The lethargic, uninspired UVA offense was on display again at Louisville last weekend. They couldn't take advantage of a bad Louisville defense. Predictably, the Hoos picked up the L.
The loss to the Cards dropped UVA to 1-3 on the road for the season. After winning the season opener on the road at Pitt, the Hoos have dropped three straight contests away from Scott Stadium.
As the Hoos (5-3, 3-2) prepare for a second consecutive rivalry game (a real one this time) against the North Carolina Tarheels (4-4, 3-2), we have a bit of a good news, bad news scenario.
As always in these situations, it's best to get the bad news out of the way first.
Bad News: the UNC game is in Chapel Hill.
Good News: this is UVA's last road game of the season.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 on the ACC Network.
For the first time this season, UVA will wear their all white uniform combo. In a nod to Halloween, the Hoos' uniform reveal video was a bit crazy this week.
It would be nice to see Perkins use that chainsaw to cut large holes in the Tarheel defense.
Most college football fans do not realize the longevity of the UVA-UNC rivalry. There's likely a portion of the Wahoo fanbase that doesn't either. But it's important to note that this is UVA's longest running rivalry despite the passion that some other teams may stir.
“The South’s Oldest Rivalry” between UVA and UNC is the longest P5 rivalry in the country behind Wisconsin-Minnesota.— Winsipedia (@Winsipedia) October 29, 2019
Before UVA won the past two years, UNC had won 7 straight games#GoHoos #CarolinaFootball #UVAvsUNChttps://t.co/qbId4ygcUK pic.twitter.com/vlq39GDkfQ
Everyone has a favorite game or two in this series. For me, it's the 1987 comeback win over the Heels at Scott Stadium and the 1998 win over UNC at Scott in Ronald Curry's first appearance against a UVA team.
I listened the the 87 game on the radio as a kid. And I was fortunate enough to be in the stands as a student in 98.
Keys To Victory
UVA must take the field in Chapel Hill confident, ready to brawl, and with a chip on their shoulder. Having lost two of three with each of those losses on the road, it would be easy for this team to be a bit tentative.
The offense has not inspired confidence lately. The defense will be missing two leaders with Bryce Hall injured and Jordan Mack suspended for the first half due to his targeting ejection against Louisville.
The Hoos can expect the Tarheels to be ready and hyped for this game. Night games always inspire the fans and players. And UNC coach Mack Brown understands this rivalry better than any Tarheel coach since Brown left UNC the first time for Texas. This will be an important game for Brown. He'll have his team fired up and prepared to win this border skirmish.
To win this game, UVA will have to match that intensity from the opening kickoff. They'll need to play with confidence on offense. Some early success here would be a huge positive. On defense, they must take it to UNC. Punch the Tarheel offense in the mouth early to get them off balance.
Maintain Coverage Discipline
UNC QB Sam Howell is really good, especially for a freshman. But even if he was a veteran, his numbers would raise an eyebrow.
|Comp %||Yards||TD||INT||Total QBR|
You'd like to see the completion percentage a bit higher and the same goes for the Total QBR. But there's no denying the yardage (20th in FBS), the number of TD passes (7th in FBS), and the TD to INT ratio.
Howell has also taken 26 sacks on the season. That's tied for third most in FBS with Bryce Perkins.
When I've seen Howell play this year, I've been impressed with his ability to throw on the move. Howell also impresses me with his ability to avoid the rush and scramble with the intent to throw.
This play versus Virginia Tech is a good example of that ability.
This package of Howell highlights versus the Hokies include some plays that demonstrate his ability to throw on the run.
It's inevitable that the UVA pass rush will put a ton of heat on Howell. When that happens, and the pass rushers don't finish, the defensive backs HAVE TO stick with their coverage responsibilities. They cannot get caught looking in the backfield or pulling off of coverage to try to chase Howell around.
If either happens, Howell will burn the Hoos with big plays to receivers Dazz Newsome (42 catches, 582 yards, 6 touchdowns), Dyami Brown (26 catches, 477 yards, 5 touchdowns), and Beau Corrales (25 catches, 331 yards, 5 touchdowns).
Find A Running Game - By Any Means Necessary
That's UVA's current rushing yards per game this season.
Shockingly, that's not the worst in FBS or among Power 5 teams. But it's damn close. Among the Hoos' P5 peers, only Washington State (85.5), West Virginia (78.9), and Purdue (68.6) are worse.
The lack of a running game makes the UVA offense incredibly easy to defend. The lack of attempts and lack of creativity in run calls don't help either.
No one is expecting 50 rushes and 225 yards on the ground. But with a stable of running backs that includes Wayne Taulapapa (4.2 yards per rush), PK Kier (4.3 yards per rush), and Mike Hollins (6.5 yards per rush), the Hoos have to try. We've often seen the Hoos have some success on the ground only to abandon it or become so predictable that everyone in the stadium knows when it's coming and what the play will be.
Last season, the Hoos used a ball control attack with an effective enough rushing game to help keep the more prolific offenses on the schedule in check.
Establishing a credible running game against UNC would allow the Hoos to implement this strategy once again. The Heels are averaging 434.3 total yards per game on offense this season (40th in FBS).
We covered Howell above but the UNC running game is also dangerous when compared to UVA's (166.25 yards per game - 69th in FBS). Sophomore Javonte Williams has 640 yards on 116 carries to lead the Heels. Junior Michael Carter also has 542 yards on 109 carries.
The UNC rush defense is giving up 164.88 yards per game which is 73rd in FBS.
That's generous enough for the Hoos to find some success if they commit to it both in actual attempts and also a gameplan that offers varied looks and calls. Any sustained success on the ground will keep the ball in UVA's hands which in turn keeps it away from the dangerous Tarheel offense.
It's pretty basic football but the Hoos have struggled with this for a myriad of reasons in 2019.
ESPN's Football Power Index has this pretty close to a tossup. It gives the Heels a 52.5% chance to win. UVA has a 47.5% chance to pick up the W.
The Hoos must avoid a shootout here to stand a chance. Does anyone really think UVA can win one of those right now?
Even if they wisely avoid the shootout, the offense still must do enough to win this game.
I hate losing to UNC. But the offense is going to have to prove to me that they can do enough to win a game on the road before I'm a believer. The way they've played lately isn't inspiring much confidence.
27 to 14, Tarheels.