Virginia Tech 37, Virginia 7: Three up, three down
For the seventh straight time, Virginia Tech defeated Virginia to claim the Commonwealth Cup, as well as bragging rights throughout the region. The Hokies pounded the Cavaliers, 37-7, before moving their focus toward next weekend's ACC championship game.
This game featured all the familiar trappings of a Virginia football contest this season. There were silly penalties, missed tackles and an interception by fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica, who finished with 14 picks this season. The offense stalled, the defense wore down and the special teams could not pull off the trickery for which it became known in recent months.
But it wasn't just about what Virginia did or did not to. In this particular game, what Virginia Tech -- an in-state rival on the field and in local and region recruiting scenes -- accomplished against the Cavaliers was just as relevant. The Hokies gained 201 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. They held Virginia's offense to 291 total yards and registered four sacks. They won by 30 points and likely would have pitched a shutout had they not pulled their defensive starters early in the fourth quarter.
"They are the measuring stick right now, and you’re humbled by the fact that that’s where you’ve got to go," Virginia Coach Mike London said of the Hokies. "That’s what I aspire to be, a team that wins games and competes for championships."
1) Penalties. Comparatively speaking, the Cavaliers were fairly disciplined on Saturday. They were charged with five penalties for 45 yards, but considering they entered the day already having broken Virginia's season mark for penalties and penalty yards, that's not too bad. Isaac Cain's late hit penalty on the game's opening kickoff was pretty ridiculous (Cain did not start the play on the field), but other than that, not too bad.
2) Kris Burd. The junior wide receiver finished the season with 58 catches for 799 yards and five touchdowns. Only one player in Virginia history has recorded more receptions in a single season than Burd did this fall. Billy McMullen registered 83 catches in 2001 and 69 in 2002. Deyon Williams (2005) and Kevin Ogletree (2008) also recorded 58 receptions in a single campaign.
3) Marc Verica. Yes, Verica threw a lot of interceptions during his collegiate career. But when Saturday's game ended, Verica stood as Virginia's sixth-most prolific passer (4,992 yards), as well as the program's third-most accurate passer (59.9 completion percentage). Verica also ranks No. 3 in program history in completions (487). He completed 12 of 20 passes for 168 yards and an interception Saturday.
1) Third down conversions. Virginia converted 1 of 12 third downs against Virginia Tech. On the season, the Cavaliers converted on 35.2 percent of third downs, which ranks in the bottom fourth of the nation's Division 1-A football teams. The Cavaliers struggled mightily to sustain offensive drives Saturday, which contributed to their producing 291 total yards. It was the first time all season Virginia's offense had been held below 300 total yards.
2) Missed/poor tackling. The Cavaliers struggled with this all season. On Saturday, it seemed as if -- especially near the goal line -- Virginia's defenders were more focused on trying to strip the ball from the carrier than they were with making the tackle. On all five of Virginia Tech's touchdown plays, at least one Virginia defender either missed a tackle or were flat-out run over. The most egregious example of the Cavaliers inability to bring down Virginia Tech's runners in an efficient manner occured early in the third quarter. On a draw play, Virginia Tech tailback Ryan Williams rushed 15 yards for a touchdown. He dragged Virginia linebacker LaRoy Reynolds the final five yards before extending his arms into the end zone.
3) Backup quarterback usage. Coach Mike London has said several times in the past two weeks that he wanted to get some of his younger reserves more experience. With a fifth-year senior starting at quarterback, it seemed likely London and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor would make a concerted effort to get true freshman Michael Rocco and redshirt freshman Ross Metheny a decent amount of reps these last two weeks. And yet, Rocco played just one series last week against Boston College, and Metheny didn't play in that game at all. Okay, that game was close. Virginia had a chance to win throughout. Wins are important and all that good stuff.
But what about Saturday? Virginia Tech led by 24 points less than five minutes into the second half. And yet, aside from one three-and-out series in the first half, Rocco did not play until just more than one minute remained in the game. Metheny did not enter the game until Virginia's penultimate offensive series, during which he led the Cavaliers to their only touchdown of the day against Virginia Tech's defensive reserves. Metheny completed both of the passes he attempted for 50 yards and an 11-yard touchdown throw to tailback Keith Payne. Rocco completed 1 of 3 passes for two yards.
I get that Lane Stadium can be a hostile environment, and I understand that Verica was playing in his final collegiate game and that he gave the Cavaliers their best chance to score on every drive. But at this point in the season, and especially with the score so lopsided, why not give Rocco and Metheny more reps? How can it hurt them? It would seem that the additional experience they could have gained would have proven beneficial at some point down the road.
"We tried to put them in, you know, in situations that we thought could help us," London said.
| November 27, 2010; 6:46 PM ET
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