Tag Archives: Jordon Ellis

Virginia and North Carolina Both Got What They Deserved

After a hard fought game, Virginia left Chapel Hill with what it deserved – a victory over the struggling, but athletic North Carolina Tar Heels. Virginia snapped a 7-game losing streak to a Carolina team that also got what it deserved on Saturday.

After the NCAA issued the University of North Carolina a “get out of jail free” pass for academic fraud that kept its athletes eligible for almost 20 years while robbing them of any chance for a real education, UNC got what it deserved Saturday as well – a loss and a pot to stew in until the teams meet again next year.

UNC coach Larry Fedora was fuming as the clock ticked down to zeros and Virginia lined up in its victory formation. Fedora and the Carolina nation were outraged at a no-call on what they felt was a face mask penalty on a 4th down, game ending sack by Chris Peace. Carolina fans aren’t used to calls not going their way. Ignore the fact that Carolina just as easily could have been called for a block below the waste on the same play or the missed holding call on Eli Hanback the play before. UNC is supposed to get the breaks and get the calls, whether their athletes go to class or not.

When the NCAA acknowledged that Carolina ran an academic charade for 17 years that helped keep its athletes eligible to compete in its revenue sports, but then stated that the academic curriculum of its members is outside the jurisdiction of the NCAA infractions team…you might say Carolina is used to having its way. Maybe Carolina fans should go back and listen to the interviews and read the chronologies laid out by their internal whistle-blowers describing barely literate athletes getting “As” in classes that never met and turning in papers they never wrote before they get too indignant about a no-call that didn’t go their way.

The University of North Carolina, after spending $ 17 million dollars defending its systemic academic fraud, essentially threw the entire university under the proverbial bus by stating that their sham classes were part of the regular curriculum and were available to all students. Wow, the entire university population can take no-show classes? That must be very comforting to the parents of students and to major benefactors of the university.

While UNC was busy throwing its academic integrity out the window to defend its athletic department, Virginia was busy taking care of business on the field, resurrecting its dormant football program. Jordon Ellis in particular, personifies the 2017 Virginia Cavaliers. On Saturday in Chapel Hill, Ellis had his most productive day as a Cavalier. His legendary work ethic was on full display as he consistently ran for yards after contact, always fell forward, and gained needed yards on 3rd and 4th down.

Jordon Ellis embodies what we love about college athletics. He is a humble, hard-working young man who waited his turn and is reaping the rewards along with his teammates. The best news for Ellis and for Virginia fans is that Ellis is a red-shirt junior and Virginia fans can look forward to him grinding out 137 yards against UNC again next year in Scott Stadium.

Virginia played a far from perfect game against the Tar Heels on Saturday, but they made plays when the game was in the balance. That is what good teams do. I was disappointed that the ‘Hoos did not convert UNC turnovers into more points. The Virginia defense broke down twice against talented freshman Michael Carter allowing two long gains that resulted in or set up two Carolina touchdowns. Virginia will need more nearly perfect performances to generate more wins in the second half of the season. Big tests await the Cavaliers, starting Saturday with a home game against a rapidly improving Boston College program that Virginia has never beaten.

If karma is indeed about retributive justice, then maybe UNC just made their first, very small installment to bring the scales back to balance and Virginia a might be reaping the rewards for the hard work of the past two years.

For the first time ever, I think I might pull for the Blue Devils when UNC and Duke play in basketball this season.

Note for this coming Saturday – I realize that no one loves a 12:30 kickoff, but this team is 5-1. Boston College’s series record against UVa is 5-0 and they are coming off a huge win against Louisville. This Virginia has earned a crowd of 45K or more to help them clinch a bowl bid for the first time since 2011. Not loving the kickoff time, but loving this 2017 Wahoo team – Bloodies and Screw Drivers at 10:00 on a beautiful fall morning in C’ville ain’t all bad.

