Virginia 48, Eastern Michigan 21: Three up, three down
Well, the final margin of victory was about what most people thought it would be entering Saturday's contest. How Virginia and Eastern Michigan arrived at that final margin, though, was more than a little shocking.
Midway through the third quarter, Eastern Michigan trailed by three points. Raise your hand if you had placed a bet on that. (Skeptical glance at everyone with his or her hand raised)
Eventually -- thanks to a few key special teams plays -- the Cavaliers pulled away and claimed a badly needed 48-21 victory. The run defense still looked shaky for the most part. And the secondary continues to operate without a healthy Ras-I Dowling. But a win against a Division 1-A opponent is a win against a Division 1-A opponent. Virginia Coach Mike London certainly will take it.
"It just feels good to win a game," said London, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday. "It feels good to be able to celebrate with the players about the possibilities of what this team can do and can accomplish. We can’t let the highs get too high and the lows get too low, but we haven’t won around here in a while, and when you have a chance to experience a win, regardless of the opponent, you know, when you have a chance to play and compete, you always want to win."
1) Special teams. He claimed afterward that he's not a guru, but Special Teams Coordinator Anthony Poindexter sure seemed to have the magic touch Saturday night. He had his kickoff return unit anticipate a short kick that turned into a 70-yard touchdown return by fullback Terence Fells-Danzer. And he called for a fake-punt pass that turned into a 56-yard touchdown. Those two plays deflated Eastern Michigan in the second half and all but sealed Virginia's victory. Defensive Coordinator Jim Reid -- whose unit did not perform as consistently well -- declared Poindexter his best friend after the game and threatened to fight anyone "to the death" who ever says a bad word about Poindexter.
2) Terence Fells-Danzer. His night started by attempting to field the opening kickoff and nearly causing Virginia to turn the ball over. Neither he nor Poindexter would repeat what Poindexter said to the redshirt junior fullback on the sideline after that play, but I'm guessing it wasn't a string of words you'd care to repeat to your mother. Anyway, Fells-Danzer eventually atoned for his initial miscue by scoring two touchdowns. The first one came on three-yard pass from fifth-year senior Marc Verica. The second one came on a 70-yard kickoff return. To sum up, he touched the ball three times Saturday night and scored on two of them. Not too bad.
3) Marc Verica. The fifth-year senior took a fair amount of heat after throwing three interceptions last week against North Carolina. And while he wasn't exactly facing the stingiest of defenses Saturday, he turned in a solid performance nonetheless. Verica completed 18 of 31 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't get sacked, but he did feel -- quite literally, at times -- a lot of pressure from the Eagles defense. Virginia's pass protection was not what you would call pristine, but Verica picked himself up off the turf after each knockdown and kept right on going.
1) Run defense. For the third time in four games, Virginia allowed more than 250 rushing yards. Eastern Michigan tallied 290 rushing yards Saturday. Per usual, the Cavaliers gave up the yardage in large chunks. Eagles tailback Javonti Greene scored on runs of 53 and 55 yards. Eastern Michigan quarterback Alex Gillet scored on a 31-yard run. Greene and Gillett combined to rush for 241 yards on 21 carries.
2) Big plays allowed. I suppose this goes hand-in-hand with the previous item, but it's worth expanding on a bit. In its past four games, Virginia has allowed 22 scoring drives. Of those scoring drives, 14 included a play of 25 yards or more. That's 63.6 percent. And Eastern Michigan came very close to adding to that total. Late in the first quarter, the Eagles completed what would have been a 42-yard pass that would have put them on the Virginia two yard line. But the completion was negated after the Eagles were penalized for having an ineligible receiver downfield. Early in the second quarter, Greene rushed for 26 yards on the first play of an Eastern Michigan drive that concluded with a missed 28-yard field goal.
3) Attendance. Since Scott Stadium expanded in 2000, the attendance had never been announced at fewer than 40,000 prior to Saturday night. But to see a Mid-American Conference squad that had won one of its previous 19 games play Saturday against a home team that had struggled mightily of late, only 37,386 fans showed up. Or at least, that was the number of tickets sold. After declaring the attendance, the public address announcer said away from the microphone: "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it."
| October 24, 2010; 12:20 AM ET
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