Despite the outcomes of the first two games being loses, the Virginia Cavaliers football team did show improvements against the No. 24 ranked Oregon Ducks last Saturday.
In their season opener against the University of Richmond, the Cavaliers struggled to get their offense going. The ‘Hoos only had 38 rushing yards for the entire game compared to Richmond’s total of 187.
Quarterback Kurt Benkert completed 26 of 34 passes for only 264 while the Spiders’ air attack went 24 of 35 for 337 yards.
In addition to failing to get the ball to the end zone, the ‘Hoos committed four turnovers, three fumbles and an interception, which helped the Spiders to gain their 17 point advantage.
While the Spiders ended a 10-game losing streak, for Cavalier fans it looked like it was going to be another long football season.
Then, the ‘Hoos headed to Eugene, OR to take on the Ducks for week 2.
The ‘Hoos scored early and tied the game at 6-6 in the first quarter. Then, the Ducks’ offense scored 24 unanswered points to take a30-6 lead into the half. It was like a flashback to 2013 when the Ducks came to Charlottesville to blowout the ‘Hoos 59-10.
Despite the large point deficit, the ‘Hoos did not quit.
The defense allowed only one touchdown in the second half, while the Cavalier offense scored three times.
The ‘Hoos ultimately fell to the Ducks, 44-26, but they showed massive improvements from the week prior.
The ‘Hoos greatly improved their ground game, racking up 193 yards for the game, as Senior Albert Reid lead the team with 126 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Benkert still struggled and threw two interceptions, but there was not a single fumble in the entire game. The number of turnovers was cut in half.
The ‘Hoos also played a more aggressive game against the Ducks. In Week 1 against the Spiders, the ‘Hoos did not commit a single penalty, but in the press conference after the game, Coach Bronco Mendenhall did not see this as a positive.
In response to no penalties called against the team, Mendenhall said, “And that to me is not necessarily a positive thing, meaning this, that there is a line where the rules are, and John Wooden actually used to say that he thought the team that made the most mistakes would win, because they were pushing the envelope right to the border of what the rules would allow.”
The ‘Hoos pushed the envelope last Saturday in Oregon and committed some costly mistakes, but it was not entirely negative. This proved they played with some aggression and drive to win, which seemed absent in Week 1.
All in all, the ‘Hoos had a better showing against the No. 24 team in the country than against Richmond who they had beaten in 10 consecutive meetings.
A goal for the ‘Hoos going forward should be a more aggressive and productive defense. Be aggressive while not beating themselves up with penalties; they need to find an in between. They also have yet to force a turnover this season, which hopefully they can change this weekend.
The ‘Hoos travel to East Hartford, CT this Saturday to take on the University of Connecticut Huskies.
This is only the third time the Huskies and the ‘Hoos have met in either program’s history. The ‘Hoos last played the Huskies in 2008 and lost , but a year prior they played host to the UConn and defeated came away victorious.
Head Coach Bob Diaco of UConn, who is a former assistant coach at UVA, is no stranger to Coach Mendenhall. Diaco coached his first game as head coach at UConn against Mendenhall, while he was at BYU, in 2014. BYU won 35-10.
If the ‘Hoos can work out some kinks and continue to minimize on errors like they did last weekend, then this Saturday looks much more promising.