Cavalier Rewind - A Look Back at Week 6 (Georgia Tech)

[caption id="attachment_444" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Virginia fans celebrate on the field with the team following an upset of #12 Georgia Tech. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]

What a difference a bye week makes!  On a beautiful October day in Scott Stadium, it was clear that the Virginia Cavalier football team did their homework in preparing for the 12th ranked Yellow Jackets' potent triple-option offense.  Virginia, who won the toss and elected to take the ball, imposed their will upfront against Al Groh's Georgia Tech defense from the game's first snap - which resulted in a 14 yard Perry Jones scamper for a Cavalier first down.  The opening drive was capped off by a hard-fought 6 yard run by Kevin Parks and set the tone for a Virginia offense which dominated in the trenches all day.  As if not to be outdone by the performance of the offensive line, the Cavalier defense held the 4th ranked total offense of Georgia Tech to only 296 total yards on the day - a far cry from Georgia Tech's dominating 536 yard performance against the Cavaliers just a year ago.  In his post-game press conference, Coach London said this 'could be a signature moment' for a Virginia program he and his staff are trying to return to prominence.  It certainly was a huge step in the right direction with the Cavaliers now entering the throws of ACC play and hopefully serves as a building block for the Virginia football team's ultimate goal of achieving post-season play, which is now only 2 wins away.

Dominating the Trenches

[caption id="attachment_445" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Virginia's offensive line was completely dominant on Saturday. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]

There's dominating the trenches, and then there's the performance by Virginia's offensive and defensive lines on Saturday.  Simply put, both units were absolutely outstanding. Few things in college football are as enjoyable as watching your team run at will against their opponent - watching them do it against the nation's 12th ranked team, who happens to be coached on the defensive side of the ball by a grumpy former coach, is on a whole different level.  Behind an offensive line that manhandled Georgia Tech's front 7 all day long, Virginia's three-headed monster at the running back position ran their way to a season high of 272 rushing yards and added 2 touchdowns on the day.  Speaking of the three-headed monster in the Virginia backfield, it was an historic day for two Cavaliers with Perry Jones rushing for a career-high 149 yards and Kevin Parks matching the freshman school record for rushing touchdowns in a season with his 7th trip to the end zone on the game's opening drive.  Nothing was as impressive, however, than Virginia's ability to run the football and chew up the final 6 minutes on the clock against a Yellow Jacket defense that knew UVA was going to run right at them - a true testament to just how dominant the mules were upfront for Virginia on Saturday.  For a unit that has surprising struggled at times this season, it was a performance that shows just how good Virginia's offensive line can be - and lends hope for similar success moving forward.

[caption id="attachment_446" align="alignright" width="268" caption="Virginia's defensive line, led by senior Matt Conrath, was outstanding against GT's triple-option attack. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]

On the defensive side of the ball, Virginia continued to show forward progress under 2nd year coordinator Jim Reid.  Perhaps no one benefited as much from the bye week as Reid's defensive staff, as the assignment-based football needed to shut down Georgia Tech's triple-option attack requires meticulous attention to detail (though my idea of just tackling everyone in the Georgia Tech backfield may work as well).  Planning only goes so far, however.  In his post-game press conference, Coach Reid mentioned that he went into Saturday's game with the 'exact same game plan as last year' - one that resulted in the Cavalier defense being gashed for 536 and a 33-21 win over the Cavaliers.  Looking at this year's numbers, the Yellow Jackets game into Saturday's contest averaging 533.5 yards and 46.5 points per game.  They left Charlottesville, however, with only 24 points and a paltry 296 yards on the day.  Simply put, the Virginia defense was able to perfectly execute on Coach Reid's game plan.  Virginia's front 7 wreaked havoc on Georgia Tech's quarterback Tevon Washington all afternoon, combining for 5 tackle for losses and a sack on the day.  The Cavalier defense forced the Jackets to punt 4 times on the day and, more importantly, held their potent offensive attack to only 7 points in the second half. Virginia now ranks #21 in total defense on the year and continues to improve with each outing - an extremely positive trend as Virginia looks for at least 2 more wins this season.

