The Virginia Cavaliers football team, 0-3, return home this Saturday to face off against the Central Michigan Chippewas.
After a heartbreaking 13-10 loss to the UConn Huskies, the Cavaliers will hope to record their first win of the season, as well as their first win with head coach Bronco Mendenhall at the helm. The contest marks the second time the two teams have met, the first occurring at Scott Stadium in 1996, and will finish out UVA’s non-conference matchups for the regular season.
Despite Virginia’s hard-fought efforts to stay in the game with UConn, 24-ranked Oregon, and Richmond, the team came up short offensively.
The Cavaliers’ struggles to keep up offensively aren’t likely to change with Central Michigan either, who is 3-0 on the season and has won two of those three games by over a 20-point margin.
To take a look at how the offenses compare, we’ll start with the playmaker – our two quarterbacks in Saturday’s contest.
The Chippewas quarterback, Cooper Rush, is an experienced senior who passed for 3,800 yards in the 2015 season and has already recorded 957 yards for Central Michigan this year. In addition to his yardage, Rush has 11 touchdowns under his belt going into Saturday’s game.
Facing off against Rush is UVA quarterback Kurt Benkert, a junior transfer from East Carolina who had to sit out last season due to a knee injury and begins the 2016 season with 698 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Despite the disparity in yardage, Benkert has logged some impressive plays for the Cavaliers, connecting for two huge plays in UVA’s fourth-quarter drive against UConn – hitting Doni Dowling for a 33-yard gain and following it up closely with a 34-yard pass to Keeon Johnson.
Benkert’s efforts at quarterback put Virginia within the Huskies 10-yard line and offered the team the chance it needed to push UConn into overtime. Although UVA’s walk-on kicker, Alex Furbank, was unable to clinch the last-second field goal, Benkert’s playmaking shows signs of optimism for the upcoming test against the Chippewas.
The Hoos will need efforts from the whole team to oust Central Michigan, though, and the Cavs will be looking to their defense to keep pressure on Rush throughout the game.
Virginia might have to rely on different defensive players to take on the challenge and perform if they want to succeed against Central Michigan, much as Andrew Brown did in the game against UConn.
Brown, a junior defensive end, played a huge role in the team’s defensive performance against the Huskies, logging 6 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. If Brown and defensive teammates like Micah Kiser can bring a similar intensity to Scott Stadium on Saturday, the Hoos have a good shot at holding off the Chippewas.
In order to come away with a “W,” though, the Cavaliers will need to connect on offense, avoid hurting themselves with penalties and interceptions, and lay the pressure on Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush.