What a drag this football team has become. It's a drag to watch. It's a drag to write about. It's a drag knowing we lost last week, we lost this week, and we'll lose again next week. And yes, I know that we didn't actually lose last week, but at 2-5, trudging our way through an unremarkable loss to yet another better-coached team, it sure has a way of feeling like that.
There are 128 teams in I-A football; 25 of them are currently out of legitimate bowl contention, which I define right now as being 2-5 or worse.** Exactly one of those 25 is in the ACC. That means more than 80% of the teams in the country remain interested in the proceedings. And with 80 slots, most of those fans will take home some kind of prize.
This should be a terrific time of year. These games only happen once a week - they should matter. Well, they do for most people. Most people are eagerly devouring details of Saturday's opponent, and when that day comes, well, it's one of only 12 all year so it's a big swing between winning and losing and your fortunes are either wonderfully uplifted or woefully downtrodden. Until the next week when you get to do it all over again.
That hasn't been the case around here for four years. Occasional smatterings of meaning have been tossed onto the canvas here and there like Jackson Pollock scooping from the bottom of the can, but in the end it's all come down to the same thing. Lose, complain about coaching, repeat. Saturday, I'll turn on the TV again, and I'll hope for a miracle, for some entertainment, for something good to happen, but certainly not expect it. Nobody's hanging on every play wondering whether it's the difference between Good Times and Bad Times, because we already know which way we're headed. We've already read the spoilers.
This is not interesting. This is utterly, incomprehensibly, lame. Football season has become a long slow walk to basketball season. If ESPN were smart they'd have ponied up for the rights to UVA vs. Morgan State on November 13; a whole legion of UVA fans are going to be so desperate for a rescue from the grind of watching this football team that they'll paste themselves to the screen for hoops.
The whole rest of the ACC is still shooting for something. Craig Littlepage, Jon Oliver, and Mike London have ensured that's not the case in Charlottesville.
**For the sake of expediency. I'm sure there are some three-win teams whose fans are already telling the in-laws, yes, we can visit for Christmas, we're not taking that trip to Florida after all.
-- I didn't hate the offensive gameplan this week. The run game worked - really, honest-to-God, properly worked. Give the O-line a pat on the back. Taquan Mizzell has never had a 100-yard game in college before; his next-best performance is barely half his new career high.
And I tipped my hat at those TE drag routes with the QB rollout. You don't want to get too reliant on plays where you have to eat it if the one option doesn't pan out, but regardless. (Tangent: that needs to be a goal-line play. Rollouts away from the blocking, with a following receiver like that, are close to foolproof inside the 2. Receiver open, throw it. Receiver covered, sprint for the pylon and dive. Even if your QB is fast and agile like Jared Lorenzen, he's still two yards tall.)
So yeah - whatever reason we lost the game, and it might've been the four interceptions, just guessing here - it mostly wasn't Steve Fairchild's fault. That said, I still hate that his go-to third-and-long play is a screen pass. That works never.
-- I also applaud the reasoning behind the attempted trick of waving off the "extra" player, because I'm just going to assume the coaches are self-aware of UVA's reputation for screwing up substitutions and figured if anyone could pull off a trick like that it would be UVA. Then again, if anyone could forget that the 12-men rule takes effect when you break the huddle and line up, rather than at the snap, it would also be UVA. The refs were nice and fooled, even if the UNC defenders can count to 11.
-- Nicholas Conte has a 46-yard punting average? I did not realize that. At least one of our players is earning an A+ for on-field play.