It's not always you can tell exactly when the end comes. You could call us fortunate in that regard. We can debate for a long time why Mike London has not succeeded as UVA's head coach, and will not succeed as UVA's head coach, but at least now we know when it ended. As soon as the ball landed in the hands of a UNC defensive lineman during a horribly ill-advised screen pass. Flip the switch, turn out the lights, and start the search.
Kevin Parks talked about a knife to the gut, and it's extremely hard not to feel bad for the guy. The ball was taken out of his hands by the coaching staff. I don't get it. The announcers spent the whole game talking about Parks and how the coaching staff raves about his character and talent - which is great, and I believe it 100%. Now I'm just wondering when the staff plans on using that to their benefit. Parks was left waiting for a pass that never got there, which is somehow sadly fitting.
Sure, there's four games left. Anything could happen and so on and so forth. I don't see it. Not from a coaching staff that constantly puts its players in position to fail. It's everything from the preposterous to the amateurish. After five years, Mike London still can't figure out how to make sure the right number of players go on the field. It's not even the first time, nor is it the first time a special teams unit ran pell-mell down the field without caring where the ball was. You can look it up. It's a pitiful disservice to his guys.
There's one thing left to hope for: sending him off with a win on Thanksgiving. Maybe a bowl game in Shreveport or Detroit. If the Hoos can figure out how to beat a Georgia Tech team that just dropped 56 points on Pittsburgh, or a Miami team that looks like the division's best so far. Maybe the VT game can be a 5-6 Thunderdome match. Two teams enter, one team leaves bowl-eligible. Not what anyone envisioned, that's for sure.
Let's talk offense for a little here. One of the most common complaints about Steve Fairchild is that the offense is "vanilla." It's time to put that to rest once and for all. Next time you hear someone complain that it's "vanilla," just know they're only saying that as a reflex action. The design is actually rather good, and here's the thing: I really like it. UVA ran a couple reverses and a tricky WR pass that Lambert caught, the second WR pass they've run this year. There was plenty of downfield passing. Lots of different players are involved. This is not just some handoff-handoff-dump pass-punt crap. This is pretty complex.
And here's what I like best: Most run plays are run from a look that could send the ball any one of three different ways. You have a shotgun look with a running back next to the QB. A receiver (or someone like Taquan Mizzell) goes in motion and the snap is timed so that the motion man arrives just about the same time the snap does. This isn't easy; the quarterback needs a lot of reps to get that timing down. Then the QB can hand to the motion man, he can hand to the RB, or he can simply take it himself. I don't think this is ever read-option, even though it was called that when Fairchild first got here. It just looks like one. I think this is called by the coaches. That's just fine. The point is that the defense has to hesitate a split second before committing to a ballcarrier. This has given the O-line room to execute a block, and in turn, the run game is fairly productive. This is despite an O-line lacking badly in experience and held together with chicken wire and duct tape.
I have just about no problems with the design of this offense. Given an experienced, healthy O-line and maybe a real explosion threat at receiver, which is missing right now, you could really see some fireworks with this offense. However, I have huge problems with the execution. Fairchild isn't too vanilla, he's too goddam tricky. Too fast to abandon what's working, too quick to try and out-chess-match the other DC. Here's how you coach the last drive** that ended in the screen pass pick: You call together your O-linemen. You get in their faces and inform them - loudly - that the plan is to stuff the ball down the throats of those no-tackling pretenders over there and they'd better hit some SOB as hard as they can and the devil take the hindmost. And then you three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust your way to a win. Especially when you're one more first down away from game-clinching field goal. When, on the other hand, the trick play you so desperately want to run is so damn predictable that the announcers had you pegged, you're doing it wrong. I don't blame Greyson Lambert one bit for the pickoff. I blame Mr. Tricky up in the booth.
(I do, though, think the first one was totally on Lambert. You gotta know in that case: an incompletion is just as good as a dumpoff. They both mean a field goal. Some people called it bad luck that the ball landed in the hands of a defender, but, no, that's entirely predictable when you throw toward that many defenders.
**I know, I know: said the keyboard jockey who's never coached a game of football in his life. But then, the guys who do coach for a living, aren't exactly doing a better job.
So, let's review some predictions:
- Greyson Lambert starts. Yup.
- The UVA passing game generates over 300 yards. Ah, bummer - they were close at 284. And getting to 300 probably would've won the game.
- UVA passes more than they run. The Hoos attempted 41 passes and were credited with 43 runs, but one sack by UNC makes it an exactly even split. Still not good enough.
- UNC also passes for more than 300 yards. They did not, which is rather a credit to the defense.
- Zero sacks again for UVA, but not zero turnovers. Half right is wrong.
- UNC averages fewer than 4 yards a carry. UNC's running game was absolutely stuffed. Very good work there by the defense, again.
16-of-41 on specifics (39%.)
4-3 straight up