Inside The Game: NCSU

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Mikell Simpson had 21 carries for 81 yards at NCSU.

Virginia has had less rushing attempts than passing attempts on offense only three times this season. The Cavaliers lost two of those games, including this past weekend’s 29-24 loss at N.C. State. The Hoos rushed the ball just 36 times and a number of those were Jameel Sewell scrambles on non-running calls. That begs for one question. Why did UVa abandon the run?

Cav coach Al Groh said on Sunday that the late-game situation forced the Hoos to go to the air more frequently in the final 10 minutes. “It was a function of the time in the game,” he said. “Seven minutes to go in the game and we needed a touchdown to win and we had had a fairly productive evening throwing the ball.”

Makes sense, right? Maybe. Certainly on the surface.

But maybe not. Just one week prior at Maryland, UVa took over with 7:42 and put together a 15-play, 90-yard touchdown drive. Of those 15 plays, the first three were passes but at least nine were running plays. After N.C. State took the lead Saturday, Virginia took possession with 7:37 to play with only 73 yards to drive. This time, any comeback march was stopped before it began. Three plays. Punt.

UVa’s next two possessions were more of the same with off-target passes failing to move the ball. Game over. How many running plays were called on the final three possessions? Zero. The only run was a scramble from Jameel Sewell that resulted in a sack for a 1-yard loss and the cramps that sidelined him.

In fairness to the coaching staff, the game-winning drive at Maryland also started with three passing calls, though one was negated by a penalty and one was a shovel pass, which the offensive line blocks just like a running play.

But all of that detail focuses on the last handful of chances for the Hoos. The running game was missing for much longer than that. The final called running play was a 7-yard gain for Mikell Simpson on second down with more than 8 minutes remaining in the game. That was Simpson’s 21st and