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Virginia's inconsistent running game

It might be overkill by this point, but there’s been a handful of weeks this season when I’ve written about Virginia’s unwillingness to commit to a running game from its running backs. And each time, I ask Coach Al Groh a variation of a question about the Cavaliers’ propensity to pass more than run.

But look at the splits between rushes and passes in Virginia’s wins and losses this season.
RB Rushes Passes
L vs. W&M 10 33
L vs. TCU 10 18
L vs. S. Miss 20 27
W vs. UNC 26 27
W vs. Indiana 35 31
W vs. Maryland 23 26
L vs. GT 7 32
L vs. Duke 21 38

Notice a trend?

Obviously, there are mitigating factors in these totals. When a team is winning in the second half, they will run more. While losing, they will usually pass more. But the Texas Christian loss was the only game in which the result appeared decided heading into the fourth quarter.

Groh often determines whether he will commit to the run by the way the players rush early in a game. As an example, Rashawn Jackson received just one carry against Georgia Tech despite having a career game against Maryland. Groh said Jackson was not impressive early in the game against the Yellow Jackets.

He had one carry.

On Monday, Groh was asked what sample sizes he uses to determine how much he’ll run. Here is what he said:

“As is well documented, sample size is a -- that's a scary proposition for me because some people have been here for these press conferences over the years remember that sample size is associated with statistics, and statistics as required in the McIntyre School when I was in school and I know it's upgraded more significantly since I was in school, but that is a principle reason for my being a five-year student, and all I remember about sample size was that it's got to be a certain number to make it a reasonable sample.

“Outside of that I couldn't figure out too many of those sample sizes, so I would have to say in my case it would have to be done visually or intuitively without any particular mathematical formula. Another one of my mental weaknesses.”

Groh was providing levity at the beginning of the answer because his statistical acumen has been a source of humor through the years.

One statistic is clear, though: The Cavaliers have had more success this season while involving the running backs.

“We'll see how the week goes,” Groh said. “Different games call for a little bit different tactics and that changes certain players' roles at certain times, too.”

By Zach Berman  |  November 4, 2009; 11:40 AM ET
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Zach, wouldn't the Maryland game go against many of those points on how Groh handles the running game? Without looking back up the play chart, it seems from memory that the run was questionable at best early (look at the first and goal series for a prime example). It wasn't until the last drive or 2 when maryland was tired and down that Rashawn really started to run over people. And that was WITHOUT the yards he would have gotten on the touchdown/mythical holding penalty.

While I don't disagree that Groh will typically let the first few series dictate the rest of the game, but I don't buy the argument that we abandon the run early. I think we go back, it just continues to not work...

Posted by: JJones-CapitalWeatherGang | November 4, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

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