GAME NOTES: Coming off a huge win at home over a top 25 program, the Virginia
Cavaliers set their sights on another nationally-ranked opponent, as they take
on the 21st-ranked BYU Cougars on Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards
There is no question that Mike London is on the hot seat at Virginia, as the
Cavaliers have struggled to make significant progress under his watchful eye.
However, the 2014 season has started off well, with two wins in the first
three games, including knocking off last week’s 21st-ranked squad Louisville
in Charlottesville, 23-21. The victory gave the Cavaliers two wins on the
season, matching the amount of wins the team had all last year. It also ended
a 10-game losing streak in ACC play and an 11-game losing streak against FBS
Getting a third win this week won’t come easy, as Bronco Mendenhall’s Cougars
have certainly earned their spot in the top 25, with wins over Connecticut
(35-10), Texas (41-7) and most recently, Houston (33-25). After opening up a
23-0 lead against Houston, BYU did just enough late to keep the visiting
Cougars at bay.
“I’m glad that we continued to battle, continued to fight,” Mendenhall said.
“We had some offensive momentum in the first half, and we moved it when we
needed to. Overall, it was a hard fought win. There’s plenty to work on, but a
lot of things that I was pleased with.”
These two teams opened the 2013 season against one another, with Virginia
earning a 19-16 win at home. The Cavaliers have won three of the four all-time
meetings with BYU.
The Cavaliers haven’t had much to cheer about over the last couple of seasons,
but that could change this time around. The team managed only 285 yards of
total offense against the Cardinals, but still did enough to squeak out a
victory over a good Louisville team.
On the year, the Cavs are averaging a modest 333.7 yards per game, but there
has been some balance. The quarterback position lacks a true gun slinger, but
there is value in depth, as Greyson Lambert, Matt Johns and David Watford can
all contribute. Lambert has started all three games, having completed 67.7
percent of his throws for 376 yards, with two TDs and three INTs.
Sophomore tailback Taquan Mizzell (14 rec, 52 yds) and junior wideout Canaan
Severin (11 rec, 107 yds, 2 TDs) have gotten the most looks in the passing
game. Senior tailback Kevin Parks (173 yards, 3.3 ypc, 1 TD) hasn’t found his
groove yet on the ground, although he could at any time after earning All-ACC
honors a year ago.
Virginia has had its most success in the early going on the defensive side of
the football. The Cavaliers have done a real nice job against the run (84.7
ypg) and are yielding just 354.0 yards of total offense per game. Big plays
have come in a flurry for Virginia, which has already recorded 12 sacks and 13
takeaways in the first three games.
All-American safety Aaron Harris (24 tackles) notched his first interception
of the season last week against Louisville, after leading the nation in that
category in 2013. Senior middle linebacker Henry Coley has played extremely
well thus far, leading the team in tackles (6.0), TFL (6.0), sacks (3.5) and
forced fumbles (2).
Being able to hold the explosive Cardinals in check and earn the victory was
certainly a morale boost for the Cavs, according to their defensive leader.
“It was a very emotional moment for myself and a lot of guys on the team,”
said Harris. “We strive and try to work hard and get better each week. Some
weeks we come up short, and for a second there it looked like it was going to
go the other way, but we just kept battling, kept fighting and we ended up
winning the ball game.”
The Virginia defense will have its hands full with BYU’s potent offensive
attack, led by a Heisman dark horse candidate in junior quarterback Taysom
Hill. With 200 yards passing and 160 yards rushing against Houston last week,
Hill became just the 14th FBS quarterback in NCAA history to throw for 4,000
yards and run for 2,000 yards by their junior season.
Hill leads an explosive and balanced attack that is generating 488.3 yards per
game, with over 200 yards on the ground (258.7) and through the air (229.7).
For his part, Hill has completed 68.4 percent of his passes, for 689 yards and
four TDs, while pacing the ground attack with 356 yards (5.7 ypc) and six more
scores. Junior tailback Jamaal Williams adds to the impressive ground game for
BYU with 228 yards (114.0 ypg) and two TDs.
Senior wide receiver Jordan Leslie (15 rec, 186 yds) and junior wideout Mitch
Mathews (13 rec, 108 yds, 2 TDs) are big targets downfield, with Leslie
standing at 6-foot-3 and Mathews at 6-foot-6.
BYU has done a good job defensively for the most part as well, yielding just
312.7 yards per game. The team has been especially stingy against the run,
limiting foes to just 54.3 ypg on a mere 2.1 ypc. The unit has forced six
turnovers and recorded seven sacks through the first three games.
Senior linebacker Zac Stout leads all Cougar defenders with 20 total tackles.
He has 2.5 TFL, one sack and one safety to his credit as well. Senior
defensive back Craig Bills is next in line with 16 stops and has one of the
team’s two interceptions. Junior linebacker Bronson Kaufusi has just five
total stops on the year, but three have come behind the line of scrimmage,
including two sacks.
The Cavaliers have some momentum heading out on the road for the first time
this season, but traveling across the country and trying to slow down Hill and
the Cougars won’t be easy. BYU lost to Virginia in the season opener a year
ago, but will get its revenge in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 27, Virginia 20