Cavalier Rewind - A Look Back at Week 1 (William & Mary)

On a steamy September evening inside of Scott Stadium, the Virginia Cavalier football team rode their running backs and used a strong 2nd half surge to put away the William & Mary Tribe 40-3.  In a game that most believed would be a closely contested match (the Vegas line opened at a mere 7 points), the Cavaliers avenged the 2009 season opening loss to William & Mary in surprising fashion - with the game put away going into the 4th quarter for the Wahoos.

[caption id="attachment_28" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Kevin Parks shined in his debut for the Cavaliers. Photo/247Sports/Jamie Oakes"][/caption]

Though the play calling was rather vanilla, Virginia's running backs did all the damage needed - with Kevin Parks rushing for 114 yards and 3 touchdowns - while the defense played a spectacular game, holding the Tribe to only 169 total yards (allowing just 52 yards in the 1st half) and generating 2 turnovers, both of which led to scores for the Virginia offense.

Game Day Atmosphere

The Virginia faithful showed up early, with most tailgates (including my own) being set up and rocking nearly 4 hours in advance of kickoff. This led to a great opening kickoff atmosphere for the home team, as most of the 51,969 fans were in their seats well before the game's first whistle.  I was surprised to see such a low total attendance number following the game (roughly 20% less than stadium capacity), as the stadium appeared full and the crowd loud throughout much of the game.  A 'Go Hoos' chant, led by Rodney McLeod from the 'HooVision - where he directed the East side of the stadium to yell 'Go' and then the West to respond with 'Hoos' - worked very well in energizing the fan base and will be a nice tool to get fans into the game at key moments moving forward.

[caption id="attachment_30" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Students celebrate a Virginia score. Photo/The Daily Progress/Sabrina Schaeffer"][/caption]

The UVA pre-game entrance routine still has this writer baffled - The Adventures of CavMan series continues to serve little to no purpose, besides giving opposing fan bases additional fodder with which to mock Cavalier fans.  And the entrance music, which consisted of some rap song that I've never heard, was just terrible [Charles Barkley voice]; all bass, the volume not set correctly, and just overall very poor production.  I'm fine with the CavMan series (okay, not really) - but the entrance song needs to be changed to something a little more recognizable...something that fans hear and know, here come the Cavaliers.

Despite the awkward entrance, the overall game day atmosphere was just fine for the year's first home game and will continue to improve as London and the media staff tweak their 'norm' in the games ahead.

Fabulous Freshmen

Saturday's contest saw 22 freshmen take the field over the course of the game - 12 of which were true freshman from London's much heralded 1st recruiting class.  On the defensive side of the ball, true freshman Demetrious Nicholson stole the show - capping off a tremendous 1st outing, one in which he started opposite Chase Minnifield at corner, with a second half interception.  For the offense, it was redshirt freshman Kevin Parks and true freshman Clifton Richardson making noise, combining for 171 yards and 4 touchdowns in a game that featured a heavy dose of running for the Cavaliers.  Kevin Parks shined in his debut, becoming the first Cavalier to rush for 3 touchdowns in his Virginia debut since Bob Davis way back in 1964.  This is a very impressive accomplishment considering the talent at the running back position over the years for Virginia (Thomas Jones, Tiki Barber, Terry Kirby, and of course Bullet Bill Dudley - just to name a few).

[caption id="attachment_31" align="alignleft" width="246" caption="Corey Mosley and LaRoy Reynolds celebrate Demetrious Nicholson's interception. Photo by Matt Riley / UVa Media Relations"][/caption]

True to his word, London gave true freshman quarterback David Watford plenty of meaningful stats, and the former Hampton start didn't disappoint.  Though his pocket presence needs more development, Watford showed both the elusiveness and strong arm that was alluded to in press conferences leading up to the game.  The way London and Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor use Watford in the remainder of the season will be something on which to keep a close eye.   I'd also be remiss not to mention both Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell, both of whom added an element of speed and shiftiness to the receiving corps and return game that this Cavalier football team has been lacking for much of the last decade.

With the infusion of so much young talent into the lineup on Saturday night, it's clear that Coach London has a lot of faith in his younger players and their ability to help the Cavaliers win this year.  Many Wahoo fans cringe to see true freshmen thrown to the wolves during the course of the season thanks to one Albert Groh, who seemingly burned through redshirts as recklessly as 'The Situation' does women.  For London and his staff, however, the balancing act is much tougher - with a team devoid of talent, much of the freshman who saw the field on Saturday did so as part of the 1st and 2nd team units.  And, unlike his predecessor, London showed a commitment to getting his freshman reps this year by playing them during the year's 1st game - versus randomly putting them on special teams half way through the year with nothing to gain.  Much of London's success in 'rebuilding' the Cavalier program will rest on the shoulders of this talented freshmen class over the next 4 years.


[caption id="attachment_32" align="alignright" width="269" caption="Linebacker Steve Greer and the Cavalier defense shut down William and Mary. Photo by Matt Riley / UVa Media Relations"][/caption]

In his first year as Defensive Coordinator for the Cavaliers, coach Jim Reid's defense did little to stop opposing team's offenses.  Against William & Mary, the Cavalier defense gave up just 169 yards and, more importantly, only 3 points - which were generated late in the 4th quarter.  Last year's move to the 4-3 defensive scheme from Groh's infamous 3-4 lineup proved to be a major headache for the Virginia coaching staff - leading to weekly breakdowns that resulted in big plays for the opposing team, often at critical junctures of the game.  Saturday's performance, however, was nothing short of spectacular for a Virginia defense that gave up 52 1st half yards, generated 2 turnovers which resulted in points for the Virginia offense and, perhaps most importantly, gave up only 22 yards to the CAA preseason player of the year Jonathan Grimes.  The play of the UVA secondary was markedly improved against the Tribe - with starting safeties Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosely playing very well rounded games.

The stars of the game on the defensive side of the ball, however, did not even take the field as starters.  Defensive tackles Justin Refrow and Will Hill stole the show in their roles as reserves up front for a unit that will constantly rotate this year.  Putting massive amounts of pressure on on the Tribe quarterback and clogging up running lanes, Hill and Renfrow provided much needed play along a defensive line that was pushed around last season.  If this trend continues, the Cavalier defense should be able to keep the team in a position to win during most every game this season.

Don't Forget About Me...

While Coach London was doing his work on the field, men's basketball coach Tony Bennett was working his magic with potential recruits in the stands.  As a result of his efforts, Coach Bennett received a verbal commitment from 2014 6'4 shooting guard B.J. Stith - an early top 100 player and son of former Cavalier all-time great Bryant Stith.  More importantly, B.J.'s commitment could prove even more valuable for Coach Bennett in the near future, as his older brother Brandon is one of the top forward prospects in the 2014 class.  With the 2012 class not even in the books, Coach Bennett could possibly wrap up the 2014 class - yes, you read that right - before the end of the summer.  That folks, is taking care of business.

All in all, it was a great start to the Virginia Cavalier football program's 2011 season. We'll be back later in the week with a look ahead to the Indiana contest this Saturday.

* Note:  All stats pulled from




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