Inside The Game: Gator Bowl

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Virginia’s agonizing 31-28 loss to Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl certainly left Cavalier fans disappointed. After all, the Hoos led by two touchdowns and seemingly had the game under control in the fourth quarter before the win slipped away. The Sabre takes one last look at the bowl game, starting with something encouraging.

Catching Spread Fever

Virginia’s spread punt formation gave Ryan Weigand and Chris Gould plenty of time to get kicks away.

In what is becoming more and more fashionable across college football, teams have adopted the spread formation as a go-to option for program. No, not the read option spread offensive spread silly. The punt spread formation.

Virginia caught the fever in the bowl game, showing a new punt formation with wide splits across the line and a swinging door, triple protector look in front of the punter. The concept behind the formation has two basic principles – better protection (the wider splits spread out the potential blockers and the three personal protectors pick up any breakthroughs more easily) and better downfield coverage (the wider splits essentially give the team multiple gunners instead of two), two things UVa needed more of throughout the 2007 season.

The encouraging news is how well it worked. Entering the Gator Bowl contest, the Cavaliers had struggled in the punting game. They had three kicks blocked during the season, including one against rival Virginia Tech, an all too common theme. To make matters worse, UVa didn’t cover well during the season either, allowing 9.7 yards per return – that ranked 76th in the nation. Not good. The gunners didn’t get down to disrupt the returns quickly enough and the coverage felt just shaky enough to worry coaches and fans alike.

Fast forward to the bowl game. The new formation worked wonders for one game at least. The Red Raiders did not block a kick. Against Texas Tech, the Hoos allowed just four returns on eight punts and those attempts yielded just six yards per return. That not only cut more than three yards per return off of Virginia’s