Week 8 is in the books with the Hoos running away from the Blue Devils. Time to recap the big win and reevaluate both the coming week and remaining road ahead:
Quick Hit Thoughts from the Game
The Hoos hadn't won since September 21st, so it was nearly four weeks without a win when Hoo fans poured into Scott on Saturday. Felt really good to get back in the win column.
The defense is just lights out, isn't it? Statistically speaking, it's the clear #2 in the ACC, behind only Clemson, whether talking yardage or points per game. It's allowing only 17.3 ppg in league play, the next closest team is Pitt allowing 26.7 ppg.
Only one sack in this one, when we'd been averaging better than 4 sacks per game. But that's mostly because Duke QB Quentin Harris was getting rid of the ball as fast as he could, and the threat of a pass rush contributed mightily to the glut of turnovers forced.
It's only one game, but Cross looked pretty good in his first start at cornerback, taking over for the sidelined Bryce Hall. Credited with two passes defended, he joined a secondary that held Harris to a 13 of 26 for 88 yards day.
With Cross' move over from FS, that meant extra work for Brenton Nelson and Chris Moore. Chris Moore especially acquitted himself well. The RS Junior who missed last season to injury proved up to the task with a team-leading 12 tackles on the day.
The defense deserves a massive amount of credit for the offense's explosion due to the incredible field position it generated. Whereas against Miami the UVA offense started nine of ten drives in our own territory, Virginia used turnovers and 4th down stops to start in Duke territory a startling six times.
Those short fields generated three touchdowns, two field goals, and one punt. When faced with more standard field position (say, 70/75-ish yards or so to go), the Hoos scored two touchdowns on four opportunities, which is a vast improvement on zero touchdowns on eight long fields at Miami.
The post-game comments from Bronco indicated the availability of Armstrong meant they loosened the reins on Perkins to some degree, and he often looked good, aggressive and athletic, against the Duke defense.
His passing was mediocre, just 50% with that INT tossed in. Hopefully that ticks back up, need his decision making and accuracy to improve for UVA to truly reach its ceiling.
The Duke defense, by the way, may not be as heralded as some of our other opponents, but through four ACC games they rank 8th in points allowed and 4th in yards allowed. They've got some legit D-Linemen. It may not have been the Clemson D, but it's not a bad one.
Cheers to the O-Line having some continuity this week. Bummer that it came at the expense of Swoboda needing to sit for some undisclosed injury reason, but the continuity seemed beneficial. Here's hoping that Haskins-Nelson-Olu-Glaser-Reinkensmeyer line continues to gel going forward.
Man, Taulapapa looked GOOD once he got going. Those two runs on UVA's final touchdown drive of the day were outstanding. Guy's got a nose for the endzone, and next time we're inside the 5 yard line, one of Perkins or Wayne should be carrying for the goal line on every play.
Dubois is of course just great at going up to get the ball. He's earning himself an NFL opportunity this season.
So's Joe Reed, who already has the UVA record with five career KOR touchdowns, and has 6 games left to go for the ACC/NCAA record of seven. Please let teams continue to kick to him.
Reed led an overall solid day for the special teams. Kemp fielded punts effectively. Delaney was steady on kickoffs and field goals. Coverage did its job repeatedly. Only drawback was the two fake punt conversions (technically, the first wasn't a fake, just a blown play, but still). Doubt we'll see that happen many times more.
Another promising attendance total at 52,000, keeping our average for the year north of 50k. It's an encouraging uptick and let's hope it continues during November's 3-game homestand.
I want that Miami game back. With a week's added perspective, that result looks increasingly fluky. Miami's garbage, and we're good, and we shouldn't have lost that game. Hope it doesn't cost us the Coastal in the end.
Depth Chart Moves
The big news is Brennan Armstrong back at QB2. While not on last week's depth chart, he did dress for the game, and it's comforting to have him ready if called upon. No other changes of note, as the defense settles into its life without Hall and Snyder. Christ still shows up at DE, though he's moved over to the offensive line in recent weeks, so that should tell you how little to get invested in this weekly paper drill.
Coastal Power Rankings
All seven teams in the Coastal played last weekend, mostly against each other, so of course there are some shakeups that come with surprising results.
1. Virginia (Prev: 2) - 5-2 (3-1) - Yes they lost to Miami, but every team has at least one Coastal loss, so we go on overall body of work, and the best non-Clemson league record speaks for itself.
2. Pitt (Prev: 3) - 5-2 (2-1) - While the rest of the Coastal was beating up on itself this weekend, Pitt snuck up to New York and grabbed a road win at Syracuse. They once again struggled in the second half, but they're playing like a team that still has every intention of winning the Coastal.
3. Duke (Prev: 4) - 4-3 (2-2) - Losses to the top two teams in this power rankings snapshot sting, but they've got two other Coastal wins to their name and while a Division title is probably out of reach, they're still playing with a lot of pride and toughness. Big opportunity vs UNC this weekend.
