Despite what seemed to be their best effort to give away yet another game away in Charlottesville, Virginia narrowly escaped with a 21-20 overtime victory over Idaho on Saturday. Virginia's performance on the field left many Cavalier fans perplexed as to the pattern of mistakes - from both the players and the coaches - that have been seen during the course of 5 weeks of Virginia football. Statistically, Virginia's offense and defense have fared well thus far on the season - with Virginia's total offensive ranking now at #37 in the country and total defensive ranking at #25 in the country. Mistakes, however, have plagued the Cavaliers this season - with Virginia ranking near the bottom in the FBS rankings in turnover margin. The Wahoos now enter a critical bye week where adjustments will have to be made and errors corrected prior to entering the full ACC slate, starting with Georgia Tech. There have certainly been some bright spots for the Cavaliers this season, with several players having break-out years. Through 5 weeks of play, here's my Cavalier Top 5, as well as this week's 'Hoos Knocking on the Door:
1. Kevin Parks (Last Week - #1)
[caption id="attachment_377" align="alignright" width="300" caption="While Kevin Parks watched Saturday's game from the sidelines, he has still been the early season MVP for the Cavaliers. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]
While Kevin Parks sat out Saturday's game against Idaho to rest a sore hamstring, he has been the MVP for Virginia so far this season. In his first collegiate year on the field, Parks is averaging nearly 78 yards per game and has 6 touchdowns under his belt in only 4 outings - putting him among the top 40 national scoring leaders (9 points per game). As mentioned last week, Parks needs only 1 more rushing touchdown to tie the Virginia freshman single-season touchdown record. With the upcoming bye week giving Parks additional time to get to full strength, he should find himself in the record books following the Georgia Tech game. One thing to monitor here, however, will be the way the coaches continue to divide up carries between Parks, Perry Jones and the emerging superstar they have in true freshman Clifton Richardson. Still, when healthy, it appears Parks is the more reliable back out of this rotation.
2. Perry Jones (Last Week - #4)
[caption id="attachment_370" align="alignright" width="265" caption="Perry Jones' versatility has been key for the Virginia offense this season. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]
No player has catapulted up the Cavalier Top 5 the way Perry Jones has over the first 5 games. Though he started slow, Jones has become an integral part of a Virginia offense that is averaging 439 yards per game. If Parks is the most reliable running back, Jones is certainly the most versatile. Jones leads the Cavaliers in total offense, averaging 113 yards per game, and is a key weapon in the passing game - notching up nearly 40 yards per game through the air. On Saturday, Perry put up a career best 110 yards on the ground against the Vandals. The one issue Jones has had thus far has been a tendency to put the ball on the ground - something that will surely be addressed during the bye week.
3. Robert Randolph (Last Week - #2)
Randolph started the season red hot, drilling his first 8 field goal attempts and holding the top spot in the Cavalier Top 5 through the first two games. He has cooled down considerably since then, however, going only two-for-five since the game in Chapel Hill (including an 0-2 performance against Idaho that included a blocked attempt). As such, he continues to move down the rankings. Still - Randolph has been a very reliable kicker on the year for the Cavaliers, with a field goal percentage of 77% through the first 5 games. He also leads the Cavaliers in scoring with 42 points through 5 games.
4. Will Hill (Last Week - #4)
[caption id="attachment_371" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Will Hill's play has been a welcome surprise for the Cavalier defensive line this year. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]
Though Hill didn't have the presence in the backfield on Saturday that we have seen from him in the previous 4 games, he did notch 4 tackles against Idaho and was once again a strong presence in the middle for Virginia. Through 5 games, Hill lead the Cavaliers in tackles for loss (5.5) and has also forced a fumble and knocked down a pass for the Virginia defense. With Cam Johnson limited due to injury in the last two outings, Hill's solid play in the middle has been a welcome surprise. While Matt Conrath and Cam Johnson may have similar or better statistics, Hill's consistency at the defensive tackle spot has been a major bonus for Coach Jim Reid this year.
5. Kris Burd (Last Week - 'Hoos Knocking on the Door)
[caption id="attachment_372" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Kris Burd has been Virginia's go-to-guy this year, regardless of who is throwing him the ball. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]
Though he was once again held without a touchdown last weekend, Kris Burd racked up 123 yards on 8 receptions against Idaho - making him the Cavaliers leading receiver with 323 yards through 5 games. Regardless of who is throwing the football, Burd has been the most reliable target for Virginia. Burd is quietly working his way up the Virginia record books, with his performance on Saturday moving him into fifth place on the all-time receptions list with 126 career catches and eighth on the all-time receiving yards list with 1,650 career yards. As mentioned last week, Burd needs to start finding the end zone for the Cavaliers - but his pivotal role as the go-to-guy in Virginia's offense puts him in the Cavalier Top 5 at this point in the season.
'Hoos Knocking on the Door
This week's version of 'Hoos Knocking on the Door features a lot of defensive talent and includes a brand new addition to the rankings with Matt Conrath's dominating performance against the Vandals last Saturday. Oday Aboushi moves out of the Cavalier Top 5 this week with the Cavalier offensive line struggling in third down situations, while Chase Minnifield makes a return entry into the 'Hoos Knocking list due to a great outing on Saturday. Without further adieu, here's this week's list:
Chase Minnifield (Last Week - Unranked)
Chase Minnifield finds himself back on the 'Hoos Knocking list after his best outing of the year last Saturday against Idaho - making a great interception during the 4th quarter and also registering a tackle for loss on the day. Heading into ACC play, Chase needs to maintain this level of performance if the Cavalier defense hopes to enjoy the same success they had against the Vandals. Chase is very close to being in the Cavalier Top 5 and will find himself there with a similar performance against Georgia Tech in two weeks.
Oday Aboushi (Last Week - #5)
Following a lackluster performance by Virginia's offense line against Idaho - a game in which the mules gave up 3 sacks and again struggled in protection on third down situations against a week Vandal defensive front - Aboushi moves out of the Cavalier Top 5 for the first time this year. It wasn't all bad, however, as the Cavaliers amassed 161 rushing yards on the day and nearly 500 total yards. Aboushi has been the most consistent lineman for Virginia this year and the coaching staff is sure to take a look at third down breakdowns by the offensive line during the bye week.
Cam Johnson (Last Week - 'Hoos Knocking on the Door)
Johnson was held out of last week's game, so he sees no movement in this week's edition of the Cavalier Top 5. On the year, however, Cam has put up very nice stats - racking up 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. And of course, Johnson still has the play of the year for the Cavaliers with his game-saving sack and strip of Indiana's quarterback in the final 2 minutes of play in Bloomington during week 2. Hopefully the extended period of rest for Johnson will have him rejuvenated and fully healthy as the Cavaliers enter the full ACC schedule next Saturday.
Matt Conrath (Last Week - Unranked)
[caption id="attachment_375" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Matt Conrath had a huge game against the Vandals and been improving with each game. Photo / Virginia Media Relations / Matt Riley"][/caption]
Though he has struggled at times this year - after all, it's not easy playing the defensive tackle position when you are 6'7 - Conrath had a masterful performance against Idaho, notching 1.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups and a forced fumble on the day. Conrath's ability to put pressure on the opposing team's kicking game [see his block against Indiana] has also been a plus for UVA thus far on the season. If the Cavalier defense can continue to get production out of Conrath like it did last Saturday, Virginia will be in a very good spot.
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