For the last home game of the season, we chatted with Caroline Darney, the big boss over at the UVA SBNation Blog, Streaking the Lawn. The Hoo’s are ahead of schedule in their rebuild under Mendenhall, but that doesn’t mean she feels great about this weekend in Atlanta. So without further ado...
1) UVA is looking like a classic Mendenhall team from his BYU years - a stout defense and a sufficient offense. Can you point to any one thing for the Cavs big turnaround this year from last? I’m not sure many of us saw UVA being 7-3 at this point in this year of our Lord 2018.
The biggest thing is players getting more used to the system and obviously buying in. The guys are working hard, following their coaching, and - as sad as it sounds - have learned how to win. I can’t tell you how many of the games this season that Virginia won that I’m 90% sure would have been losses two, three, or four years ago. I’ll toot my own horn that I had Virginia winning seven games this year, but certainly didn’t think they’d have seven by this point of the season.
2) What’s the ceiling for Bryce Perkins? His passing numbers are good, but not great. Can he improve from here? Or will it take improvement from the rest of the offense around him?
Bryce Perkins is a revelation. This team is successful in large part because he decided to come to Charlottesville. He’s a dynamic player, has shown improvement over the course of the season (specifically in decision making on when to run, when to throw the ball away), and is a more accurate passer than people give him credit for. There is 100% room for improvement, but right now the offensive line isn’t where it needs to be. In losses, the line didn’t give Perkins enough time to make things happen. Against Liberty and UNC and Louisville, Perkins had more time. Against Pitt and NC State, not so much. There have been some drops by receivers, but being flanked by guys like Olamide Zaccheaus, Hasise Dubois, Joe Reed, Tavares Kelly, and Jordan Ellis...I like the pieces they have right now.
3) Are you guys also wondering, like us, how in the world you lost to this Pitt team? We’re still puzzled as well.
Look, that Pitt team is better than I gave them credit for. Combined with our depleted run defense...that was a tougher game than I thought. The Virginia offense did nothing to help out the defense (which wasn’t that bad), but I take back a lot of my Pitt slander from the non con.
4) On a similar note, is it also concerning to you that you only scored 27 points on Bobby Petrino? Despite the 3 score win, do you wish Mendenhall was able to dunk on him a little more?
Look, where we’re coming from, we’re just happy to get wins. The defense against Louisville was [chef’s kiss]
5) UVA usually plays Paul Johnson and the flexbone pretty well. Who’s going to have to have a good day on defense for the Cavs to stop GT?
Everyone? Virginia lost Mandy Alonso to injury in the Pitt game, and that’s been just devastating. Dylan Thompson (Ohio State transfer) has been a bit of a question mark as he reported just before the season started and has seen time sparingly. Aaron Faumui has been solid, but has had to pick up a lot of extra weight on the line. First year Jordan Redmond is another that has had great moments. The linebacking corps of Chris Peace, Charles Snowden, and Zane Zandier will have to be on top of things all day...basically yeah just everyone.
6) I’ll admit to not having followed UVA much, but it seems Bronco has the team trending in the right direction. With at least an 8 win season being a high probability, are the pieces in place to continue building and sustain some success? Or did everything just align this year and we’ll see some regression in the future?
The rebuild is ahead of schedule, but I think the pieces are in place to keep this upward trajectory going. Coach Mendenhall has addressed the roster concerns - namely depth on the lines and establishing quarterback development - and is committed to setting a foundation before trying to build upwards. I like what I’m seeing, and although the scheduling wasn’t particularly rigorous, it’s what this team needed. Is this what it’s like when football is fun?
7) And finally, how do you see this game going in Atlanta this weekend? Who wins and why?
I’m at peace that this probably is going to be a lonnnnng day for the Hoos on Saturday. I think Georgia Tech is able to grind Virginia’s depleted defense down and just run clock and my soul into the ground. I’d feel much better if there weren’t so many issues with injury, but it’s late in the season so...let’s go Georgia Tech 31-13, and it won’t even feel that close.
Let’s hope Caroline is right, and the Yellow Jackets can end Senior Day on The Flats with a W for the home team. We’ll see you at BDS at 3:30. Wear gold. Go Jackets!