October 26, 2020

Independent analysis and commentary on UVA athletics

Wednesday Reset – Week 6

Week 5 is in the books with a crushing loss to the Wolfpack, and now it’s time to take a quick look back at the takeaways from around the league last week and evaluate both the coming week and remaining road ahead:

Quick Hit Thoughts Of The Week

Everything just stunk out of the gate, didn’t it?

Going to keep it short this week because frankly I don’t feel like spending a lot of time wallowing or getting baited into extensive blame-throwing or other pessimism.

Offense’s first 6 series: 3-and-out, 3-and-interception, 3-and-out, empty red zone trip (failed 4th down), 2-and-interception, 3-and-out and a QB concussion. Zero points, 2 interceptions, 3 sacks, 3 penalties (2 accepted). By the time UVA finally ran a successful 2-minute drill under Stone’s direction, they were already in a 24-0 hole. Game was essentially lost already.

Bronco said in a presser that the INTs were on bad route-running or miscommunication by the wideouts, not on Brennan. End result is the same.

So enough of UVA’s goose-egg through 28 minutes. How much of that 24-point hole to blame on the defense?

Defense started with a 3-and-out, so far so good. Second drive with okay field position (State’s 34), Hoos gave up two decent pass plays but shut down the run and held State to an unsuccessful long FG try. Again, so far so good. Third drive defense started failing, though, 6 plays for 50 yards and a State TD, aided by a personal foul, followed by another 58 yard TD drive largely through the passing game. Defense recovered by holding State to a punt and then a short-field FG, so I’ll call it four successful defensive stands out of their first six drives. But Knight’s 35-yard TD scamper on the Pack’s 7th drive was the backbreaker.

Hard to read too much into the second half; State went conservative, took advantage of two more UVA turnovers (a Stone INT, could’ve been more, plus a Simpson fumble) to sit on a big double-digit lead and milk clock. The defense played much better on paper, only one TD drive that really matters (the last one coming on a short field in garbage time), but I hesitate to give them too much credit when State wasn’t pressing as much.

Defense played conservative, went with a more coverage-oriented attack, maybe to account for Joey Blount’s injury, which contributed to an inaccurate day for Leary (11 of 25) but left us vulnerable to the ground game and netted zero sacks.

And oh dear god the Special Teams. A blocked punt, shanked kicks, needing timeouts just to get the right personnel on the field… unacceptable. Brumfield needs this unit to perform better, way better, as soon as possible. I don’t care about their fake punt conversion. You don’t get to brag about pulling off trick plays if at the same time you can’t accomplish basic fundamentals like blocking and keeping the ball in bounds. Maybe spend less time on the trick plays in practice and more time on the basics.

Team’s psyche is the big concern. I get we’ve had personnel losses, and that there are a lot of new faces. But this team isn’t playing with as much toughness and hunger as the last two years. This may be a young group that’s grown too accustomed to success and takes winning for granted. Or maybe they don’t have superman Bryce Perkins to bail them out. The ACC is too good for UVA to win games without a minimum B+ performance. Talent level isn’t any better than anyone else in the league, and against many teams is actually a disadvantage. UVA’s edge the last two years has been execution and hustle. That’s been missing through three games this season.

Team looked like the 2017 team that still needed to learn how to win week to week. That team ran Boise State right off its blue turf only to get slaughtered by BC at home with bowl eligibility on the line.

What do we do with quarterback uncertainty now? It doesn’t look good. A turnover prone Armstrong coming off a concussion? Career backup Stone who’s never been a good system fit? True freshman Armstead with zero experience at the P5 level, not even a spring camp to lean on? Transfer Keytaon Thompson who the staff seemingly has given up on for now at QB (potentially injury related)? Pick your poison. None come with much reason for confidence for the moment.

 

VirginiaSportsTV Highlights

 

First Year Playing Tracker

As always, this is more for fun this year as there’s no NCAA penalty for playing true freshmen in 2020, so we’re not tracking for “burned redshirts” purposes.

 

Depth Chart Moves

Quarterback changes from Brennan as the lead and a three-way “OR” for backup, to Brennan and Lindell as co-starters based on Brennan’s concussion. Thompson becomes co-starter at one of the wideout spots, while Davis jumps Henry to a starting position. On defense, Smiley disappears in favor of true freshman Malani, making all three backups new faces. No changes in the secondary, though hopefully Blount makes it back this week.

One thing I’m going to talk about soon is the number of players on this depth chart, 16 total across the offense and defense, who weren’t on scholarship at UVA last year: six transfers, six true freshmen, and four (current or recently-awarded) walk-ons.

ACC Power Rankings

1. Clemson (Prev: 1) – 4-0 (3-0) – Clemson cemented their placed atop the ACC for another season with a resounding win over a heretofore impressive Miami. Notre Dame in November remains their lone major threat remaining.

2. Notre Dame (Prev: 2) – 3-0 (2-0) – The Irish shook off a 3 week layoff (COVID + bye week) to dispatch the dreadful Noles. Expect them to hold steady and undefeated at #2 for another 3 weeks until they visit South Carolina.

3. Miami (Prev: 3) – 3-1 (2-1) – Losing to Clemson stinks for a Miami team that had looked dominant in its 3-0 start, but they’re still potentially the league’s #2 team, and will angle to rematch Clemson in the ACCCG with a strong rebound.

4. North Carolina (Prev: 5) – 3-0 (3-0) – I’d been in wait-and-see mode on the Tar Heels, and I still question their defense, they caught VT at a good time. But results are real and they don’t face any of the league’s top teams before Thanksgiving.

