Welp. Didn't take long. It hardly seems worth writing about the latest chapter in the Mike London story because it's so uncannily similar to most of the other ones. Talk up the latest new schemes, surprise with some swaggy hype-azz uniformz, lose by the book, chapter and verse. OK, sure, it lacked a little something in the clock-management dumbassery department, but London did burn at least two timeouts that I can remember just because of play-call confusion. So let's check that box.
Other boxes to check: annoying playcalling, offensive line depth biting us in the ass again, undisciplined penalties committed by seniors, crappy special teams, red zone ineptitude. The list goes on. A whole offseason and literally nothing has changed. I sound surprised here, which I guess I am a little, because this time I'm really gonna get to kick that football.
I really hated those helmets, by the way, which you can chalk mostly up to my reflexive get-off-my-lawnism about uniforms. UVA seems to be working on building a pretty solid brand identity. You can instantly recognize those gorgeous home whites the baseball team wears, and the school uses a uniform wordmark across most other teams, if not all of them.
Football? There's no brand identity anywhere. The navy blue helmets would work at least to anchor the zillion other looks they think are wonderful attention getters. Naw, let's ditch 'em and go with the marshmallow look. And the look on Saturday was a horrible mishmash. The pants are pure throwback - literally, because they come from the 1960s throwbacks they wore a while ago. The jerseys are a clean, unadorned, modern take on a classic look. And the helmets were $WAGGY HYPPPEEE, Oregon $tylez. Pick a look. (Preferably not swaggy hype.) There's absolutely no attempt at a brand, an identity, a foundation, it's just "hey this would be a cool idea," and they slap it up there and there's no reason to do it or even any connection with the rest of the athletic program.
I wouldn't usually spend two paragraphs on the uniforms, but if by now you can't get the connection to the actual state of the program then we'll just have to leave you here.
Notre Dame comes to town next weekend. Of the three difficult OOC games this is the one I expected to be toughest. They just got done steamtrucking Texas, so I think I'm still thinking that. If UVA is to steal an OOC win in one of those three games, Boise State is the place to look.
Some player-focused observations:
-- I was surprised Kelvin Rainey was credited with only five tackles. He seemed to be all over, making tackles in front of the secondary and generally being much more visible than you'd expect from a first-year starter. I liked it. And it looks clear too that Micah Kiser is the real deal.
-- I was much less pleased with the defensive ends. Mike Moore didn't look like a senior. Kwontie Moore was hardly visible. Trent Corney showed off his athleticism by actually juking his blocker, but then looked surprised that Josh Rosen actually moved away from the pressure. Fortunately, he kind of moved toward the rest of the defensive line, but Corney's tackle attempt on that particular play looked like he still hasn't picked up a lot of fundamentals.
-- Matt Johns reminds me of a youngish NASCAR driver who clearly can drive in the lower series but moves up to the big time and is stuck on an underfunded team with an uncompetitive car, which he can't crash because they can't afford replacements. He might compete for the winner's circle if he was allowed to drive aggressively into the corners, but he's just being asked to circle the track. That's Steve Fairchild's playbook in a nutshell. Johns can play quarterback, it's clear, but too often, he's not really allowed to. Sure, he threw a pick when he cut loose, just like the driver might find a wall or two the hard way. But in reading up about UCLA, one quote I saw was along the lines of Josh Rosen being handed the keys to a Ferrari, he just had to not crash it. Well, Rosen took a shot downfield the very first chance he got, and it's obvious he's not just driving the Ferrari around the block. Johns needs to be cut loose more too. He's capable of making it work.
Until then we'll just keep throwing screen passes on every third-and-long of the game which they totally won't be expecting this time.
-- One game in and the offensive line is already a smoking wreck. Eric Tetlow and Jake Fieler, out for the year. Ryan Doull and Sadiq Olanrewaju, no telling when they'll be back. Jay Whitmire, not ready to go full speed yet or he'd be out there at one of those positions somewhere. The interior line was absolutely owned; UCLA's DTs were exactly the problem I thought they'd be, and the "power running game" went exactly as far as I thought it would. I was openly skeptical of the power running thing; if I'd known we'd be missing four linemen going into the first game, I'd have been downright derisive.
That's OK, I'm sure we'll just recruit us a few more cornerbacks to make up for it.
It's pretty much official, I've skipped the optimistic, maybe-things-gonna-be-OK phase of the season and gone straight to snark. With any luck that'll last the next eleven (or twelve, if Lucy doesn't pull that football away again) games and we can minimize the burning apathy, which is all that's left at the end.