The Cavaliers weren't particularly sharp in the second half of their 52-17 win over the Tribe on Friday. But that's OK, because they did more than enough to overwhelm the visitors in the first 30 minutes and give the starters some rest. Virginia only outscored W&M 17-14 in the second half, but the mistakes it made are issues the coaches can harp on all week as the Cavaliers prepare for better competition with UVa stepping back into ACC play by hosting Florida State for the first time since 2010. Last week, I compared the football team to the basketball team and again, I think it fits. Sometimes, the hardwood Hoos build a big halftime lead on an inferior opponent, only to play a sloppy second 20 minutes that they win by just five points. In such instances, Tony Bennett can be seen barking at his players to do better despite a 20- to 25-point margin. I bet Friday's second half had Bronco Mendenhall thinking about all the things he needed to see his players do better. #TheStandard has changed, and even in a blowout win, there are mistakes to clean up.
A more detailed look at the game:
The Cavaliers scored more than 50 points for the first time since 2005 when they beat Temple, 51-3. And they were on the precipice of 60 points, just yards away from a touchdown at the end of the game that would've given them 59 with an extra point. Yes, William & Mary scored 17 points, but only 10 of those came from offensive scores, and three of those 10 came on a field goal after William & Mary lost yards on a drive after getting possession deep in UVa territory following a muffed punt. The Tribe's lone sustained touchdown drive came in the fourth quarter with plenty of second-stringers on defense. This was domination of an FCS squad fans hadn't seen in a while. In Virginia's 42-13 win over Richmond last season, the Spiders scored first on a pick-6 of Bryce Perkins, and the score was 28-10 at the half as opposed to Friday's forget-about-it tally of 35-3.
Perkins had a pair of interceptions, throwing his first pick in 145 passes, which was the longest active streak in the FBS without one. Perkins said after the game he knew they weren't good throws or good decisions. I think this was a case of him getting overconfident against a lower-level team and trying to force passes and use his athleticism a bit too much. On both picks, he threw across his body toward the middle of the field, pretty much always a big no-no. Given the fact that he had just nine INTs last year and had the longest steak in the country without one going into the game, I'm confident he will be more under control next week against the Seminoles.
Virginia's first score came on a long pass from Perkins to Joe Reed. Perkins was rolling to his left (didn't throw across his body on this one) and lofted a deep shot down the sideline to Reed, who had to hesitate to catch the ball, then was able to fight through a tackle to get to the pylon for the TD. It would've been great if Perkins could've thrown a pass that hit Reed perfectly in stride, but that was going to be hard with how Perkins' body was positioned. Still, it was a solid pass, and Reed showed great concentration to wait for the ball and still catch it with the defender bearing down on him.
I'm a big fan of how the offense is utilizing Reed. He had his fourth career kickoff return for a touchdown, which is tied for fourth most in ACC history. But Reed's special teams exploits aren't new. What is new is how often the team is looking to get him the ball. Reed had four catches for 58 yards (14.5 yards per catch), and he has 11 receptions through the first two games, most on the team. That's almost halfway to his total of 25 from 2018. The Cavaliers know Reed is dynamic with the ball in his hands and is working to get it to him more.
Reed's kick return TD was electric, but where was the blocking? In general, I'd want Reed to take a knee when receiving the ball 3-4 yards deep in the end zone, but in this case, given his skill set and the opponent and situation, it was fine for him to bring it out. But if you noticed, he was almost going to get tackled inside the 10-yard line before turning on the jets and finding the corner.
Nick Grant scored UVa's second touchdown on a pick-6, a particularly memorable play for him. He bobbled the ball for a second but then hauled it in and scooted the other way for an 85-yard return. It was the first pick of the redshirt junior's career, so that was an awesome one. Grant is the starting cornerback on one side of the field after the loss of Darrius Bratton to a knee injury in the preseason.
Anyone else think Perkins holds on to the ball for way too long sometimes on his run-pass options? Early in the second quarter, Perkins had the ball in the gut of PK Kier before taking it out at the last second and running for a big gain. It worked out there, but I'm just worried that at the wrong time, Perkins will get caught with his hand in the cookie jar. If he can pull it off like this time and time again, it can be a very effective fake, but still, he needs to be careful.
Perkins made a beautiful throw to Terrell Chatman for the team's fourth TD. Perkins climbed the pocket and threw a bullet to the middle of the end zone to his former Arizona State teammate, who snagged the first UVa TD of his career.
Shout-out to kicker Brian Delaney for his tackle on the sideline on the kickoff after Virginia made it 28-0. The coverage wasn't great for UVa, so Delaney made the stop, and you could see his teammates celebrating with him on the sideline afterward.
Chuck Davis was the UVa return man who fumbled the punt, setting up W&M's field goal. Davis has been praised for being able to catch everything, but he did not come through that time. Also, Billy Kemp -- making his season debut after being suspended for the Pittsburgh game -- averaged 12.75 yards on four returns. As long as he can be secure with his catches, he's looking like the main man on punt returns.
Brennan Armstrong once again looked very solid in his backup role. The redshirt freshman was blasted on his pick-6 -- UVa needs to figure out what happened to the protection on that play -- causing his pass to flutter in the air. But that was his only incompletion, and later, he had a really nice 20-yard pass across the middle of the field to Chatman that set UVa up at the goal line.
Mike Hollins was very impressive in his debut. Wayne Taulapapa started at small back in the Pittsburgh game and was in on the majority of the plays, but he got banged up at practice last week and didn't play against W&M, opening up more opportunities, and Hollins made the most of them. Lamont Atkins started and compiled five yards on just three carries, and Kier got 45 yards on six attempts (7.5 ypc), another solid outing for him. But Hollins ended up getting the most work, 11 carries, turning them into 71 yards (7.1 ypc) and two scores, with his first collegiate attempt going for a TD. He had a really good 37-yard scamper as well in which he showed fantastic burst, speed, and balance. He's got a little bit of a bowling ball look to him at 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, but he also seems quick. I would have to think he made a good enough impression to see more work going forward.
In all, it was a very easy victory over an FCS team that wasn't very good last season. It's nothing to get overly excited about, but in the first quarter, Virginia left no doubt what the result would be, and it's been a while since the team was able to completely quash any inkling of an upset against an FCS foe right out of the gate. So that was great to see. As for the mistakes, Mendenhall is fond of saying that the players already know what they have to do better before he even tells them now, because the culture of the program has been established. That will be helpful this week as UVa prepares for its big Saturday night showdown with Florida State.