The Virginia Cavaliers could not have asked for a better start to the game against the Texas Christian Horned Frogs. The Frogs received the opening kickoff and easily moved the ball against the Virginia defense for two quick first downs. But on the fourth play of the game, TCU lined up in the wild-cat offense and committed a major error. Running back Jeremy Kerley mishandled the snap, and Virginia managed to recover the football on the TCU 39 yard line. There was hope for Virginia Football after all.
But the Cavaliers wasted no time in throwing away this golden opportunity. After picking up a first down, the Virginia offense sputtered and was forced to settle for a 40 yard field goal attempt. Instead of snapping the ball to the holder as is the norm on field goal attempts, long snapper Danny Aiken launched the ball over the handicapped Vic Hall’s outstretched hands. Virginia would not threaten to score again until much, much later in the game.
Instead of making changes to the offense that was totally ineffective against William and Mary, Groh and Company apparently concluded that the game against the Tribe was a fluke. That running the ball with Sewell time after time will eventually catch the defense off guard. That three and outs are not a bad thing. That running on third and long will eventually result in a first down if you try it enough times. That passing the ball downfield is a thing of the past.
But the William and Mary game was not a fluke. And for the second consecutive week, the Virginia offense looked completely helpless on the field.
Give Groh some credit. He picked a quarterback, and stuck with him. Unfortunately, he selected the wrong one.
I understand that a dual-threat quarterback is very valuable in college football, especially in this so called spread offense. But Jameel Sewell is not a dual-threat quarterback. In order to be a dual-threat, you have to be able to both throw and run. Sewell cannot throw the ball. He is inaccurate downfield, and has no touch on his short throws. When you throw in Sewell’s bad decision making, you have a disaster of a quarterback. Sewell is simply an athlete who just so happens to be lined up at quarterback.
Every time the Virginia offense came out to start a new drive, I examined the huddle, hoping that I would see Marc Verica relieving the hapless Sewell. For some reason that defies the laws of common sense, Sewell played the entire game. Don’t be fooled by his 120 passing yards and two touchdowns. The two touchdown throws came against TCU’s second string defense with the outcome decided long ago.
Before Virginia’s first touchdown with just over four minutes left in the game, the score was 30-0 in favor of the Horned Frogs. Sewell had thrown for 18 yards, and Virginia’s offense was as predictable as ever. Quarterback runs were plenty, and the thought of downfield throws never even entered Groh’s head.
Between Virginia’s botched field goal attempt with less than 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter and Virginia’s first touchdown, I learned a few things about this football team:
-Jimmy Howell is a phenomenal punter. I guess if you are going to have an offense that is completely inept, it is important to have a good punter.
-Matt Conrath has potential to be the next great Virginia defensive end. The sophomore has great size (6’7”, 270 lbs) and speed around the edge. He finished with eight tackles, including one tackle for loss and a sack.
-Corey Mosley plays hard all the time. Unfortunately, this mentality resulted in a game changing penalty for the Virginia defense. With less than 12 minutes to play in the second quarter, TCU faced a third and nine on Virginia’s 36 yard line. TCU receiver Jimmy Young dropped a well thrown ball on a post route that would have given the Frogs a first down. Immediately after the pass was dropped, Mosley delivered a solid hit on Young.
Mosley was flagged for a late hit, and the Frogs were given a first down on Virginia’s 21 yard line. TCU scored two plays later to go up 7-0 with 11:18 remaining in the second quarter. Until that point, Virginia’s defense had done a fine job in limiting the Frogs’ offensive attack. But after that unfortunate penalty, Virginia’s defense was not the same.
-Kris Burd needs to learn how to catch the football. Burd seems to be one of the few Virginia receivers who can actually get open, but catching the football seems to be a major problem:
Virginia received the ball to start the second half and was immediately faced with a third and eight. Jameel Sewell threw a great pass to Burd on a slant route. Instead of going to get the ball with his hands, Burd let the ball come into his chest. The football bounced off his chest plate, and Virginia had successfully completed yet another three and out.
With seven minutes left in the game, Sewell targeted Burd again. The pass had zero touch on it, but the ball was still catchable. Burd failed to haul it in, and the ball was deflected into the hands of TCU safety Tejay Johnson for Sewell’s lone interception of the day.
-Will Barker is not a good offensive tackle. I realize that this is a new system and that the linemen are spaced farther apart, but Barker consistently gets beat around the edge. On Saturday, Barker faced one of the nation’s top defensive ends in Jerry Hughes. Barker did not even put up a fight. On one play, Hughes ran around Barker untouched on his way to sacking Sewell.
-Virginia’s punt returners make terrible decisions. Last week it was Vic Hall. This week it was Chase Minnifield. In the first quarter, Minnifield fair caught the ball inside the five yard line. Later in the game, Minnifield let the ball go when he could have fair caught it outside the ten yard line. The ball then proceeded to roll inside the five yard line.
-There is something wrong with Virginia’s secondary. Ras-I Dowling. Chris Cook. Rodney McLeod. Corey Mosley. This unit should be among the best in the country. However for the second straight week, the secondary was burned downfield on more than one occasion. The most glaring of these was a 31 yard touchdown pass on a simple post route. Dowling simply let Jimmy Young run right by him on his way to the endzone. Maybe the problem is just miscommunication. But maybe the players have begun to quit.
-Groh loves to burn redshirts. Dominique Wallace. Perry Jones. Tim Smith. Quintin Hunter. All of these players have lost one year of eligibility due to Groh’s flailing efforts to save his job. Wallace and Jones are running backs who are in competition with Mikell Simpson, Torrey Mack, and Rashawn Jackson for playing time. Smith and Hunter are receivers who are behind Jared Green, Javaris Brown, Matt Snyder, Kris Burd, Dontrelle Inman, and Staton Jobe on the depth chart. Why burn a redshirt when there is already so much depth at that position?
-The Cavaliers need a new head coach. He can’t win the big games. He can’t beat Tech. He refuses to make adjustments. He is arrogant. He has lost the fan base. Everything is wrong. He has been here for nine years and has negated everything that George Welsh worked so hard for. Al, please admit that you are not right for the job and leave now.