A rivalry was born on Saturday. In what was an unusually chippy game in Charlottesville, the Virginia Cavaliers were finally able to end a three game skid to the Duke Blue Devils and keep their ACC divisional hopes alive with a 31-21 victory in Scott Stadium. It was a surprisingly pleasant mid-November day for football, but the tone on the field was anything but with the Blue Devils coming to town with a bizarre chip on their shoulder and the referees failing to control the environment early. After going into half time tied at 14, Chase Minnifield came up with the type of opportunistic defensive play that has been missing this season for Virginia – returning an interception 54yards for a touchdown. Virginia’s running game would do the rest, wearing down the Duke defense in the fourth quarter and giving the Cavaliers their seventh win on the season.
Superman Strikes Again
Now it’s just getting eerie. Doing his best impersonation yet of the super hero for which he’s been nicknamed, Perry Jones took flight for a soaring 1-yard touchdown late in the third quarter – giving the Cavaliers a lead they wouldn't relinquish. It was another typical day for Perry Jones, who rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown while tacking on another 30 yards through the air. Following another disastrous special teams outing for freshman Dominique Terrell, Jones was recruited by coach Anthony Poindexter to set in and field punts in the second half – nearly taking one to the house in the third quarter prior to being tackled by his own man after a 21-yard gain. Though he is already doing it all for the Cavaliers, this writer hopes to see him continue to line up with the punt receiving team for the rest of the year. Oh, and eclipse the 1,000 rushing yards mark while he’s at it. Hey, they don’t call him Superman for nothing!
Tight Ends Get Involved
[caption id="attachment_730" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Paul Freedman was a foot away from scoring on a 22-yard completion in Saturday's third quarter. Photo / Susan Birckhead"][/caption]
After what seems like a decade of being the forgotten man, Virginia is finally starting to find their tight ends again. Prior to Saturday's game, Virginia's tight ends have combined for only 12 receptions n 1 touchdown this season. That changed early against Duke when Jay Mathis scored the first points of the day on a beautiful scramble and throw by quarterback Mike Rocco. Paul Freedman also found an open seam in the Duke offense late in the third quarter on a 22 yard reception, setting Perry Jones for the go-ahead touchdown. For a quarterback still trying to find his groove, there is no better friend to have than a tight end. With games against FSU and VT looming - two very aggressive defenses - coach Lazor needs to keep that in mind.
Statistically, the Virginia defense has had an incredible year. Virginia's 7-and-3 record reflects that. If there has been one complaint however, it's been the Cavaliers inability to step up and make a big, momentum shifting play. Well, complain no longer Cavaliers. With a tie ball game and the crowd tense following a string of controversial calls to end the first half, Chase Minnifield stepped in front of a pass on a Duke first-and-ten from mid-field and raced untouched 54 yards to the end zone - breaking the back of the Blue Devils and breathing life into Scott Stadium. Virginia will need to control momentum against their next two foes and there's no better way to do that than through game-changing plays like the one Chase made on Saturday.
Odds and Ins
Missed Opportunities - Overall, Mike Rocco played another solid game, tossing 2 touchdowns against no interceptions. He showed maturity in the pocket as well, repeatedly stepping up to evade the rush and delivering a nice strike. That being said, Rocco twice missed a wide open Darius Jennings in plays that would have resulted in easy touchdowns. Mike has to make those throws against FSU and VT.
Attendance - I'm a little surprised that there wasn't more than 50k in attendance for Saturday's game - though the 45k that did so up made their presence felt. I guess we can expect a home game for VT after Thanksgiving. Sad.
Mad Max - The senior fullback once again made his presence felt, racking up 69 all-purpose yards and leading the way for another productive day on the ground for Virginia's running backs.
Conrath!- Matt Conrath continued his stellar play on Saturday, notching 9 tackles (2 for loss) and forcing fumble. Matt also blocked his third field goal of the year. I'm chomping at the bit to watch the big guy disrupt Logan Thomas in two weeks.
KP - As much as I liked Perry Jones' superman impersonation, I was a little saddened to see Kevin Parks not get the chance to finally break Virginia's freshman rushing TD record. It would be a damn shame for him not to break the record after sitting on the tying TD (with 7) through the season's first 5 games.Back to the Virginia Cavaliers Newsfeed