Running On E

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Mikell Simpson scored UVa’s only offensive TD of the day, but had a tough time piling up yards.

Simply put, the Virginia football team is struggling to run the football. And it’s not just because the first opponent of the year ruined the average because it happened to be Southern California. No, the Cavaliers’ running game is M.I.A. because they’re missing blocks, lacking physicality, and struggling to create enough holes.

Look no further than Saturday’s 16-0 win over Richmond for proof. UVa produced just 91 yards rushing on 38 carries, a paltry 2.39 yards per carry. Take out two Peter Lalich sacks and two team kneel downs and things still don’t get much better – a whopping 2.9 average on 34 carries. Even the fourth quarter, a period when Virginia seemed to move the ball better on the ground, only shakes out to 2.92 yards per carry with 38 yards on 13 carries.

The good news for one Saturday – actually, make that one drive – is Virginia found a way to run the football. At least briefly. On the only touchdown drive of the day, the Hoos decided they had to run the football and called nine running plays.

“Well, we made that decision multiple times,” UVa coach Al Groh said. “Sometimes we didn’t get quite the positive results as we did on that one particular time. But it certainly came when we needed. It did. Then obviously as the drive got going, [the running game] was successful and we felt a little momentum with it and stayed with it.”

The result? A 12-play, 54-yard drive for seven critical points. On nine running plays, UVa gained 34 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per carry. Take out the final two runs in short yardage goal line situations, both of which gained one yard, and the drive produced 7 carries for 32 yards, a much more palatable 4.6 yards per carry.

Mikell Simpson capped the scoring march with a 1-yard plunge to the left side, a run with a lot of size moving that direction – John Phillips shifted that way in motion, Rashawn Jackson led the way, and B.J. Cabbell