Thursday, October 16, 2014

game preview: Duke

Date/Time: Saturday, October 18; 12:30


Record against the Blue Devils: 33-32

Last meeting: Duke 35, UVA 22; 10/19/13, Charlottesville

Last weekend: UVA bye; Duke 31, GT 25

Line: Duke by 2.5

Injury report:


OUT: OG Ryan Doull, C Jackson Matteo, CB Demetrious Nicholson, OG Jay Whitmire


OUT: TE Dan Bellinson, CB Johnathan Lloyd, OL Trip McNeill, DT Jamal Wallace, LB Kelby Brown, TE Braxton Deaver, DE Taariq Shabazz
PROBABLE: DE Dezmond Johnson, RB Shaq Powell

Duke has a good football team these days.  Eight years ago, that was the first definition in the dictionary under "unthinkable."  Right underneath was the idea that any ACC team might lose five out of six to them.  And let's be honest: I'm still not used to it.  The good news is, if we lose again, we can walk out muttering "just wait til basketball season" and mean it.

-- UVA run offense vs. Duke run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 104 carries, 427 yards, 4.1 ypc, 3 TDs
Taquan Mizzell: 42 carries, 173 yards, 4.1 ypc, 2 TDs

UVA offense:
177.0 yards/game, 4.23 yards/attempt
73rd of 128 (national), 9th of 14 (ACC)

Duke defense:
202.33 yards/game, 4.56 yards/attempt
85th of 128 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

Ryan Doull's unexpected appearance on the injury report is a medium-serious blow to the running game and a pretty solid hit to the already razor-thin depth on the OL.  Doull will probably be replaced by Cody Wallace, who's been in and out of the lineup most of his career - and mostly out this year.  Wallace has always been marginal at best; the fact that Doull jumped all the way from kick protection to starting lineup, past Wallace in his fifth year, is not a ringing endorsement of Wallace's skills.

The good news is Duke's defense, which is junk.  Elon - a 1-5 I-AA team - sent their backs through the Duke defense for 5.4 yards a carry, sacks excluded.  Tulane's top two backs combined for 6.5.  Duke's defense wasn't great last year, either; losing top linebacker Kelby Brown really hurt.  Jeremy Cash at safety is a very good run-stopper and basically a linebacker, but he can't do it all himself.  Duke's defensive front line is somewhat undersized and not very good.

So it's a resistible-force vs. movable-object kind of matchup.  It doesn't take a running game like Miami's to tear up the Duke defense (although they did as well.)  I've said that UVA could ride Kevin Parks to a pretty successful run game if the O-line could get just a little bit of push and let Parks build up momentum as he hit the line.  That could be illustrated this week, even with a depleted line, and the fact that UVA's playcalling has skewed to the run side of things should help even more.  Duke's incredible-shreddable defense should probably let Parks roll to a second straight 100-yard game.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Duke pass defense

Matt Johns: 60/102, 58.8%; 687 yards, 7 TDs, 5 INTs; 6.74 ypa
Greyson Lambert: 63/97, 64.9%; 564 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs; 5.81 ypa

Top receivers:
Canaan Severin: 21 rec., 255 yards, 2 TDs
Taquan Mizzell: 21 rec., 99 yards, 0 TDs
Miles Gooch: 17 rec., 220 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
220.7 yards/game, 6.49 yards/attempt
95th of 128 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

Duke defense:
184.5 yards/game, 5.62 yards/attempt
13th of 128 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

That defense that's been so friendly to run games, though, has tightened up against the pass.  Duke runs a nickel package almost exclusively and they have the safety depth to do it.  Cash is just a good defender regardless of what the offense is doing, and DeVon Edwards is an excellent complement.  There isn't much of a pass rush, but DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo provides a decent challenge there.

Greyson Lambert isn't on the injury report.  He'll almost certainly get the start, but nobody really knows what London is thinking when it comes to the hook.  You know my thoughts: let the starter play.  Johns has done a solid job, but Lambert, I think, has done a little bit of a better job taking care of the ball (you'll remember, his first two picks weren't his fault.)

That'll be the main thing here.  Duke's inability to stop the run could open up certain passing opportunities as well, little screens and such, the sort of thing that Steve Fairchild tries in order to put the ball in Taquan Mizzell's hands in space.  Lambert should usually have time, as well.  Duke's numbers have come largely against crap offenses - Kansas and Tulane in particular really suck at passing the ball - but they've at least stopped them, unlike in the run game.  In Tulane's case, the Blue Devil defense took two interceptions all the way back.  If the running game can get moving like I think, Lambert's main job will be zero INTs.  Not easy, against a quality group of safeties, but I don't think much will be asked of him.

