Orange Tops Blue In Spring Game

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Michael Rocco and Perry Jones provided efficient outings in Saturday’s spring game.

The Virginia football team concluded its spring season with the Orange and Blue game on a warm April afternoon at Scott Stadium. The Hoos were split into two teams with the first team offense and second team defense in orange and the first team defense and second team offense in blue. The Orange prevailed 20-17.

The Orange offense came storming out of the gate to set the tone for the day. A 47-yard catch and run from tight end Jake McGee set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Perry Jones . McGee finished the game with 2 catches for 81 yards. The sophomore has displayed great hands and improved route running ability this spring. McGee’s improvement has drawn praise from his coaches.

“He’s learned to be a better football player,” coach Mike London said. “He knows the defense and can read coverages before the snap. He made a few big catches out there. I think he can realize all of his potential of being a good tight end before his career is done here.”

McGee and the tight ends could be more active targets for the quarterbacks this season. Returning starter Michael Rocco said he wants to get the ball to the playmakers at all the positions and he did exactly that in the spring game. Rocco completed 12 of 21 passes for 194 yards in the game. Sophomore David Watford played for both sides during the game and completed 9 of 22 passes for 131 yards; in his turn with the Orange’s first-team offense he connected on 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards.

The spring game also featured the long-awaited debut of quarterback Greyson Lambert , a true freshman that enrolled in January. Lambert’s first career pass in Scott Stadium was a 6-yard toss to fullback LoVante Battle. The freshman QB led the Blue squad on an 8-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the third quarter. The march culminated with Lambert’s 13-yard pass to Kevin Parks in the flat to tie the game at 10. Lambert finished the game going 8-15 for 75 yards. The Georgia native has been on Grounds for only a few weeks and said that he was nervous before the start of the game, but eventually he settled down.

“The first play always gets me,” Lambert said. “I’m always very nervous for the first play. After that, I got used to it and it felt like another practice.”

With just less than a minute remaining in the third quarter, Jones marched into in the end zone again, this time from 7 yards out to give the Orange team a 7-point lead.

The play of the game came with just less than five minutes to play in the final quarter. Khalek Shepherd took a draw up the middle and scampered 75 yards to the house to tie the game. Shepherd led Virginia with 102 yards on the ground.

With 55 seconds to play in regulation, however, Drew Jarrett connected on the go-ahead field goal from 27 yards out to win the game for the Orange team.

Jarrett, Ian Frye , and Alec Vozenilek shared the kicking the duties on Saturday. Frye displayed the strongest leg of the group, converting on a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter. Jarrett connected on kicks from 27 and 20 yards, while Vozenilek missed a 30-yard attempt. Vozenilek was the primary punter for the Cavaliers. The sophomore averaged 40 yards on three punts, and displayed good hang time on his kicks.

Special teams as a whole struggled with certain elements on Saturday. In addition to the missed field goal, Dominique Terrell and Clifton Richardson each muffed a punt. Punt blocking was also an issue as LaRoy Reynolds absolutely drilled a defenseless Terrell after he caught a punt. London mentioned the adoption of the “halo rule” this year that will give punt returners more room to breathe when attempting to catch a punt. Backup center, Blake Blaze added to the special team woes with a snap over the punter’s head.

“I still don’t know who the placekicker is going to be,” London said. “That still is an area of concern. We have to find the three legs that are going to do the three kicking game elements for us. It’s still a wide open battle. We tried every kick and I think that coming out of today, everyone is even. It is going to be important early in August camp to find the guy that we’re going with.”

Offensively, Terrell looks like a completely different player. The sophomore led all receivers with 3 catches for 61 yards. Terrell’s hands and route running have improved tremendously. Miles Gooch also had a productive day with 58 yards, highlighted by a 31-yard catch-and-run play in the second half.

Zachary Swanson made his presence felt in the receiving game as well. Swanson caught 3 passes for 44 yards, and was a powerful blocker at the point of attack. The sophomore hopes to help replace Max Milien as a pass-catching threat out of the fullback position.

“Being a former tight end I think I can bring flexibility,” Swanson said. “I feel like I can learn anything that is put in front of me. We have a very good scheme, and it will get done.”

Drequan Hoskey broke up this attempted pass to Tim Smith .

With injuries to Oday Aboushi and Luke Bowanko , Morgan Moses was the only returning offensive linemen who participated in the spring game. The injuries have allowed younger players like Ross Burbank , Kelby Johnson , Jay Whitmire , and others to earn more reps. Moses says that he was impressed how the young offensive linemen progressed throughout the spring.

“We always talk about the next man up mentality and iron sharpens iron,” Moses said. “It started out rough but it turned out really good. We got to see who can hang and who could play. We always talk about having to replace guys and making sure the offense can still run like the first team.”

Defensively, Reynolds led the way 8 total tackles. Virginia only had four cornerbacks on the roster Saturday. Corner Tra Nicholson had 7 total tackles, including 6 solo. Drequan Hoskey, the other starting cornerback in this game, added 5 tackles. Sophomore Brendan Morgan posted 6 tackles, while sophomore Brandon Phelps recorded 3 stops.

Sophomore defensive tackle David Dean showed promise, with 6 total tackles, including 2 Tackles For Loss. The starting safeties chipped in 7 tackles with Rijo Walker logging 5 and Anthony Harris adding 2. Justin Renfrow added 2 sacks from his defensive tackle position.

There also was an ugly sequence when Vince Croce intercepted a pass and then fumbled the ball during the return. Defensive lineman, Rob Burns moved around the ball and appeared to be trying to scoop up the ball instead of diving on it for possession, which visibly upset the coaching staff.

Worth Noting

  • LaRoy Reynolds, Perry Jones , Will Hill , and Oday Aboushi were named team captains.
  • Dominique Terrell and Will Hill were named the “Rock Weir” Award winners for the most improved players during spring drills.
  • Demetrious Nicholson was the recipient of the “Z Society Dudley Award” given to the first year player for his excellence in the classroom, on the field, and in the community.
  • Tim Smith won the “Iron Cavalier” award for his performance and dedication in the weight room.
  • The “Cavalier Academic Achievement” award was shared by Billy Schautz and Jake Snyder . The award is presented to the UVa student-athletes who represent Uncompromised Excellence in their academic pursuits.
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