[caption id="attachment_206" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Cavalier defense struggled to stop the UNC running attack on Saturday. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]
On a cold and damp day inside of UNC's Kenan Stadium, empty yards spelled doom for the Cavaliers in an 11 point victory for the Tarheels. In a game that was never really in doubt, the Wahoos amassed 468 yards to Carolina's 401 - but it was their inability to get points on the board, particularly in the first half, that resulted in the offense playing catch up for much of the game and ultimately going home withtheir first loss of the season. Of course, giving up 222 yards on the ground didn't help their cause. Watching Virginia on Saturday afternoon was as equally frustrating as it was encouraging. That being said, this is certainly not the Cavalier team is was a year ago and appears to be one trending in the right direction. As offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said following the game, "I think our guys are committed to getting better, and I'm really excited about the future, but I want it to happen now.". You andme both, coach, you andme both. For Cavalier fans, however, patience will be key for the remainder of this season as a young team continues to learn and mature under a coaching staff still coming together themselves.
Mules Pass the Test
[caption id="attachment_207" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Kevin Parks had another strong outing behind Virginia's stellar offensive line play on Saturday. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]
UVA'soffensive line knew what it was going up against this weekend, with UNC's vaunted defense - led by top NFL prospect Quentin Coples- only giving up an average of 30 rushing yards per game entering Saturday's contest. Virginia had little trouble moving the ball on the ground Saturday however, rushing for 170 yards - led by freshman Kevin Parks (14 carries for 98 yards). More importantly, the line did a great job of giving Virginia QBs Mike Rocco and David Watfordample time, giving up only 1 sack on the day. This type of play from Virginia's very underrated OL is an encouraging sign for a UVA offense still trying to findit's identity behind a young and inexperienced QB. Through 3 games, it appears that Virginia's offensive line will the be team's strength this season.
[caption id="attachment_213" align="alignright" width="252" caption="Mike Rocco and the Virginia offense missed several opportunities on Saturday. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]
Perhaps nothing was more ominous as to how Saturday's game would unfold than Robert Randolph's missed 45 yarder on Virginia's first drive of the game. The missed field goal was unexpected for a team and fan base that watched Randolph go a perfect 8-8 entering Saturday's game. Later in the 1st half, QB David Watford just missed a wide open Dominique Terrell on a 4th and 2 that once again left the Cavaliers without points after a nice drive had them inside of the Carolina 40. And then, in what was the defining play of the game for Virginia, a botched snap between center Anthony Mihota and Mike Rocco resulted in a fumble - on 1st and 10 from the Carolina 37, no less. For a team that had been so efficient in red-zone scoring in the two games prior, Virginia's offense was wholly inept when it came to finishing drives against the Tarheels. While some of this can certainly be attributed to a good defense buckling down in crunch time, most promising Virginia drives ended with self-inflicted wounds. UVA has shown it can generate offense against a stout defense, now it's time to take the next step and learn how to finish drives with points. Offensive efficiency will be a major storyline moving forward.
On the defensive side of the ball, no missed opportunity was bigger than Rodney McLeod's dropped interception that would have given the Cavaliers the ball deep in their own territory just minutes after pulling the score to 21-10 mid-way through the 3rd quarter. An interception and score there would have dramatically changed the complexion of the game on Saturday. Instead, the Tarheels punted, the Virginia offense sputtered and, an 88 yard scoring drive later, UNC put the game away at 28-10 heading into the 4th quarter. These are the types of momentum plays that need to be made for the Cavaliers to go from 'good to great', as Coach London likes to say.
The play of Virginia's defensive line on Saturday left much to be desired - giving up 222 yards on the ground and letting Tarheel quarterback Bryn Renner buy time and yards with his feet at pivotal moments during the game. In particular, Virginia's constant lack of pressure up the middle left huge holes for Carolina running backs - and it's QB - to run through. And then there are the defensive ends, whose consistent over pursuit led to Carolina generating tons of yards on cutbacks and wide receiver sweeps in what seemed like a bad rerun halfway through the 4thquarter. The absence of Cam Johnson to apparent injury in the 2nd half only compounded Virginia's problems. All in all, this unit really hurt the Cavaliers on Saturday and must see vast improvement if the Cavaliers intend on making a bowl game this year. There has been one bright spot, however, and that is the stellar play of reserve tackle Will Hill - he needs a majority of the snaps moving forward in the middle. His reserve running mate Justin Renfrow seems to eat up a little bit more space as well . I wouldn't be surprised to see these guys getting the majority of snaps when Virginia gets into the full thrust of the ACC schedule.
Max a Million!
Senior fullback Max Millien has been a nice target thus far out of the backfield for the Cavaliers, racking up 82 receiving yards on the season. None was bigger than his 41 yard reception on a great 3rd and 1 play call by OC Bill Lazor that breathed some life into the Cavaliers after the 'Heels had just taken a 21-3 lead to open the 2nd half. Look for Millien to remain a serious target catching the ball out of the backfield moving forward. Oh, and his strength as a blocking fullback has been an underrated yet key part of the Cavaliers successful rushing attack as well.
Odds and Ins
- While I'm not a fan of anything baby blue, there was one aspect of Kenan Stadium that I absolutely loved - that being the availability of the always delicious Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich. And I do love me some Chick-fil-a (I could eat there 7 times a day). Scott Stadium vendors - take note!
- Speaking of Kenan Stadium, the PA guy was absolutely bush league...deciding comedic commentary was better than your typical play-by-play action. His announcement that Tarheel RB A.J. Blue [who was tripped up but kept his balance only to fall seconds later] was tackled by 'nobody' was not amusing to this Cavalier, nor was his snide comment following Rocco's 2nd interception [Rocco with a replay of his previous play]. Wrong place, wrong time...
- Daquan Romero shined at the OLB spot during his 1st real extensive collegiateaction on Saturday afternoon. Given the limited depth at the LB spot right now for Virginia, this is a very encouraging sign and I expect 'Dada' to receive more meaningful snaps moving forward.
- Overall, I was wholly unimpressed with Carolina's gameday atmosphere. Though the weather may have been a contributing factor, Kenan had a ton of empty seats and very rarely got loud [except when Hansbrough's goofy grin graced the video board]. They also have some interesting dances. As for the tailgating, it seemed most were confined to parking decks near the stadium as there was absolutely no parking around Kenan. I'll take Charlottesville, please.Back to the Virginia Cavaliers Newsfeed