After a brief pandemic hiatus week number eight lands us right back here with a familiar Coastal foe in the Virginia Cavaliers. The Cards and Cavs have had some real battles since becoming forced rivals in the ACC nearly six years ago, and while the stakes may not be as high this year, it should be another great game between two teams looking to make a late push and finish out the season on a high note.
This week we linked up with one of our favorite sister sites in the SB Nation community, ‘Streaking The Lawn’. They have a bunch of great contributors over there and that absolutely includes todays guest, Caroline Darney. The writers over there take my “I should really hate your face” feeling toward Virginia and bring it down to a much more respectable “I can tolerate you” level. That speaks volumes. Let’s get it poppin’.
It’s very fitting that the Hoo’s win over #15 North Carolina a couple weeks back came on Halloween night as it’s likely that even weeks later lots of fans are still floating on air like they got a surprise visit from our pal Pennywise (we all float down here). While the win was impressive, what did Virginia do to earn their second victory of the season in that contest that they have not done in weeks prior?
They took chances and capitalized on opportunities. Defensively, Virginia has been a bit of struggle city when it comes to big plays, so they really needed the offense to put up points and keep UNC’s offense off the field. They did that (hello, 9:02 drive with points at the end) and stayed aggressive (4-for-4 on 4th down conversions), which allowed them to secure the win. When North Carolina made mistakes (muffed punt, missed field goal, completely random backwards pass from like the 2-yard line), Virginia capitalized. The other huge piece? Winning the turnover battle.
While QB Brennan Armstrong has not been without his struggles he put together a solid performance against UNC dropping over 200 yards in the air with 3 touchdowns and averaging nearly 10 yards per completion. He also tossed in 66 on the ground and a rushing TD as well. Was that game from the southpaw an aberration, or is that what the Virginia program expects to see from him weekly? (Side note: Is this the same guy who was wearing #98 a couple years ago and was running scout team as Lamar Jackson)?
This is the guy Virginia fans expect/hope to see going forward. He’s had to miss 1.5 games (NC State and Wake losses) with a concussion, but he’s seemingly settling in more. Interceptions are still an issue, though it seems to be improving or at least trending in the right direction. He’s a solid runner (no Bryce Perkins, but who is?), and I love the use of designed runs by the offense this year. It’s tough to lose solid receivers like Joe Reed and Hasise Dubois, but Terrell Jana and Billy Kemp have been so consistent this season. Keep an eye out for 6-7 first year Lavel Davis returning to the lineup this weekend, and fellow 6-7er Tony Poljan at TE. Both have been big targets (lol) for Armstrong.
While the offense surged in their last game for six touchdowns, the defense has left some things to be desired (somewhere Tony Bennett is crying in the fetal position). The achilles appears to be chunk plays, and I ain’t talking truffle shuffle. UVA has given up forty-four plays of twenty yards or more and twenty-three plays of thirty yards or more, both ranking them in the bottom 3% nationally. Inversely Louisville comes into this game as Top 10 nationally in plays over 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards. They are also #1 nationally in plays over 60, 70, 80, and 90 yards. How can UVA stop the big play, and why have they given up so many this season?
The struggles of the secondary have been a little puzzling considering the players they returned. Yes, losing Bryce Hall is big, but Joey Blount, Brenton Nelson, and Nick Grant are in no way NEW players. Blount and Nelson have battle injuries all season (we don’t know if they’ll be available this weekend), so that hasn’t helped much, but the secondary has just really struggled to bat down balls or have let receivers get behind the coverage. It’s a huge issue! I’m not sure how it’ll get shut down against Louisville (if at all), because I think of Louisville as similar to UNC in the sense that there are dynamic players at QB, WR, and RB. I have been having nightmares about Tutu Atwell for weeks now.
Quick side note question that is extremely personal. I grew up a Louisville fan and attended Purdue for my schoolin’ so all things considered, from a basketball standpoint, I’ve seen two of the most excruciating losses in the last decade or more both come at the hands of Virginia. Do you have anything to say for yourself?
That’s an unbelievably brutal combo, especially considering both happened within the confines of the Yum! Center. The De’Andre Hunter bank shot was probably the most improbable win I have ever seen...until the Purdue game. I am so very sorry.
Since I derailed us a bit, lets ride this train for one more question. Do we actually see college basketball happen this year? And if so, do we actually play a tournament in 2021 or does Virginia somehow still hold the “defending champs” crown for another season?
It feels like they’re going to push forward, but it’s mind blowing that more time/energy wasn’t spent into figuring out how to make a bubble work. It seems silly to try and execute a season like there isn’t a raging pandemic, but I guess that’s what we’re going to do! All that said, I am pretty excited for basketball to be back because I love it oh so much. This Virginia team is actually — I think — going to be very good with the addition of Sam Hauser, some PG help for Kihei Clark in 4x Louisiana State Champ Reece Beekman, plus Woldetensae and Huff returning. There’s a very legitimate chance that they could be in the Final Four again (although we all know how incredibly hard that is to do).
Ok, lets pull it back in. I think it’s fair to say that both Louisville and Virginia (sans UNC) are a bit underwhelmed with what we’ve seen so far in 2020, especially when it comes to wins and losses. After losing to Virginia Tech I’m a bit nervous about losing back to back games to another commonwealth team. Pretty sure England will call us up and demand we mail back our certificate or key to the city or something if we lose. At the time of this post I see UVA as a two and a half point favorite for the 3:30pm kick. How do you see this one playing out?
I think I would believe literally anything someone said as a potential outcome for this game. Big win by Louisville? I could see it. Virginia in a close one? Sure, why not. I think this will be a high-scoring game, but I’ll take Virginia at home since it seems to be where weird things happen to Louisville. Neither defense is going to be one to write home about, but it’ll be a fun one.
Thanks again to Caroline for her time and her responses. Feel free to give her a twitter follow here and follow ‘Streaking The Lawn’ as well right here. Also feel free to go check out my responses to their questions over at ‘STL’ whenever that post goes up later this week. I get nothing extra out of you clicking the link and reading it other than me feeding my deep rooted emotional desires to gain your personal respect and approval. No big deal. Go Cards.
UPDATE: Here is my Q&A with the folks over at ‘STL’. Go on over there and soak it all in.