-- Duke run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Josh Snead: 49 carries, 256 yards, 5.2 ypc, 2 TDs
Shaun Wilson: 43 carries, 466 yards, 10.8 ypc, 4 TDs

Duke offense:
228.5 yards/game, 5.83 yards/attempt
12th of 128 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
91.5 yards/game, 2.72 yards/attempt
4th of 128 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

Duke's run game has been enormously successful, frankly, and it doesn't matter who carries the ball.  They spread it out a ton.  Freshman Shaun Wilson piled up 245 yards on just 12 carries against the admittedly pitiful Kansas Jayhawks.  Josh Snead and Shaq Powell have been very solid backs throughout their careers.  And Duke likes to run their quarterbacks plenty as well; Anthony Boone is mobile enough, but Duke has packages as well for Thomas Sirk, an excellent runner with good size.

Of course, the one time Duke went against a decent defense, they got snuffed pretty good.  That was Miami - the game was played in a drenching downpour, but Miami did alright on the ground.  Duke does have a pretty solid offensive line, but I think you might have been introduced before to the UVA front six-or-seven.  Pitt's James Conner certainly was.

The main thing for UVA will be to sniff out the various looks Duke will throw at them, especially when Sirk enters the game.  Duke's O-line is good and will win their share of battles, making the linebackers and Quin Blanding pretty important.  And that should make Duke fans nervous.

-- Duke pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Anthony Boone: 121/210, 57.6%; 1,186 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs; 5.65 ypa

Top receivers:
Jamison Crowder: 32 rec., 372 yards, 2 TDs
Max McCaffrey: 23 rec., 236 yards, 3 TDs
Issac Blakeney: 19 rec., 212 yards, 3 TDs

Duke offense:
205.5 yards/game, 5.50 yards/attempt
122nd of 128 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
239.3 yards/game, 6.81 yards/attempt
54th of 128 (national), 8th of 14 (ACC)

Statistically, Anthony Boone appears to have taken a step backwards from last year, a worrying sign given Duke's competition so far (remember, GT's defense = not that good.)  Six and a half percentage points worse in the completion department, a yard and a half worse per attempt.  This is the one point where we'll make a big allowance for the rainstorm in Miami, though - even though it was only during the second half.  Take away Boone's Miami stats and he's still worse, but not appreciably.

Still, perhaps this will be a telling stat: the WRs' yards per catch.  UVA fans at times bemoan a dink-and-dunk approach, but every one of UVA's top four wide receivers (RBs not included) has a higher per-catch average than every one of Duke's top four.  Duke and dunk.

This is reflected in Duke's pass protection stats; they've only allowed four sacks all season, which is a testament to the O-line, the mobility of the quarterbacks, and the quickness with which they get rid of the ball.  Duke will probably try and drop the ball off even quicker given UVA's blitzy pass rush.  There could be some plays where that burns us - slant routes and the like - so safety play will be huge.  The other important thing is not getting sucked in on Sirk packages, although he hasn't completed a pass since the Kansas game (third of the season) and isn't guaranteed to even try a pass here.

-- Favorability ratings:

UVA run offense: 6
UVA pass offense: 4
UVA run defense: 6.5
UVA pass defense: 6

Average: 5.6

-- Outlook

It's certainly possible I'm just getting sucked in to the excitement of novel ideas like a winning record, but - I'm not impressed with Duke's schedule, I'm not impressed with their results, with scores that belie a lack of statistical dominance, and I'm not impressed with their front six.  And I'm like a tweenage girl at a One Direction concert for the front line of our defense.

So I'm optimistic.  Any time a team faces us with a bad defense and a good offense, rather than the other way round, we have at least a chance and probably more.  UVA's defense isn't good enough to carry the offense through every single game, but this one - I'd say yes.

-- Predictions

-- Kevin Parks runs for over 100 yards.

-- Greyson Lambert (or our starting quarterback) attempts fewer than 20 passes.

-- UVA loses the turnover battle.

-- Duke's run game is more than a yard worse than their average.

-- Quin Blanding has 10 or more tackles.

-- UVA wins time of possession by six or more minutes.

Final score: UVA 28, Duke 17

-- Rest of the ACC

Bye: Miami

Virginia Tech @ Pittsburgh - Thu., 7:30 - I've been watching this game all evening, and Tech's offense is pitiful and the Hokies are basically getting dominated, but I've never seen a team blow stuff up in its own face like Pitt is doing.

