When you have a crappy football team (or any kind of crappy team, I guess) the smallest things turn into "not since" stats. This past basketball season was crammed to the gills with not-since stats, and most of them ended up being Ralph Sampson-related. Now it's football's turn. Baby steps first - did you know, the last time UVA was 2-0 in the ACC was 2009? Frightening, because that season sucked so bad it got a coach fired. Also frightening, because it means Mike London's never done it. (In fact, he'd never been so much as 1-0.)
So, for once, the bye week (well, the first of two) comes at a fantastic time: we get to be 2-0 for two whole weeks. See, fanhood belies the old saying about second place being the first loser. Nobody really believes that. If they did, most would find something else to do. The behavior of fans means we actually subscribe to the notion that it's not the destination, it's the journey. Winning championships is great, but fanhood is really about the belief that you might do so later.
So, halfway through the season, here we sit with two whole weeks to enjoy a zero. I can definitely live with that. I'm perfectly willing to accept that this team could start throwing large crooked numbers into that column pretty quickly, but what keeps you and me and the rest of this fanbase going is that they might not. And if this sounds like what I wrote last week and maybe the week before that and before that, well, yeah.... because the simple fact that it continues to be the truth is enough to keep the whole program afloat.
-- UVA is the only Coastal team that got no votes for first place, and Georgia Tech was my own personal choice for dead last. So of course those are the only two conference-undefeated Coastal teams. I want us to win for all the obvious reasons but also because the no-first-place-votes thing is funny.
-- A 2-10 team that starts the next season 4-2 is full of surprises, but how about Matt Johns's wheels as one of the biggest? Even if you take away his 42-yard scamper against Kent State, he's still averaging more yards per carry than any of the running backs, and that's with sacks included.
-- I had enough time during the Miles Gooch WR pass to realize that the pass was headed for Zach Swanson and to think, before it nestled into his hands, "please please catch this one." Tight End U is not what it once was. Impressively, that play worked even though the whole damn stadium and every eye on TV knew Gooch was going to pass the ball as soon as it hit his hands.
-- A huge, huge pet peeve of mine is plays like regular options and toss sweeps that go to the short side of the field. When you're trying to get wide, why cut the play off before it has a chance to develop? That's entirely on the OC. On Saturday, one play in particular stood out in this regard - but for once, in a good way. That was a Kevin Parks pitchout on the second touchdown drive; Parks picked up an extra 5-7 yards because the play went wide side, and it was during those extra yards that he delivered the stiff-arm to Pitt's Terrish Webb that pissed Webb off enough to hand UVA another 15 yards, post-whistle. Stop going short side, OC's. You'll thank me.
Edit: I just went back and read my review of this same Pitt game last year, which had nothing nice to say about the offense and deployed Ian Malcolm and triceratops poop. And the phrase, "God kills a baby angel every time an offensive coordinator runs a toss sweep or option play to the short side of the field." We can has.... progress from the coaching staff? I was never as down on Steve Fairchild as most people, but neither was I wildly impressed; regardless, he's really starting to earn his pay these days.
-- I think I'm getting officially disappointed in Taquan Mizzell. The play just before that one was a screen to Mizzell, and a pretty well-executed one that ought to've picked up the first down and about 12-14 yards. But Mizzell went the wrong side of Andre Levrone's excellent block, which he's been far too prone to doing. Smoke'll never be a five-star running back unless he improves his vision.
-- Helmetzz. I didn't hate them - in fact, they were awfully unobtrusive (though, probably wouldn't have been with the regular blue unis) which made me ask, what's the fuss? OK, I guess the players like them, they got to see them up close and handle them and all that, but they also generated a lot of "wow, really sharp!" comments on message boards, which I don't get. They just looked kinda.... there. The lights set them off, which was kinda cool, probably better than in the daytime, but I don't think anyone would've known these were different unless they looked real close or were told about them. And no, this is not an entreaty to do something even nuttier and wilder next time.
-- I don't know if "learning to win" is a thing, but if it is, it sure as hell applies to this team. As in, it's something they'll need to do. Pitt is a huge maybe of a bowl team and most ACC squads won't let you go dry for the whole second half and walk away with a win.
Prediction review time!
- UVA plays only one quarterback, barring injury or blowout. True that. It's getting so we might not ever know when Greyson Lambert's ankle is healed. Johns is doing awfully well. He only completed nine passes, which I was shocked to see because the eye test said he played great. But then, the run-pass balance was incredibly skewed - 43 run plays to 17 pass attempts. And why not, when Kevin Parks can pile up almost 170 yards? (Another not-since stat, by the way; the last Hoo RB to top 150 was Ced Peerman in 2008.) At any rate, Johns might've only completed a handful of passes, but you look, for example, at the swing pass that scored Khalek Shepherd. Anything other than a perfect, in-stride throw, and UVA is kicking a field goal there.
- James Conner averages between four and five yards a carry. Dammit, the defense was just slightly better than I gave them credit for; Conner ended up with 3.95. I could round and call it four, but I won't.
- The UVA passing game generates more than 6.5 yards per attempt. Thank you, Gooch to Swanson. And thank you me for remembering I was evaluating the whole matchup and not just one quarterback. Matt Johns came nowhere near 6.5, but the passing game got a boost to 6.7 thanks to that one trick play.
- The UVA defense gets no more than two non-sack TFLs, matching or setting a new low for the year. Again I just slightly underestimate the defense, which got three.
- Whoever starts at QB for UVA completes at least 65% of his passes. Nope.
Two out of five this week, which brings the updated totals to:
13-for-29 on specifics (44.8%)
4-1 straight up
Lots of bettors watching that two-point conversion, I'm thinking.
Senior Seasons gets pushed to tomorrow. No game preview this week, duh, so it'll be replaced with a midseason review, being as we have perfect timing for it.