Friday night in Miami, well Miami Gardens to be exact, sounds like a blast. For two football teams desperate to get the bad taste of losing out of their mouths, the location is secondary. Virginia (4-1, 2-0) and Miami (2-3, 0-2) will enter Hard Rock Stadium for the 8:00 PM kickoff (ESPN) with identical goals. Win at all costs.
The Hoos will have had to wait thirteen days since a disastrous second half on offense thwarted their chance to score the program's first ever victory against Notre Dame. And to be honest, it was a team in need of a rest and a chance to reset some things on offense.
Miami is coming off of a bonkers game against Virginia Tech that saw them fall behind 28 to 0 before losing 42 to 35 after getting all the way back at 35 to 35. Five turnovers and 11 penalties ultimately doomed the Hurricanes against a Hokies team that entered the game ready to be sent to the great turkey bacon factory in the sky.
The 20th ranked Hoos need the win to stay atop the Coastal and to regain their confidence on offense. Miami needs the win to stay within view of the Coastal race. Something has to give.
For the second time this season, the all blue uniform set gets the call. UVA wore this combo in last season's home win over Miami.
I like to call these the night stalkers. The Hoos look uncommonly tough in these uniforms and a nickname with a little edge seems fitting.
This will be the 17th entry in the series. The Hoos currently own a one game winning streak. Miami has a slight lead overall. The U has had a better go of things lately against the Hoos.
The games are typically close affairs or one-sided dominations as UVA owns a 48 to 0 win (2007) and Miami has a 52 to 17 win (2009).
Miami has won 3 of the last 4 matchups against UVA. Last year, unranked UVA upset #16 Miami at home in Charlottesville.— Winsipedia (@Winsipedia) October 8, 2019
The last time UVA beat Miami on the road was in 2011. #GoHoos #ItsAllAboutTheU #UVAvsMIAhttps://t.co/5QNbGH7eEY pic.twitter.com/tULcdICbmz
Keys To Victory
OL Leads The Way
The UVA defensive line has the more well known nickname of Silverbacks. But the offensive line at UVA likes to fashion themselves as Rhinos.
We're all aware what a rhino is. It's an apt symbol of how we'd like the OL to play each week.
Hopefully the UVA offensive line spent their bye week doing two things: getting healthy and watching a ton of film. The second half against Notre Dame, the entire Old Dominion game, and the second half of the Florida State game should have played on a loop that did not stop.
Two poor efforts and one effort where they made the opponent bend to their will.
Something was amiss in that second half in South Bend. Irish pass rushers routinely ran right by UVA tackles or were confronted with outmatched tight ends and running backs.
Miami will bring another talented defensive line to challenge the Hoos. The Hurricanes' defense averages 2.60 sacks per game which ranks 43rd in FBS per CFBStats.com. They're also averaging 7.60 tackles for loss per game which ranks 29th in FBS per CFBStats.com.
Unless the UVA offensive line is much improved on their effort at Notre Dame, this will be a difficult game to win.
And Bryce Perkins has to play much better as well. He must make better decisions with the ball while also being more decisive in those decisions.
Scheme To Mitigate Weakness
If you've been around the block a time or two, you're familiar with the expression that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
The Wahoos' offensive line has surrendered 15 sacks on the season or 3.00 per game. That ranks 105th in FBS per CFBStats.com.
The dominant tactic to assist the OL this season has been max protect. The Hoos are keeping backs and tight ends at home to help the OL protect Bryce Perkins while also limiting the number of receivers in pass patterns. In theory, the extra blockers would strengthen the pocket while allowing Perkins additional time to find a receiver or attack the defense with his legs.
Quite simply, it's not working. Anyone that's watched UVA play this season has witnessed the max protect scheme work the opposite of intended.
Many UVA fans, including former players Ahmad Hawkins and Kurt Benkert, have spent the bye week asking for a change in tactics.
The suggestions are logical. Spread the defense with additional receivers thus pulling defenders away from the box. Get the ball out of Perkins's hands quickly to reduce the time he and the OL are under stress. Vary the run scheme so that it is not so predictable. Incorporate faster developing pass routes. Run more designed targets for TE Tanner Cowley. Put a HB screen in the playbook. As suggested here in the Notre Dame preview, run some designed roll outs to get Perkins out of the pocket. And incorporate some true RPO action.
These are a few examples of how the UVA offense can work around their weaknesses. It will allow them to seize the initiative instead of playing back on their heels.
Ruin QB N'Kosi Perry's Friday Night
Sophomore QB N'Kosi Perry will make his seventh career start against the Hoos Friday night. It will be his first start this season. And only his third appearance this year.
Filling in for an injured Jarren Williams who threw 3 interceptions in 7 pass attempts against Virginia Tech, Perry was able to rally the Hurricanes for an almost improbable victory. Despite losing, Perry's stat line was tremendous. He threw for 422 yards while completing 28 of 47 passes. He tossed 4 touchdowns and only 1 interception. But Perry also took 6 sacks and had a QBR of only 59.5 where 50 is considered an average performance.
As a freshman at Miami last year, Perry played in 11 games including UVA's home win over Miami. Against the Hoos, Perry was 3 for 6 passing with 20 yards. He also threw 2 interceptions and no touchdowns.
Recall the stats above regarding UVA's offensive line performance to date this season along with Miami's defense. They did not inspire much confidence. Now for the good news.
Miami's offensive line has surrendered 25 sacks on the season or 5.00 per game. Per CFBStats.com, that ranks 130th aka dead last in FBS.
UVA's defense, on the other hand, has recorded 24 sacks or 4.80 per game. In terms of the raw number of sacks, that ranks 6th in FBS per CFBStats.com. The 4.80 sacks per game ranks 2nd in FBS behind Penn State's 5.00 sacks per game.
UVA's 42.0 tackles for loss is tied for 17th in FBS. Their 8.40 tackles per loss per game is tied for 8th in FBS.
As much as the Miami defense figures to make life difficult for the Hoos, UVA's defense should give Miami fits as well.
And while Perry was only named the starter on Wednesday, October 9, the bye week certainly allowed the UVA defensive coaches time to scout and scheme for both Williams and Perry.
A Bronco Mendenhall defense with extra time to prepare versus a young QB and suspect offensive line is a major advantage for the Hoos. If by the end of the night, Perry wishes he was somewhere other than Hard Rock Stadium for his Friday night, it will have been a successful night for the Hoos.
This has the makings of a low scoring affair. I think the Hoos are better served if the game takes on this characteristic as I'm not sure that I trust UVA's offense in a shootout.
At 2-3, 0-2 Miami has a lot to play for. They should have a lot of motivation heading into the game. But will they have much of a home crowd to sustain it as things become difficult? I have my doubts that there will be a packed house for this game.
UVA, on the other hand, is coming off a bye week that allowed for substantial self-scouting and the opportunity to rest and heal. Were the things done during the bye week well considered? And will the bear fruit?
To win, the offense has to be improved over recent performances. And they cannot be predictable.
I have all the confidence in the world that UVA's defense will be a major factor in this game. It's likely to be the dominant factor in the game. For me, that ultimately carries the day.
17 to 13, Hoos win a squeaker.