Defensive Secondary

[caption id="attachment_447" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Chase Minnifield is playing like an All-American. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]

Before the game I wrote that Georgia Tech's passing game could be the wild card in Saturday's football game - either giving the Yellow Jackets a huge advantage against a defensive that would be going all in to stop the run or giving the Cavalier defensive secondary the chance to make some huge plays for their team.  Well, the Virginia secondary stepped up in a huge way on Saturday - holding Georgia Tech to only 24 yards through the air and intercepting 2 passes on the day.  Led by Senior Chase Minnifield (5 tackles, 1 interception), Virginia's secondary was even more key in shutting down the Yellow Jackets' rushing attacking.  In particular, the safety duo of Rodney McCleod and Corey Mosely had perhaps their finest combined outing for the Cavaliers - keeping Georgia Tech's receivers in front of them all day and also helping to seal the edge on countless rushing plays to the outside.  Through the season's first 4 games, the Cavalier defense was only able to generate 7 turnovers - putting the Cavaliers amongst the worst of FBS teams in turnover margin.  Over the last two games, however, the Virginia defense has come away with 4 interceptions and the Cavaliers now average one per game.  This is a very encouraging trend and one that will need to continue as Virginia moves forward in ACC play.

Weekly Quarterback Carousel Musings

[caption id="attachment_448" align="alignright" width="262" caption="Mike Rocco found the end zone on Saturday. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]

At this point in the season, it's no surprise to anybody paying attention to the Cavalier football team that coordinator Bill Lazor is going to use quarterbacks Mike Rocco and David Watford in every game.  As difficult as it must be for a quarterback to develop a rhythm in a two quarterback offense, it is that much more difficult for an offensive coordinator to have to game plan around two very different players at the quarterback position.  For these reasons alone, I'm still unsure as to whether playing both guys makes sense for a Virginia offense that - after 6 games - should absolutely be centered more around the run.  On Saturday, however, Coach Lazor found his groove - calling situational plays with each quarterback that played to the specific strengths of each player.  As a result, each quarterback had some success on Saturday - with Mike Rocco leading the Cavaliers on 2 consecutive scoring drives to start Saturday's game and David Watford orchestrating a key 72-yard scoring drive to seize momentum back from the Yellow Jackets who had quickly made it a 14-14 game early in the 2nd quarter.  The only hiccup on the day for Coach Lazor came late in the game, when he seemed bound and determined to pass the ball despite the fact that Georgia Tech was completely unable to shut down Virginia's running game.  While a balanced offensive attack is certainly part of a healthy diet, there's nothing wrong with taking what the defense gives you.  Regardless, Saturday's offensive game planning to each quarterback's strength (an intermediate passing game designed around the play action for Rocco and a shotgun-oriented approach for Watford that allows him to move around in the pocket) proved to be a winning formula for the Cavaliers and hopefully is something we'll see more of during the second half of this season.  Oh, and when our offensive line is dominating like we saw on Saturday, run the ball!

Odds and Ins

[caption id="attachment_451" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Cavaliers will host NC State next Saturday at Scott Stadium. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]

- While the 47,692 fans who showed up for Saturday's contest made for a great environment, Coach London simply deserves better support from the fan base at this point in his tenure.  Quite frankly, that is an embarrassing number, especially on Homecomings weekend against the nation's 4th ranked team.  Come on 'Hoos, let's fill Scott this weekend.  Another 3:30 starting time and good weather gives you limited excuses!

- No one unit was as improved as Coach Poindexter's special teams on Saturday, with Virginia making sound decisions in the punt rerun game and finally winning the field position battle. Continued success in this area will be a huge boost for the Cavaliers moving forward.

- Is there anything better than tailgating with Wayside Fried Chicken on a spectacular Autumn day in Charlottesville?  Yea...didn't think so.

[caption id="attachment_450" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Virginia recruits got a taste of Cavalier football at it's best on Saturday. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]

- It was a huge recruiting weekend for both the football and basketball programs.  Coach London and staff played host to most for the 2012 class, as well as studs from the '13 and '14 classes.  Needless to say, these guys got to see a helluva game and I'm sure were shown a great time on Saturday night.  For Coach Bennett, the entire 2012 recruiting class (4 guys) were in town for their official visit - a great weekend to take in all that Charlottesville has to offer as well as get a look at the first official practice for the men's basketball team.   According to Jamie Oakes (Wahoos247), stud 2014 recruit Devon Hall was also in the 'Hook for a visit.  We'll see if Saturday's game results in some recruiting victories as well.

4-2 has never felt so good!  For the Cavaliers, however, it's time to get back to work and focus on the last in a 4 game homestand against ACC foe NC State.  Coming off a bye week, the Wolfpack will be 100% ready for a Virginia team that cannot afford to come out flat after such an emotional victory.  As for me, I'll be back later in the week with an updated edition of 'Hoos Hot - Top 5 Cavaliers through 6 games as well as a new installment in the popular Look 'Hoos Tweeting series.

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