In my game preview, I said, “I just do not see William and Mary keeping this one close."
I would like to let everyone know right now that this prediction was absolutely correct. The Tribe dominated the ‘Hoos in a game that left everyone associated with Virginia football completely embarrassed. The scoreboard showed 26-14, but the result should have been much worse for the Cavaliers.
Allow me to share with you a couple of headlines following the disastrous season opener for Virginia:
“William & Mary forces seven turnovers as Virginia's offense falls flat”—Associated Press
“Cavs devastated by Tribe as spread offense sputters”—The Cavalier Daily
What do these headlines have in common?
The complete ineffectiveness of the newly installed spread offense.
Al Groh and Gregg Brandon successfully put together one of the worst offensive game-plans in the history of college football. The play-calling was predictable and monotonous.
At no point in the game did the Virginia offense attempt to exploit any mismatches that they held over the Tribe. Instead, Brandon seemed content to let his quarterbacks run the ball more than his running backs. His unorthodox strategy, needless to say, did not pay off.
The Virginia quarterbacks rushed the ball a ridiculous 28 times. They netted only 85 yards for an average of 3.04 yards per carry. The Virginia running backs rushed the ball only 10 times. They gained 46 yards for an average of 4.6 yards per carry.
At some point in the game, you would think an “offensive guru” like Brandon would realize that the running backs were more effective at running the football than the quarterbacks. Such was not the case.
With just under 12 minutes to play in the game and the ‘Hoos down 16-14, Virginia was faced with a critical 4th-and-1 on their own 49. These situations call for power football—good ol’ fashioned running the ball between the tackles.
But Brandon, being the offensive genius that he is, had a different idea. He lined up Marc Verica, Virginia’s least mobile quarterback, in the shotgun. Verica then ran to the right, which just so happened to be where the Tribe’s All-American defensive end Adrian Tracy was. Tracy, and the rest of the Tribe defense, swarmed on the helpless Verica, resulting in a turnover on downs.
I am going to call that the single worst play call ever.
The problems with the spread offense did not end there.
In a promotional video created by virginiasportstv.com, Gregg Brandon teaches the new spread offense to his players. In this video, Brandon tells his players, “Our no-huddle offense will limit the defense's ability to make adjustments.... You quarterbacks are gonna have to get the ball to the playmakers, so they can do their thing.”
None of what Brandon said during the video took place during Virginia’s loss on Saturday. Virginia did, in fact, use the no-huddle offense, but the plays were relayed to the quarterbacks in such a slow manner that the defense was never on its toes.
This brings us to the part about the quarterbacks distributing the ball to the playmakers. I have a couple of problems with this quote.
First problem: Vic Hall as the starting quarterback. If the goal of the spread offense is to quickly deliver the ball to the playmakers, then why is Hall in there as a quarterback?
In order for the 5'9" Hall to throw the ball to his receivers, he must roll out of the pocket so that the offensive line is not obstructing his view. This process takes time and does not allow for the receivers to quickly get the ball. I have no problem with Vic playing on offense, but he should absolutely not be playing quarterback.
Second problem: The play calling hardly ever called for the quarterbacks to distribute the ball to the playmakers.
All preseason long, we heard about how great Javaris Brown is. I attended an open practice and witnessed the speedster make plays. Yet when gameday arrived, Brown hardly had any opportunities to make an impact. Brown had the ball thrown to him two times and finished with one catch for four yards. The quarterbacks attempted 33 passes, compared with the 28 times they ran the ball.
Despite the Virginia offense’s game plan to give William and Mary the ball as frequently as possible, Virginia’s defense did all they could to help the Cavaliers tally a win. The defense held running back Jonathan Grimes to only 46 yards on 19 carries and limited William and Mary’s rushing attack to a modest 3.4 yards per carry.
Even after Virginia’s offense gave William and Mary great field position via turnovers, the Cavalier defense held strong and limited the Tribe to field goals. William and Mary only had one offensive touchdown (a seven-play, 81-yard drive in the first quarter), and that was sandwiched between numerous three-and-outs.
Given the conditions, the defense played admirably by holding the Tribe to only 19 offensive points.
Player of the Game: LB Steve Greer
Greer, a redshirt freshman, finished with 10 tackles, including one for a loss. He is going to be a good one.
Play of the Game: Hall’s 34-yard touchdown run
On Virginia’s third play of their first drive, Hall scampered for a 34-yard touchdown run. The crowd went crazy. Everyone thought Virginia was going to win big and that Vic was going to win the Heisman...
Worst Play of the Game: Verica’s run on 4th-and-1
It was beyond stupid.
What Were You Thinking Award: Hall’s botched punt return
Why would you ever try to field a punt inside the 10-yard line? The cardinal rule of punt returning: If you are standing inside the 10-yard line, don’t touch the ball. Vic botched the punt and gave the Tribe outstanding field position.
On that note, I have always felt that Hall is not a good punt returner. He struggles to recognize when to fair catch the punt and when to return it.
Mike Groh Is Better Than You Award: Gregg Brandon
I’ll be the first one to admit that I thought Brandon was going to be the savior of Virginia football. He’s not. I’m wrong.
Most Creative Way of Turning the Ball Over Award: Marc Verica’s backwards fumble/throw
Selecting a winner from this category was the toughest because there were seven heart-wrenching nominees. Would the winner come from one of Jameel Sewell’s three interceptions? Would center Jack Shields’ failed attempt to snap the ball be enough to get the offensive line some recognition? Or would one of Vic Hall’s two fumbles take home the hardware?
Unfortunately for all of the above candidates, Marc Verica, the king of the turnovers, takes home the prize.
In all seriousness though, Verica played very well and is the best man to direct this “spread offense.”
Worst Coach Award: Al Groh
This one was tough because both Groh and Brandon outdid themselves in this particular game. But Groh is the head coach, and I will never defend him again.