Cavalier Rewind - A Look Back at Week 9 (@ Miami)

[caption id="attachment_565" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Coach London's Virginia Cavaliers picked up an outstanding win on the road agains Miami. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]

Wahoowa!  The Virginia Cavaliers looked like a team on  a mission Thursday night, bullying a Miami Hurricane squad from start to finish in front of a prime time audience on ESPN. The Cavaliers absolutely dominated Miami in the trenches, rushing for 207 yards while holding Miami's talented backfield to only 87 yards on the ground.  After a disappointing loss to NC State just a week ago, the Cavaliers are now right back on track for post-season play - boasting a 5-3 record with 4 ACC games remaining on the schedule. The Cavaliers also have their own destiny in their hands with regards to the ACC Coast Division race, sitting one game back from rival Virginia Tech.  More importantly, the Cavaliers appeared to have found an offensive identity by handing the reigns over to Mike Rocco at the quarterback position and establishing a power running game.  While you never really know with the Cavaliers, I have feeling that this Virginia football team isn't done yet.


[caption id="attachment_566" align="alignright" width="217" caption="He's a running back, he's a receiver, he's a quarterback - he's Perry 'Superman' Jones. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]

Perry 'Superman' Jones was nothing short of sensational on Thursday night.  His stat line: 67 rushing yards, 1 78-yard receiving touchdown, oh - and a 37-yard touchdown strike to receiver Tim Smith.    Through 8 games, Jones now has 680 yards of total offense and is by far the MVP for the Cavaliers on the season.  Though he is routinely the smallest player on the field, Perry is simply a 'gamer' - the type of kid who's never say die attitude and pure love for the game of football rubs off on his teammates.  And it showed against the Hurricanes.  It also shows in the way his freshman running mates - Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson - run the football as well.  After limited touches against State, KP carried the ball 16 time for 89 yards while Richardson saw his name called 9 times for another 30 yards on the ground.  The leadership role Jones plays for the Virginia's young, but extremely talented, backfield is an invaluable asset for Coach Mike London.

Rocco Takes the Reigns

[caption id="attachment_567" align="alignright" width="223" caption="Mike Rocco looked comfortable as the full-time starter at quarterback. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]

In his first game this season as 'the guy', quarterback Mike Rocco took the reigns and will likely not look back for the rest of the season. Coach Bill Lazor crafted a beautiful game plan around Rocco's strengths, and Rocco delivered with a 11-20, 226 yard, 2 touchdown performance against a very aggressive Hurricane defense.  More importantly, Rocco protected the football - as the Cavaliers had zero turnovers last night.  His perfectly thrown ball to Perry Jones down the seam on a 3rd-and-2 from the Cavaliers own 22 yard line could end up being the play of the season for the Cavaliers - as it squelched the building Hurricane momentum with the game sitting at 20-14 and the 'Canes due to get the ball back in great field position.  Mike Rocco showed on Thursday night that, at least for the remaining 4 football games, he is the right guy at quarterback for the Virginia Cavaliers. He displayed solid pocket presence, made good reads and sound decisions all night long. If he continues to successfully move the offense without turning the ball over, Wahoo fans can start planning their Holidays around a bowl game.

Monsters in the Middle

[caption id="attachment_568" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Virginia's big uglies were awesome against Miami. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]

Virginia's offensive and defensive lines were the true heros on Thursday night, with each absolutely dominating the Hurricanes lined up across from them.  Virginia's three-headed beast in the backfield had running room all night long and, more importantly, quarterback Mike Rocco had tons of time to effectively run Virginia's offense.  I think it's safe to say at this point in the season the Virginia is going to be able to run the ball right at people, and it all starts with the offensive line.  This will take a ton of pressure off of Mike Rocco to be 'the man', instead allowing him to settle into his role of moving Virginia's offense down the field.  It should also help in limiting turnovers as a successful interior running game opens up a lot of things for a pro-style offense.

[caption id="attachment_569" align="alignright" width="247" caption="Jake Synder was a beast coming off the edge for the Cavaliers. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]

On the other side of the ball, Virginia's front 7 was spectacular against a very athletic Hurricane attack.  Coming into this game, Miami running back Lamar Miller was virtually unstoppable.  Against the Cavaliers, however, Miller was only able to muster 70 yards on the ground and was held out of the end zone.  Virginia's defensive line kept pressure on Jacory Harris all night long, getting to him 3 times on the night and 'forcing' a fumble (and should have had another one as well).  The Cavalier line also forced Harris into several bad throws, which Virginia's secondary unfortunately bailed him out on.  LeRoy Reynolds' tackle in the backfield on a Miami 4th-and-2 attempt inside of the Virginia's 15 yard line late in the 4th quarter just might surpass Cam Johnson's sack-and-strip at the end of the end of Indiana game in terms of season-changing plays for the Cavaliers.

Young Stars Shine Bright

[caption id="attachment_570" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Darius Jennings is going to have a very special career in Charlottesville. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]

Coming into this game, I was worried how Virginia's young talent would perform on the biggest of stages. Furthermore, it was the first time under the prime time Thursday night lights for the Cavalier football program since the 2006 season - meaning no player on the roster had experience playing in a big ESPN week-night match up.  There would be no veteran leadership for Virginia's underclassman to lean on. My fears were all for nought however, as the Cavaliers looked completely comfortable in the spotlight.  True Freshman Darius Jennings set the tone for his classmates early, taking a screen 53 yards to the house in the 1st quarter of play for his 1st touchdown as a Cavalier.    In the backfield, the freshman duo of Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson did their thing as well - combining for 113 yards on the night.  Though Demetrious Nicholson had his struggles, he came up big when it mattered most - keeping Tommy Streeter under wraps during the Hurricane's last couple of desperate heaves to the end zone.  Virginia coaches also continued to show their faith in Dominique Terrell, who rewarded them with a smart performance in the punt return game.  And then there's Jake Snyder.  The sophomore defensive end was an absolute beast on Thursday night, notching 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and recovery and also knocking down a pass.  Not showing in the stat line was a second forced fumble and recovery that the refs decided to take away from him.  While Virginia's underclassman have had their fair share of mistakes this year, Thursday night's game showed just how good this Cavalier football team can be with these guys at their best.  The future is bright for these young stars.

Odds and Ins

[caption id="attachment_574" align="alignright" width="247" caption="A fumble? Gee, coach, I've never heard of that before. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Jim Daves"][/caption]

- Virginia once again proved that they are the most unpredictable team in college football.  Which team shows up against Maryland next weekend is anyone's guess.

- I'm tired of hearing outsiders (Chokies) knock Virginia for their lack of attendance.  Tickets to last night's game were literally selling on StubHub for $4.00.

- The officiating last night reminded me of just how painful the upcoming basketball season will be in regards to the refs.

- While Virginia has mostly completed their 2012 recruiting efforts, the big fish they are holding out for had to be impressed with last nights performance.  Coach London is trying to build a new, winning brand for Virginia football and last night's victory under the lights in South Beach in front a prime time ESPN audience is just what the doctor ordered.

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