4. VT (Prev: 6) - 5-2 (2-2) - Hard to believe but a few weeks ago VT was 2-2 (0-2) and on the edge of a total collapse. A road win at Miami and a change at quarterback (banged up vs UNC, Hooker should be good to go when the Hokies resume ACC play in a couple weeks), and after a bye and a non-conference Notre Dame trip, VT will be back to hunting an outside chance at the Division.
5. North Carolina (Prev: 1) - 3-4 (2-2) - Yes the Tar Heels have dropped from 1st to 5th in just one week. Last week they got the top spot by default, their only ACC loss to Clemson. But a fuller picture was painted as Miami tumbled (UNC's lone "good" win prior) and UNC lost in OT at Blacksburg. They've lost four of their last five, the lone win in that stretch at Georgia Tech.
6. GT (Prev: 7) - 2-5 (1-3) - So much for deeming Georgia Tech the permanent occupant of the Coastal cellar. The total resume still stinks, and they're not making a bowl game, but going into Miami and getting the overtime win speaks for itself. Big confidence builder for a young roster, and a great way to go into the bye week.
7. Miami (Prev: 5) - 3-4 (1-3) - The Canes got dropped to the basement by virtue of losing at home to Georgia Tech, their lone quality win being their upset (yes, I'm going to call it that) of UVA. They're 1-4 against power conference teams, and the schedule gets harder as their next two dates are on the road at Pitt and FSU. Bowl eligibility is no certainty at this point.
Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend
Bye weeks for Coastal rivals Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech this weekend, while the other four go head-to-head. Also some solid national matchups if you truly want to go all-in on college football this weekend.
Miami at Pittsburgh - 12:00 PM Eastern - ESPN: Don't look now but Pitt is still very much in the Coastal hunt with road wins at Duke and Syracuse. They need UVA to slip up, but a visit from a struggling Miami offers the Panthers a chance to stay in prime position to capitalize should the Hoos drop another.
#13 Wisconsin at #3 Ohio State - 12:00 PM Eastern - Fox: A quality B1G battle to flip over to during Miami/Pitt timeouts, Wisconsin lost some luster in getting upset by Illinois last week, but remain formidable and are one of the last threats to derail the Buckeyes' hopes for the Playoff.
#9 Auburn at #2 LSU - 3:30 PM Eastern - CBS: Another week, another great SEC heavyweight battle, with 1-loss Auburn hoping to spoil LSU's title hopes. The LSU Tigers have looked pretty invincible thus far.
Duke at North Carolina - 4:00 PM Eastern - ACC Network Extra: Major battle to shape the Coastal landscape, with both teams sitting 2-2 in league play. Added relevance for UVA fans, the Hoos travel to Chapel Hill next week, and UNC's performance in this one will tell us a lot about the mental state of the Heels before that game.
#8 Notre Dame at #19 Michigan - 7:30 PM Eastern - ABC: Great rivalry playing out in prime time, Michigan will give ND it's best shot to avoid falling from relevance. As the Irish hope to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, every game is a must-win.
The Remaining Schedule
Saturday, Oct 26 - at Louisville: Win confidence 6 - Louisville is a tough team to peg under new coach Scott Satterfield. They're certainly better than we thought they'd be back in August, but a blowout loss to Clemson shows they're still just another middle of the pack ACC squad, and the Atlantic (behind Clemson) is as big a mess as the Coastal. The Cards are very hungry for a bowl bid and will test UVA for all 60 minutes.
Saturday, Nov 2 - at North Carolina: Win confidence 5.5 - North Carolina has played to the level of basically every one of their opponents, six of their seven games came down to the final possession. That means that UVA should expect a war, and while it's a winnable one, it's still on the road.
Saturday, Nov 9 - Georgia Tech: Win confidence 8.5 - GT's win against Miami was a great moment for a young team. That said, Miami is still bad (I know, I know), and this GT team lost to Citadel a month ago, and we're at Scott. Zero excuse not to win this one, even if an improving GT manages to put up more of a fight than once predicted.
Saturday, Nov 23 - Liberty: Win confidence 9 - The Flames sit at 5-2 on a five-game winning streak after beating Maine 59-44. The FBS independent has yet to beat a power conference team, and now embarks on a road stretch that includes Rutgers, UMass, and BYU. They'll have a bye week after returning from Provo, so UVA can't take them too lightly as it did vs ODU.
Friday, Nov 29 - Virginia Tech: Win confidence 5.5 - With their season seemingly salvaged, the Hokies will play out the string with renewed confidence, and come to Charlottesville very motivated to maintain their streak. Throw out records here, Virginia will need to execute in every phase to break the curse.
Predicted final record: 8-4 (5-3)