There are two types of frustration for college football fans – frustration borne of futility and ineptitude and frustration borne from unmet expectations. Over the past 10 seasons, Virginia fans have become very familiar with the former. Friday against Pitt, it was all about the latter.
A brief comment on the weather for Virginia’s game Friday. I guess there is also a third football frustration when things just don’t break your way. The weather was horrific leading up to the game and into the first quarter. It was a deluge, similar to the weather against Indiana. I refer to a column I wrote a couple of years ago that Virginia’s gridiron woes are attributable to football gods hating on UVa. Given the timing of Virginia’s two “rain games”, I think they still have it in for Virginia, but Bronco is making it harder for UVa to be their whipping boy.
Field conditions like we saw Friday strongly favor big, smash-mouth, straight ahead offenses. Pitt is a big, smash-mouth, straight ahead offense. So is Indiana. The two worst rain matchups for Virginia were played in monsoons. The hate is still there, but Virginia still could have won their match against Pitt.
Friday was an exercise in frustration of unmet expectations for Virginia fans. While the weather was clearly not in Virginia’s favor, Virginia’s undoing was their own doing. Virginia will not win any games the rest of the way when they commit 10 penalties…more than double their season average. Virginia’s margin for error is too thin. They have to play smarter, execute better, and avoid self-destructive mistakes to continue their winning ways in 2018.
Virginia football has made great strides over the past two seasons. They are learning what it takes to win from a preparation and an execution perspective. They are steadily building playable talent throughout the roster. However, while Virginia evolves from the doormat to a contender in the ACC Coastal, their discipline and smarts are their best weapons. Friday against Pitt, discipline, and smarts were apparently washed away in the pregame rains, because from the first drive from scrimmage, which was undone by three penalties, to a late-game sack of Bryce Perkins on a play when he should have thrown the ball away, Virginia made uncharacteristically poor decisions throughout the game and Pitt made them pay.
Virginia has averaged 24.6 points a game in ACC play in 2018. While conditions were not great, scoring 24 points to win this game was more than possible Friday night. Penalties, a fumble on 4th down conversion, and poor decision making kept Virginia from reaching its potential against Pitt.
As the game ended, I was frustrated that Virginia was going to lose the momentum they had built over the past 3 weeks. They were going to drop out of the national rankings, they were going to fall from atop the Coastal, and they were going to lose to a team that they were capable of beating even in conditions that were less than optimal. Mostly, I was frustrated because Virginia took themselves out of the game with mistakes that had been pleasantly absent for most of the season.
While the loss to Pitt was an exercise in the frustration of unmet expectations, if, at the start of the season, the football gods who hate us had offered Virginia the option that nine games into the season this team would be 6-3, I cannot think of a fan who would not have jumped at the offer. If the price of this record is a frustrating loss to Pitt and an equally frustrating loss to Indiana, that’s a ransom Virginia fans should be more than willing to pay.
Maybe the most unpleasant result of the loss to Pitt is that Virginia fans now have to hope for a Hokie win against Pitt next week to put Virginia back the race for the Coastal crown. However, given the way Clemson is playing, maybe the best finishing position in the Coastal is a close second place.
Follow David on Twitter @DMRayner.