Bryce Hall’s touchdown-saving tackle on the 7 yard-line is all you need to know about the Virginia football team and how they upset No. 16 Miami in Charlottesville. Miami’s Travis Homer was on his way to a 77-yard touchdown run when Bryce Hall came streaking across the field to knock Homer out of bounds at the Virginia 7. Instead of a 77-yard touchdown run, Miami settled for a 28-yard field goal. Hall kept 4 points off the board, Virginia won by 3. While not quite that simple, this play was emblematic of how and why Virginia won.
The barometer for me continuing to watch Virginia football on TV when things go south used to be – is watching this game better than doing yard work? Not surprisingly, there have been many games when I was cutting grass as the final horn sounded.
Well, that was a pleasant Saturday afternoon. Delightful pre-autumn Charlottesville weather, a good tailgate with great friends, and a solid Virginia win that gets UVa halfway to bowl eligibility.
There was a lot to like about Virginia’s 27-3 win against the Louisville Cardinals. I would submit that the most encouraging thing about Virginia’s win was that the Cavaliers played a far from the flawless game and still won going away. While 27-3 sounds like a pretty thorough thrashing, the truth is, the game could and should have been an even more convincing beatdown.
Four weeks into the ACC season, a spin around the ACC reveals at least one thing we already knew…pre-season predictions are a ridiculous exercise in guesswork.
While Clemson is 4-0 with a nice road win at Texas A&M, I don’t think Clemson has hit their stride yet. The defense has not been as dominant as expected and the Tigers need to sort out their quarterback strategy, but Clemson is clearly the best team in the ACC. The second best team in the ACC is so far behind Clemson, it’s not really a relevant discussion.
I know, we’ve all said it a thousand times. Being a UVa fan is never easy. When it looks like it might be easy, it’s not. It’s hard. It’s stressful. It’s complicated. Even the location of Virginia’s game against Ohio wasn’t easy. Early in the week when it looked like Hurricane Florence would be churning over central Virginia all weekend, AD Carla Williams adeptly moved the game to Nashville, so Virginia could avoid a disruptive cancellation. Demonstrating that no good planning goes unpunished, Florence stayed well south of Virginia and game-time conditions in Charlottesville were not much different than those in Nashville.
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.
It would be easy to say that Virginia football delivered on expectations in Saturday’s opener against the Richmond Spiders. It might be more accurate to say that Virginia exceeds the tempered hopes of the fanbase. The Commonwealth of Virginia is blessed with a plethora of strong FCS programs. Good for football in The Commonwealth, sometimes problematic for the state’s FBS programs.
Pre-season football prognostications are the worst.
I suppose they help pass the time after the national championship game, which like the World Series needs to be played closer to the end of the regular season. However, as guideposts for the season ahead, pulling names from a hat is likely to be more accurate predicting success and failure in the coming season.
I really liked the movie “Moneyball”. I liked the book even more. I don’t think you have to be a baseball fan or even a sports fan to appreciate the game-changing, innovative strategies deployed by Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane. Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell’s book “David & Goliath” provides a non-sports related peek into the world of winning through innovation and differentiated thinking. The bottom line of these books – if David tries to beat Goliath in a traditional fight, he dies. If the Oakland A’s try to out-spend and out-market the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers, they get steamrolled every time. I think both of these books and their underlying themes are perfectly applicable to the strategy Tony Bennett has deployed for the UVa Basketball program and is manifest in his recruiting strategy.
…and some measure of joy returned to Charlottesville last week. When what was one of the greatest seasons in Virginia basketball history came to an abrupt and ghastly ending in the first round of the NCAA tournament, it seemed as though athletic joy was permanently exiled from C’ville.
Then Casey Morsell happened.