Takeaways from Virginia’s Loss to Indiana…plus a Quick Spin Around the ACC

Before jumping into Virginia’s game against Indiana and a few other tidbits from around the ACC, I’d like to make a comment about being a “visiting” team on the Big10 Network. My comment is short and to the point. It sucks. It’s a lot like being the professional wrestler who doesn’t have music and a bevy of girls around when he’s introduced for his match. I suppose it is understandable, but the Big10 Network is really the “homer network” – from the announcers to the incessant Big10 propaganda. I hope we never play on it again. 

Virginia and Indiana played in a deluge Saturday in Bloomington. The bottom line for this game is that Indiana simply made better adjustments to accommodate the situation. Both the players and the coaches for the Hoosiers adapted to the miserable conditions and executed a better plan. Kudos to the few fans that made it to the game. I had not seen game time rain like that since the first night-game at Scott Stadium when Virginia lost to Clemson 48-0. That was also the game when I decided that Bacardi 151 was a better game-day beverage than Jim Beam. I was right. 

While Virginia lost to what could be a pretty decent Indiana team, Virginia had a chance to win this game up to the last play of the game. Without question, Virginia did not play well, but this wasn’t a loss for the ages or an epic collapse like we have seen so many times before. This was a loss with some interesting harbingers of things to come that I think can help Virginia win games later this season. 

I don’t think Virginia is going to have a winning season if Bryce Perkins carries the ball 25 times a game. I hope this was a weather-related anomaly on Saturday. Most obviously, if Perkins gets 25 carries a game, it’s unlikely he stays healthy the entire season. His carries need to be strategic or from necessity taking off from the pocket. Perkins is a game-changing athlete. Virginia needs him healthy for all 12 (hopefully 13) games this season. 

I was puzzled why Virginia’s coaches didn’t mimic Indiana’s strategy and ride their big, cut-and-go, reliable running back. Jordon Ellis got 12 carries for 63 yards yielding a more than respectable 5.3 yards/carry. Conversely, Indiana’s Stevie Scott got 31 carries for 205 yards and an unacceptable 6.6 yards/carry. Scott was the difference in the game. He kept the chains moving, wore down Virginia’s defensive front, and kept Bryce Perkins on the sidelines. 

I was concerned that the coaching staff could not figure out how to get the ball to Olamide Zaccheous in space. We tried too many cutsie pitches and tosses into a crowded line of scrimmage where Indiana frequently had 9 players in the box. Olamide is a dangerous yards-after-catch receiver, but operating in a crowd is not his highest use in the Virginia offense. 

It was very obvious that Bryce Perkins sets the tone for this team. He is a gamer, a warrior. There is no quit in Bryce Perkins and the rest of the team follows his lead. This will likely result in a couple of wins at the margin the rest of the way, but Perkins was not sharp enough in his passing to pull off this win with sheer will and determination. 

Speaking of Bryce Perkins…he can be a good passer, but he was not a consistent passer last night. I recognize the horrid playing conditions make this game a tough measuring stick for Perkins’ passing ability, but Peyton Ramsey completed 16 of 21 passes accounting for 2 of Indiana’s 3 touchdowns. Not a bad performance on a night not fit for man nor beast. 

Virginia’s offensive line got pushed around a bit more than I would like to have seen, especially in short yardage situations. They were situationally effective against a big hoosier front line, but need to be more consistently effective the rest of the way. The O-line doesn’t have to be dominant, but they cannot be pushed backward as there were too often against Indiana. The Virginia O-line is likely going to be a work in process for a couple of more years to come, but it appears to be pointed in the right direction. 

Had Virginia had won this game, I would have given the game MVP to Lester Coleman. Punters don’t like kicking a wet, heavy football in a downpour any more than quarterbacks like throwing a wet slippery ball. Coleman consistently turned the field in favor of the Cavaliers and was a critical weapon giving Virginia a chance to win this game. Hat’s off to Lester Coleman for a stellar performance under dreadful conditions. 

I was disappointed in our receiver’s ability to get open and create separation against the Indiana defense. When they did get open and the ball was delivered accurately and on time, Virginia receivers dropped at least 2 game changing passes. In games played through a downpour, there is little margin for error. Indiana’s receivers made more plays to complete passes than did Virginia’s, which was another reason Indiana walked away with a win. 

Lastly, it seemed to me that Virginia’s coaches were simply out-coached in this one. I was particularly perplexed when Bronco did not go for 2 points after cutting the Virginia deficit to 20-15. It seems to me, trailing by 5 points is the same as trailing by 4. Why not go for 2 points and potentially cut the lead to a field goal? Maybe the staff was distracted by the rain, but this seemed like an obvious call that eluded the staff. 

As disappointed as I was with this loss that could have easily been a win, weather like we saw Saturday night affects everything. Indiana won because they made better adjustments in their play calling and their execution. Virginia showed enough grit and determination as well as big-play potential that I am nowhere near ready to panic about the Cavalier’s prospects this season. 

I guess the biggest concern for the Ohio game this coming Saturday is playing in a second quagmire if hurricane Florence passes through the Commonwealth. 

Additional Thoughts Around the ACC

If Virginia Tech really wanted to pay tribute to Jimmye Laycock, one of the all-time greats in college football, they might have stopped running up the score on his last trip to Blacksburg. Running up the score on under-manned opponents is what wannabe programs do. I guess if the shoe fits…

A legitimate question after Virginia Tech hammered Florida State last week was – Is Virginia Tech this good or is Florida State that bad? We got half of the answer this weekend. Yes, Florida State is that bad. A team packed with 4- and 5-star players shouldn’t have to rally in the 4th quarter to beat the Samford Bulldogs, whose schedule after FSU includes Mercer, Wafford, and VMI. I was not surprised that Bud Foster forced FSU coach Wille Taggert to sport a deer-in-the-headlights look trying to figure out the VT defense. Foster has confounded a lot of good coaches over his career. I just didn’t think Samford would do the same thing. 

Despite losing their starting quarterback, Georgia Tech scored a pile of points against a solid South Florida team. Unfortunately, the GT defense gave up a bigger pile of points. If you play the Yellow Jackets this year, expect a track meet. Last team to score wins. 

No matter how you slice a weekend, it is never a total loss when UNC gets blown out by an ECU team that a week earlier lost to North Carolina A&T…at home. 

Miami tried to heal their bruised ego after a thorough thrashing from LSU by crushing overmatched Savannah State 77-0. I hope the ‘Canes are proud of themselves. I am not sure what Savannah State got paid for that game, but it wasn’t enough. If the home team wins by more than 50 points in a game like that, the visiting team who is simply playing for a payday, ought to get paid time-and-a-half. 

Miami is really going to stretch themselves in the coming weeks with matches against Toledo and FIU. Mr. Staypuff was supposed to follow the FIU game but the UNC stepped in instead…followed by FSU. Think the media is going fire up the refrain of pushing “the return of The U” by then? Maybe Toledo can do us all a favor…

I can’t imagine a more hostile environment than the hornet’s nest Clemson faced in College Station this weekend. That’s what college football is all about. My guess is that tailgates fired up in earnest well before noon. Kudos to the Tigers and Aggies for a great game. 

If Virginia couldn’t hold the ACC’s honor against the BIg10, at least Duke stepped up to beat Northwestern 21-7. Coach Cutcliffe continues his miracle work transitioning Duke football from a decades-long dumpster fire into a very respectable program that wins with players whose SAT scores are likely more than one standard deviation to the right of the mean. That’s quite a contrast from Duke’s rival from Chapel Hill whose players got A’s in classes that never met.