Virginia Wins on a Gloomy Day

No matter how gloomy the weather, opening day for Virginia football in 2017 was much better than opening day in 2016. In many ways however, the gray and dreary skies were a fitting metaphor for the way Virginia played on Saturday. Some have suggested that Virginia’s play was conservative and efficient, playing well enough to win without taking too many risks or giving away too many of the new twists in Virginia’s offensive and defensive schemes. Maybe, but I’m not convinced, not a believer yet.

I have said many times, I hate playing William & Mary. The Tribe is always well coached and very well prepared. Win or lose, they always give Virginia a good match. Two of my high school classmates went to play for W&M coach Jimmie Laycock in 1981. While Virginia has gone through 5 head coaches from 1981 to today, Coach Laycock, a coaching legend, is still in Williamsburg, fielding very good teams and giving better skilled opponents fits. I am always relieved to walk away from the William & Mary game with a win. I walked away from this one relieved, but with a lot of questions.

It was puzzling to me that Virginia seemed so lethargic throughout the entire game. They clearly had size and speed advantages, but Virginia could never put the game away. Several drives that could deliver knockout blows to the Tribe started well, however all but the very last faltered at the hand of self-inflicted mistakes.

There are some in a college football world who see Virginia as a “soft” program. The results against a physically smaller, less skilled William & Mary team will do nothing to dispel those opinions.

Before we get too wrapped up in analysis, Virginia won Saturday against an enthusiastic FCS opponent. Last year Virginia did not. This year by definition has started infinitely better.

Virginia showed some flashes of brilliance that ultimately carried the day. Cavalier receivers were impressive and open all day. They ran good routes, found seams in the defense, and made positive yards after the catch. Quarterback Kurt Benkert hit his open receivers, most of the time anyway. Running back Jordan Ellis showed speed, power and little wiggle in his game. If the Virginia O-Line can give Ellis some running room, he has the potential to become the next great Virginia running back. Tim Cook had an impressive game, leading the Cavs in tackles in an emotional return to the football field after a two-year absence.

Perhaps the best outcome from Saturday, supporting the first opening day win since 2013, was the fact that Virginia did not commit any turnovers. The last time that happened was against Maryland, also in 2013. Virginia is going to have many games this year where they do not have the best talent on the field or the deepest bench on the sidelines. If they are going to win, Virginia will have to take care of the ball. Saturday was a nice step in that direction.

There were also problems on Saturday that raise questions in the minds of the Virginia faithful.

Virginia managed just 93 rushing yards against a smaller William & Mary front 7 that last year yielded 200+ rushing yards/game. The Virginia offensive line rarely imposed its will on an overmatched defense. The Virginia offensive line gave up 9 tackles for loss. Many were big losses. By contrast, Virginia managed only 3 tackles for loss. The Virginia O-Line is a work in progress. It had better make a lot of progress in a hurry if Virginia expects to post a respectable record in 2017.

The Virginia field goal team is still on par with a mediocre high school program. UVa’s PATs were not gimmes and the lone field goal attempt was reminiscent of last year’s field goal kicking circus. If Virginia cannot reliably kick field goals outside of the 20 yard-line, they we will lose games in ’17 as a result, without question.

Virginia failed a put much pressure on William & Mary quarterback Tommy McKee. When he was flushed from the pocket, he scrambled for positive yardage and made big first downs. It was disheartening to watch Virginia’s defense struggle to pressure an undersized FCS line. Even more disconcerting was that Andrew Brown had zero tackles. He was sometimes double teamed, but sometime not. Brown laying a goose egg has to go down as one of the biggest surprises of the game.

Virginia won on Saturday, that’s undeniably good. They were not dominant by any measure. That’s not so good. Conservative and efficient? Maybe. Not as improved as we all hoped? Maybe. We will see on Saturday when a much-improved Indiana team comes to Charlottesville.

I hope for a brisk, sunny day as a fitting metaphor for improved play by the Wahoos.

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @dmrayner.