Greener Pastures May Be Around the Corner For UVA Offense
The second half of the Syracuse game was the Hoos best offensive half of the season against FBS opponents.
It’s easy to be disappointed with where the football team is right now. Virginia is 2-2 with losses against their only two Power 5 opponents. And if we’re being honest, even the two wins didn’t set the world on fire. They needed a last-second field goal to top Old Dominion and they actually lost the second half against Richmond.
Part of the disappointment comes from last season. Through eight games the Hoos were 6-2 and the offense was lighting up the scoreboard regularly. If not for an injury, a canceled bowl game, and an odd play call against Tech, their overall record could have looked pretty good. My thought going into the year is that they’d be building on those successes from last season. Thus far, that hasn’t been the case, particularly through the air.
Allow me to make heads or tails of the situation.
There’s a new staff implementing a new system for a group of veterans. On defense, that’s fine and dandy. The only direction they could have gone was up, and after a season like last, players are eager to learn and get better. On the other side, it’s probably difficult to tell an offensive unit that was KILLING IT last season that they’re going to scrap what was working and start from scratch. Not only is it a playbook issue (basically learning a new language) but you also have to get everyone to buy in.
I was wrong in thinking the offense would pick up where it left off. A lot of fans probably feel the same way. It’s not Madden. You can’t just go to settings and pick a new playbook and expect perfect execution. Getting everyone up to speed and pulling in the same direction takes a lot of time. However, I do believe in the new system and think it’s a better fit long term.
Having patience is tough when you’re looking strictly at the passing numbers compared to a year ago. I totally get it. They’re night and day. At the same time, the rushing and defensive numbers are night and day compared to last year in a good way. As a fan, that inspires confidence in the new coaching staff. Their batting average so far isn’t hall-of-fame worthy by any means but they’ve been able to improve some real problem areas from recent seasons.
Having said all that, we may have witnessed the offense really turn a corner in the second half vs. Cuse.
Brennan Armstrong and company put together two different 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drives against the Orange after trailing 16-0 at halftime. They also put one in the endzone after getting the ball with a short field. Given the competition level — Syracuse is No. 3 in the ACC in scoring defense and No. 22 in the nation — it was hands down their best half of the season.
Prior to the second half against the Orange, the Wahoos only mustered three points total in their other three halves against Power 5 opponents. That includes a first half against Illinois where the Illini turned it over four times, a second half against Illinois where the Illini missed multiple field goals, and a first half against Syracuse where the Orange turned it over twice.
first half vs. Illinois: 3 points
second half vs. Illinois: 0 points
first half vs. Syracuse: 0 points
second half vs. Syracuse: 20 points
Even the second half against Cuse was far from perfect but it’s definitely something. So much of this game is confidence and Brennan having those long touchdown drives against a LEGIT defense under his belt will absolutely help in that department.
Virginia’s situation isn’t ideal, but it’s also not unique. Right in their own division is an example of a team taking a step back under a new regime, and there’s is more alarming nationally. Miami just lost to Middle Tennessee as 25.5-point favorite and they benched their quarterback Tyler Van Dyke — the same guy who finished third in ACC Preseason Player of the Year voting — in the third quarter.
The Hoos, for the sake of noting, were underdogs in both of their losses this season. They could have won against Cuse with a break here or there but it didn’t shake out that way. There have been games in the past that went our way when getting a break here or there, so it all comes out in the wash. Bottom line, the last time we saw the Hoos play, they played their best statistical football. That’s encouraging. From the coaching side, they’re doing a lot of things right. Have patience and keep the faith.
Thanks for reading Virginia Gameday! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.