5. Virginia Tech (Prev: 4) – 2-1 (2-1) – Their defense gave up an astounding 650 yards to UNC, COVID losses finally being too much to overcome. They stay above water here because I do believe their best is yet to come once the defense is back at full strength and Hooker shakes off his rust.

6. NC State (Prev: 7) – 3-1 (3-1) – That blowout loss in Blacksburg feels like a million years ago. Under new QB Devin Leary, State’s offense is well-oiled, and the defense is coming together slowly but surely.

7. Boston College (Prev: 10) – 3-1 (2-1) – Impressive, gutsy OT win over a tough Pitt team, and their only loss by a whisker to UNC. Transfer QB Jurkovic is finding his footing. If they win at Blacksburg this weekend, it’s time to get excited about the instant impact Jeff Hafley’s making.

8. Pittsburgh (Prev: 8) – 3-2 (2-2) – After starting 3-0 and getting ranked, Pitt’s lost two tough ones, to NC State and now BC, each by a single score. They’re still a tough out, so 8th feels about right for now. They’re double-digit dogs in Miami this weekend, but they have the defense to make things interesting.

9. Virginia (Prev: 6) – 1-2 (1-2) – The Hoos are crumbling under the challenges of integrating too many new faces. Wake Forest on Saturday is a must-win. Until then, though, they can’t be considered a top-half team yet.

10. Wake Forest (Prev: 14) – 1-2 (0-2) – Their narrow loss to NC State last month looks less bad as State continues to impress, the other loss was to Clemson. They’ve got a big opportunity against a struggling UVA to get into the win column.

11. Duke (Prev: 15) – 1-4 (1-4) – Duke gets up off the ACC floor with a 2-TD win over Syracuse. Brice threw only 1 interception and their offense could finally move the ball as a result.

12. Syracuse (Prev: 11) – 1-3 (1-3) – Their win over GT was solid, but losing by 14 to Duke means there’s still a ways to go. Cuse’s defense has a lot of holes to fill, and even finds themselves only a narrow favorite at home over Liberty this weekend.

13. Georgia Tech (Prev: 12) – 2-2 (2-1) – Two wins and a winning record is great, but it’s over two winless teams. Let’s see them beat one of the above teams and we can start talking; as of now the loss at Syracuse is still a bad one.

14. Louisville (Prev: 9) – 1-3 (0-3) – I didn’t expect the Cardinals to so utterly collapse in Atlanta, giving up 32 second-half points to the Jackets to turn a 14 point lead into a 19 point loss. The Cards are officially in trouble.

15. Florida State (Prev: 13) – 1-3 (0-3) – Another week, another double-digit loss. Losing in South Bend isn’t technically a big deal, but the troublesome trend continues. FSU’s defense let ND do whatever it wanted on offense. Expect Sam Howell and the UNC offense to be equally successful Saturday.

 

Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend

Hoos have the late afternoon kickoff on Saturday, a 4pm eastern ACC Network date, but a lot of other games to flip to on commercial breaks and watch other points in the day:

 

Saturday

Pitt (+10.5) at Miami – 12:00 PM Eastern – ACC Network: Does Miami suffer any letdown after their big primetime clash with Clemson? Pitt’s not a world-beater, but they’re tenacious enough to take advantage of Miami if the Canes aren’t sharp in this noon game.

Louisville (+17) at Notre Dame – 2:30 PM Eastern – NBC: Louisville’s season is in crash-and-burn territory after a terrible outing at GT. Can they do anything to surprise in South Bend, at least enough to start turning the ship around? Louisville visits Charlottesville in a few weeks.

UNC (-13) at Florida State – 7:30 PM Eastern – ABC: Florida State continues to flounder while UNC is rounding into form. The Noles are facing a must-win game, though, and may give the Heels trouble. Hoos play both later this season.

Boston College (+11) at Virginia Tech – 8:00 PM Eastern – ACC Network: BC continues to surprise this year, and VT is coming off a disappointing loss at UNC. This is arguably the weekend’s best game; VT may win, but an 11 point spread seems really high.

 

The Remaining Schedule

Sat, Oct 17 – at Wake Forest: Win confidence 5 – I have no idea what to expect this weekend. Wake could be rusty after 3 weeks without a P5 opponent, or they could be rested and hungry. And without knowing who our QB is going to be?

Sat, Oct 24 – at Miami: Win confidence 3 – I’m not punishing Miami for their Clemson loss assuming they bounce back strong against Pitt. At this stage, I’m still doubtful Hoos pull off the Coral Gables upset.

Sat, Oct 31 – North Carolina: Win confidence 4 – Carolina’s offense was Clemson-level dangerous against VT. UVA’s defense needs a big turnaround to win this.

Sat, Nov 7 – Louisville: Win confidence 7 – As disappointing as UVA’s weekend was, Louisville’s was worse. Virginia should still have the edge here with any sort of reasonable bounce back.

BYE WEEK

Sat, Nov 21 – Abilene Christian: Win confidence 10 – Cats were off this week and their game this coming weekend against West Texas A&M was cancelled. We’ll see them next against Stephen F Austin on the 24th.

Sat, Nov 28 – at FSU: Win confidence 7 – Noles are falling apart slowly. Talent’s there but want-to isn’t. Hoos may have the advantage on both sides of the trenches.

Sat, Dec 5 – Boston College: Win confidence 5 – BC’s improving weekly, so at this stage, 2 months out, it’s a bit of a toss-up.

Sat, Dec 12 – at Virginia Tech: Win confidence 4 – If VT’s defense improves once these COVID issues run their course in a month or so, they could make like difficult for UVA’s quarterback.

Predicted final record: 5-6 (4-6)

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