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Football

The After Picture

Posted on September 11, 2019 in The Team by MaizeAndBlueWahoo.

It was just like old times.  The announcers talked about that one time Mike London almost got shot in the face and his team gave up a 102-yard kick return literally right as they told the story.  Both are just about a guarantee when watching a London-coached team on TV.

The final score was 52-17, which is pretty remarkable for a game in which you don't even have to be a nitpicking pessimist to find execution problems.  It was a five-touchdown blowout because UVA scored in all phases of the game and turned poor Hollis Mathis into a punching bag and a punch line.  It was only a five-touchdown blowout because UVA made mistakes of their own.  I don't think there's any metric that compares the 35-point margin of victory to the four turnovers, but if there were, that game would be way up on the list.

This whole column will be at serious risk of turning into a 600-word London-bash, which I don't want to do, but a certain amount of it is unavoidable.  Beating up on William & Mary may look to the outside eye like a top-25 FBS team doing what it's supposed to against FCS instaters, but it also happens to be a perfect Before and After shot of the UVA football program.  London's games are rolls of the dice.  You come up sevens on enough plays - in other words, come up with enough big, athleticism-driven plays - you win.  London's strategy is to try and load the dice so you get more sevens.

Craps is stacked against you, though.  In the long term, you will lose.  A coach like Tony Bennett or Bronco Mendenhall eschews the craps table and makes you play his game instead.  That takes some doing, but the result is now on display.  London wants to win with athletes and doesn't pay a lot of attention to disciplined, assignment football.  When he doesn't have the athletes and the discipline gap might as well be the Grand Canyon, this is what happens.  The other team can play a B game and still incinerate London's guys.

So yes, as politicians like to say, mistakes were made.  Quite a few, actually.  Would London have fixed them?  I don't know, but that's the point.  Who really knows?  Bronco inspires a lot more confidence along those lines.  He also inspires a fair amount of fear into opposing fanbases who don't believe too highly in their own coach.  Exhibit A: this week's visitor, Florida State, whose coach is slowly driving them into a place no Seminole fan ever thought they'd see.  The last time any UVA fan spent a Jefferson-Eppes game week thinking UVA should win, instead of occasionally could win, was never.  And while a precipitous fall from grace for FSU has greased the skids toward that line of thinking, even this edition of Florida State and a 2-0 UVA team would have us assuming the garnet-and-gold still had enough cachet and firepower to pop the balloon.  They still might, but the After picture that is UVA football 2019 would be, for the first time, disgruntled about it.

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