Maestro here, standing in for Richard one more time. Luckily for me I get stand in after a win against a rival! Woohoo! With that said, lets get into the Virginia Cavaliers, who have had a tough season under first year head coach Tony Elliot. (Wahoowa)
The Hoos record stands at 3-6, with their three wins coming against in-state rival Richmond (kidding ), other in-state Rival Old Dominion (kidding again), and the bane-of-pitt’s-existence Georgia Tech. And while you could make the argument that the Cavs are the worst team in the ACC, that honor probably goes to Boston College who has scored just 107 points all season (and you thought Pitt’s offense was bad…) or maybe Virginia Tech who have lost six straight.
The Cavaliers troubles seem to stem mostly from a coaching change. Bronco “I-can-do-more-with-three-star-talent-than-almost-anyone-not-named-Pat-Narduzzi” Mendenhall took over at UVA in 2016 and turned a perennial 4-win team into a respectable six-to-nine win program (sound familiar?) in just two seasons. Alas for the Virgina faithful Mendenhall decided to step down after the 2021 season, citing a “sense of clarity” that he needed to step away from college football. If you read between the lines that “sense of clarity” probably had a lot to do with staying married to Mrs. Mendenhall, and well you can’t fault a man for that.
Per Sports Illustrated.com: “And, so, it’s 31 years of straight football. And my wife and I will have been married 25 years in March. All we’ve known together is the rhythm of a football season. That’s all my kids have known. And this January all three will be gone. And Holly and I are empty-nesters. And all they’ve known is the rhythm and cycle of football. And we know what that looks like really, really well.
And I would love to say there’s been this buildup and a long amount of epiphanies and thought, but clearly this week there was a sense of clarity to me that I needed to step back from college football and reassess, renew, reframe and reinvent, with my wife as a partner, our future and the next chapter of our lives.” – Bronco Mendenhall
And so, enter Tony Elliot, Clemson Football Alum, former Clemson Offensive Coordinator, and despite an outstanding rags-to-riches background (per Wikipedia Elliott started out his life homeless in Los Angeles, before moving to live with as aunt in South Carolina after the death of his mother), Elliott likely bears responsibility for Virginia’s current football woes.
The problem, ironically, lies with the offense, starting with the quarterback. UVA signal caller Brennan Armstrong was an all-ACC quarterback last season, and he was on just about every watch list possible this year. But his performance so far has been anything but watch-listy:
and just in case you forgot what he did in 2021:
Narduzzi, seemingly dealing with a similar situation (I hope that I shouldn’t have to go into detail…) went so far as to stick up for Armstrong earlier this week citing the change of coordinators and systems as the reason for his regression. Well that’s all well and good, but I present to you exhibit B, the progression of one Mr. Garrett Schrader, who just so happens to have the same OC that Armstrong had last year. Note the nearly identical passer ratings:
So apparently coordinators matter (Don’t tell Pat). If you are a Pitt fan following along at home, you’ll cringe when you hear that the term “balanced offense” came up during the offseason in Charlottesville.
In his first media availability session on Wednesday, (UVA OC) Dez Kitchings indicated that executing a balanced offense was a point of emphasis for Virginia in 2022.
“We’re not saying we’re going to be 50% run, 50% pass, but we’ll be balanced enough that if the game requires us to win the game running the football, that we’re capable of doing that,” Kitchings said on Wednesday. “And obviously, if we have to win the game throwing the ball more so, that we’re still capable of doing that as well.”
Sound familiar? Yea…
So anyway, onto the Hoos running game. The good news for Virginia fans is that Kitchings has indeed managed to achieve balance. The bad news is that balance is pretty much synonymous with “crappy”.
The Cavaliers are averaging 138 yards per game, and 4.1 yards per attempt. Their leading rusher is QB Armstrong who has toted the rock 113 times for a 3.7 average (which I’m sure he’s thrilled about). After armstrong, the Hoos seem to take a committee approach, with none of their three backs really standing out in any particular way.
Flipping back to the passing game, one might be tempted to argue that Armstrong’s troubles aren’t in-fact due to a really ineffective offensive system, and instead stem from a loss of weapons. Unfortunately that’s not the case. UVA returned two of their top receivers from last year, Keytaeon Thompson, and Dontayvion Wicks. Their YOY stats are posted below for your viewing horror.
But enough about the offense, lets talk about Virgina’s defense. It’s not bad. Better than Pitt’s in some areas.
They are 36th in total defense (353 YPG, Pitt is 26th at 328).
They are 44th in scoring defense (22.6 PPG, Pitt is 66th at 25.8)
They are 34th in passing yards allowed (204 per game, Pitt is 56th at 218)
And – fortunately for Pitt – They are 73rd in rushing defense (149 ypg, Pitt is 16th at 109)
Also fortunately for Pitt, Virginia is even worse at protecting the football than the Panthers (did you ever think you’d hear that?). The Hoos come in at 114th in the country (-.78) while Pitt is a mere 101st! (-.56)
It’s also worth nothing that UVA is one of the worst schools in the country at protecting their quarterback (yes I’ve flipped back to offense here, sorry). They are ranked 104, and give up just under 3 sacks per game. (Pitt is mid-fifties here, giving up just under 2 sacks per game).
Lastly, since we are talking sacks, this is the one area where UVA excels: They are 8th in the country 3.33 per game. Pitt, by comparison is 10th, at 3.22. Dare we entertain the thought that we might see Nick Patti? I do…
Hail to Pitt