Syracuse @ Wake Forest - 12:00 - A pair of 0-2 teams battle.  Critical game for Cuse if they're going to salvage bowl eligibility.

Clemson @ Boston College - 3:30 - Clemson is favored, but only by 4.5; a huge game if they want to try and stay in shouting distance of FSU.

NC State @ Louisville - 3:30 - The Pack started 4-0 and are now 4-3, staring at 4-4, proving that you can "schedule for success" and still be a total embarrassment.

Georgia Tech @ North Carolina - 7:00 - I may actually Tivo this one in hopes that the final score is like 84-77.

Florida State vs. Notre Dame - 8:00 - Whoever wins has a very, very inside track for inclusion in the four-team playoff.


pezhoo said...

I've realized the importance of line play over the years being a Virginia fan. And I was happy that we had some continuity there, one of the tackle spots aside. How do we lose our starting guard on on off week. And it's not questionable or anything, it's "Out." Only Virginia.

Anonymous said...

I am so sick of London. I don't care how many games we win this year, I am done with him. He is a nice guy, but at some point we need to stop embarrassing ourselves or just admit that all we give a crap about is basketball.

Yeah, London is a good recruiter... and that's it. That it is literally it. I have never watched a game since he took over and thought "Oh man, the coach really contributed to this win. Great game plan! Great adjustments!".

Our D-coordinator: alright, occasionally your application of tons of pressure does produce some great results and the beasts we've recruited have played well. But the coaching staff as a whole? How many bad QB management decisions can you make over the course of four years? How many times can you throw a screen to the short side of the field and expect it to work wonders? How have you let a program that used to produce some of the most talented TEs in the country become completely irrelevant at that position?

How many times are we GOING TO LOSE TO DUKE?

Anyway. I know I'm overreacting because I'm still heated after that loss. But watching them again piss away timeouts too early in the second half when we are down on the road, and then proceed to just saunter down the field at a snail's pace on our critical drive while picking up an absolutely unbelievable procedural penalty on 4th down... I'm just done.

I don't know who we hire, but I'll take a slight drop off in recruit talent if I have faith the guy calling the shots has the ability to make basic adjustments in response to other teams' game plans and has some remote idea of how to handle the clock/timeouts.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. I'm just sick of getting my hopes a little up and then losing games we should win.

Anonymous said...

That was an unacceptable loss. Just a field goal the entire second half against a mediocre defense? I just can't swallow that. The delay of game penalty on 4th and 7 with the game on the line was what really put me over the edge. That just cannot happen. Sorry Mike London. I have always been a fan of yours but this was a game where you needed to have the team ready to win, and they clearly weren't. I'll pull for the team the rest of the season but I'm officially done with the CML era.

pezhoo said...

I think we better smarten up and realize coaches are not going to bed dreaming about coming to Charlottesville. I think London is what we've got. I still think we can win six games this year. I didn't think that in August.

Anonymous said...

Pezhoo, I'll grant you that this ain't exactly Tuscaloosa, but if I'm an up-and-coming coach, I'm looking at UVA and thinking it's a pretty good place to be. First of all, the administration will have patience with you and give you time to get on your feet. Second, you're in the most mediocre BCS division in the country and will rarely face a truly dominant team. Third, you've got plenty of talent in the region and strong recruiting ties. And fourth, you've got a fan base that will show up and be a difference-maker if they believe in the team - see JPJ last season or even Scott back in the late 90s / early 00s.

Here's the thing: this team is good enough to win more than 6 games, especially given the competition. We're under-achieving, and that's no longer acceptable to me. I don't expect a national championship, but good Lord, is beating Duke more than 1 time out of 5 really too much to ask?

A crappy season for VT is 7 wins. And we're supposed to be doing cartwheels if we get 6? Please. Enough is enough.

And don't get me wrong - I'm 100% behind this team and would love to see them make a bowl this year. But I've been backing London forever, even last season, and I'm just done.

Brendan said...

Truth is (and I've said this for a long time): Once you get outside the top tier of available jobs - which this year may include Michigan and Florida - this is among the best jobs out there, and we should be able to beat anyone out for the hot coordinator or mid-major HC type of coach. We pay well, we sit in a recruiting hotbed, and wives love the area. We tend to worry about not having an attractive job because of our record, but nobody who's hiring a coach has a good record, and every coach goes in figuring they're the guy to turn it around. No concern there.