Virginia 48, VMI 7: Three up, three down
The final margin of Virginia's victory might not have come as a surprise for most people who follow the team, but some of the events that occured during the Cavaliers' 48-7 over 1-AA Virginia Military Institute were intriguing, to say the least.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica threw for three touchdown passes in what was a solid showing. But it was the fact that three different Virginia quarterbacks threw touchdowns in the same game for the first time in at least 60 years* that was most relevant. Redshirt freshman Ross Metheny and true freshman Michael Rocco took snaps during the second half, which means Rocco no longer will be eligible to redshirt this season.
* Records available in the press box at Scott Stadium dated back only as far as 1950.
Both quarterbacks looks decent against a porous VMI defense that allowed the Cavaliers to amass 466 total yards, and Coach Mike London said their battle to be the No. 2 signal caller is ongoing. As for the rest of the team, the defense turned in a quality effort and the special teams came up with a big play. Virginia did what it was supposed to do and now moves on to prepare for its ACC opener against Florida State at home next week.
1) Virginia's passing game. To elaborate on Verica's stat line, he threw for 224 yards on 16 for 23 passing. Oh, and he was pulled from the game after the first drive of the third quarter. The VMI defense began the game with the clear intent of stopping the run, and the Keydets largely succeeded in that regard. Virginia tallied 15 rushing yards in the first half. But the Cavaliers didn't need to do too much damage on the ground considering all the success they were having through the air. Senior wide receiver Dontrelle Inman caught the first and second touchdown passes of his career and finished with five catches for 72 yards. Junior wideout Kris Burd tallied eight receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown.
And the fun didn't stop once Verica exited the game in the third quarter. Metheny threw for 53 yards on 4 of 5 passing, and Rocco completed 4 of 6 passes for 64 yards. Metheny threw a 15-yard touchdown to junior wideout Jared Green, who finished with four catches for 63 yards. Rocco tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Colter Phillips.
2) Chase Minnifield. Sure, he muffed a punt, which led to a fumble recovered by VMI in the first quarter. But he also recorded interceptions on consecutive VMI possessions in the second quarter. Each turnover led to a Virginia touchdown. Minnifield has been forced to take on a larger role -- both in terms of performance and leadership -- with senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling (hamstring) out of the lineup since the start of the season. Dowling returned to action Saturday, but it was clear that in his absence the secondary has become Minnifield's unit.
3) Robert Randolph. It had to feel good for Randolph to make both of his field goals Saturday. After starting the season 0 for 3 on field goals, Randolph said he felt the kicking unit lacked rhythm and, as a result, he lacked confidence in it. But the operation appeared crisp against VMI, as Randolph made kicks from 33 and 44 yards without any issue.
1) Sluggish start. At the end of the first quarter, Virginia led, 14-7. Against pretty much any other opponent, that would qualify as a sufficient beginning to a game. Against a 1-AA team that was picked to finish 6th in its seven-team conference, not so much. In addition to Minnifield's muffed punt and an inability to get the running game going, Virginia's secondary was beat repeatedly. On one drive -- the first drive in which Dowling participated -- VMI completed passes of 36 and 25 yards. The Keydets scored a touchdown on a one-yard pass to a wide-open tight end. Free safety Corey Mosley and cornerback Devin Wallace were the two defenders nearest the tight end, and after the catch Wallace pointed in Mosley's direction.
"I told the guys that the first half, first quarter looked kind of lethargic a little bit," London said. "But then we just kind of came to life and started doing the things that I thought we needed to do to win this game."
One of those things happened on the kickoff that ensued following VMI's lone touchdown. Fifth-year senior tailback Raynard Horne returned the kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, the first time since 2004 that a Virginia player had accomplished such a feat.
2) Rough season debut for Dowling. On his first play of the season, Dowling was beat on a 36-yard VMI completion to T.J. Talley. On the first play of the second quarter, Dowling was called for pass interference on another pass intended for Talley. Dowling did not seem to be at full strength or full speed, though he would not confirm as much after the game. He missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury. But better to work off some of the initial rust against VMI than to do so next week against Florida State.
3) Fumbles. Virginia coughed up the ball four times Saturday against VMI and ended up losing possession twice. Two of them came on punt returns -- one by Minnifield (lost) and one by sophomore tailback Perry Jones (recovered) -- and one of them was made late in the fourth quarter by a player who is used so seldomly he is not listed on Virginia's roster and his last name is not printed on the back of his jersey. The other fumble was made by fifth-year tailback Keith Payne in the third quarter. Regardless, it's definitely an issue the team will want to address leading into next week's contest against Florida State, which possesses a much stingier defense than the one the Cavaliers faced Saturday.
| September 25, 2010; 8:22 PM ET
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