, but still, this isn't one of those seasons where everything rides on one QB's health.

Man, our D is fun to watch.

Hey, isn't it fun to not be able to blame a loss on a special teams miscue? Good times.

BostonHoo said...

Woulda, coulda, shoulda, mighta beaten the No 7 team in the country except for those three costly TOs. Good teams find a way to win, bad teams just naturally stumble into losses. Which are we? Not sure yet but I am encouraged that progress is being made and that we have competent QB play either way. Let's just hope the coaching staff can make the right moves and keep the season rolling in the right direction. Sooner or later we are going to need Ws, not just back patting over improvement.