STOP THE RUN, FORCE CANES TO PASS ON 3RD DOWN
When it comes to Miami, you don’t need a diploma from Vince Lombardi U to figure out how to stop the Hurricanes. Stop the run and cut off the big pass play. It’s that simple.
Miami’s 314 yards last week was a season high as three UM players reached the 50-yard mark in the same game with Javarris James rushing for 103, Derron Thomas gaining 66, and Graig Cooper accounting for 60. Receiver Darnell Jenkins (48 yards, 7 carries) and fullback Jerrell Mabry (five carries, 34 yards also had good games.
Until last week’s 141 yards rushing by Wake Forest, Virginia had not allowed more than 130 yards rushing since Week 1. Four times, UVa has limited opponents to less than 100 yards (Duke, North Carolina, UConn, N.C. State).
Both James, who averages 4.0 yards per carry, and his cohort Cooper (5.5 ypc) will be a difficult duo to take down.
“They’ve played different teams differently,” said Jon Copper. “They’ve come out and thrown a lot. Most of the games they come out and run a lot. So we’re expecting both but they have four exceptional tailbacks.”
If Virginia can shut down the run, I’d prefer playing the odds of trying to make Kyle Wright beat the Cavaliers. Miami is a better team with Wright on the field as seen in the Thursday night game against Texas A&M, but he is still erratic as showcased two weeks later (two touchdowns and four interceptions against North Carolina).
Wright’s 1 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio is what it is. Nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.
A Cavalier key will be first and second down success – the goal is to push Miami to pass on third down. Wright and Kirby Freeman have struggled mightily, completing only 28.7% of the time (29 of 101) on third down. That’s dead last in the conference and 111th in the country.
STOP GIVING AND START GETTING POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
There’s a growing trend on this team and it’s one that won’t turn the head coach into a happy man. Virginia giveaways keep going up and takeaways are on the decrease.
Last week, a blocked punt at UVa’s 28 resulted in only a field goal for Wake Forest. Mikell Simpson ‘s fumble in the first quarter thwarted a drive in Wake territory. The week before, 10 of NC State’s 13 points came off Virginia turnovers.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Virginia did nothing with Ras-I Dowling’s first career interceptions against NCSU and Wake. To add insult, Dowling returned his pick to the Demon Deacons’ 27 last week and Virginia couldn’t even muster up three points.
With ball-hawking teams that like to score on defense left on the horizon, UVa needs to stop giving away chances to score. It would help if the offense could capitalize on the defense’s gifts as well.
WATCH THE BIG PLAY
In the last four games that Wright was healthy, he managed to throw seven interceptions and just five touchdowns as the Hurricanes went 2-2. That’s because Wright will make bad throws when hurried and force balls into coverage when he has time.
To his credit, Wright likes to look to big play threat Darnell Jenkins. Jenkins leads the team with an average of 23.9 yards per catch and in nine games, he has 23 catches – 12 of them for first downs and two for touchdowns. Wright and Jenkins hooked up for a 64-yard strike against Florida State, a 46-yarder vs. Duke, and a 97-yard touchdown strike to keep the comeback hopes alive against North Carolina. It could prove to be an interesting match-up as Virginia’s secondary seems to have been given a breath of fresh air with the emergence of Ras-I Dowling in the past two games.
Virginia’s special teams should also have their heads on a swivel. Miami has used three trick plays this season that have directly scored or eventually led to touchdowns.
Hit Miami in the mouth right off the start and see how the team reacts. The Hurricanes have outscored their opponents 81-7 at home in the first half this season. Last week when Daniel Evans scored with 2:04 left in the second quarter, it was the first points for an opponent in the first half in the Orange Bowl this season.
“That’s a remarkable statistic isn’t it? They’ve given up seven points at home in the first half this year,” said Groh. “What it indicates to us overall is when we look at the games that have been played there, is that it has all the earmarks of being another tight, low-scoring, close game and I would say as much to 60 minutes as to 30.”
I am done going down the path of the need for points in the third quarter. Virginia, in 10 games, has scored four touchdowns on its opening drive and it was a good sign to see a field goal last week against Wake. Unfortunately, Virginia has scored nine first quarter points, including that field goal, in the past three games.
Miami has scored 24 points in its last three games (and has 108-75 edge overall) in the first half. Virginia can’t afford to fall into a big hole on the road. Against UConn, Virginia’s red zone defense bailed out the offense after two quick turnovers and did the same last week after the blocked punt at Virginia’s 28. The Cavaliers did pull themselves back to take the lead against N.C. State after trailing early, but the Hoos eventually paid the price in a loss.
Miami defensive end Calais Campbell may be a little sick of hearing about Chris Long coming to town this weekend. Campbell is far from a slouch, totaling 71 tackles, five sacks, eight tackles for loss, 18 quarterback pressures, 2 forced fumbles, and as well as 2 fumbles recovered. Think he’d like to put on a show for an ESPN2 audience with Long in the house? You bet.
“He’s got a dominating presence, obviously. His wingspan is unique to college football,” said Groh. “He’s a very long player, but he’s also very wide. He takes up a lot of space in there. He’s very athletic for his skills [and] for his size he’s a very, very good player.”
Campbell has done everything this year from catch a pass on a fake field goal against Oklahoma to live in the backfield against Duke (16 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries and three TFL). Campbell will be lined up against Eugene Monroe . It’s a match-up to watch and the after shocks could register on the Richter scale.
PREDICTION: Virginia 21 Miami 17