Good afternoon all. We would like to bid you a happy hump day. We know Wednesdays have the tendency to drag on while the weekend seems to only be getting further away.
In an effort to alleviate some of the mid-week slump that is plaguing most normal human beings right now, we would like to insert a little preview of Bronco football into your day.
The Broncos are headed to the east coast for a Friday night match-up with the University of Virginia. It's not every weekend in the Fall that the Broncos have the fortune of getting to play a top-tier program like the Cavaliers, so needless to say it is always exciting when these match-ups occur. To gain a better understanding of what to expect when the Broncos suit up in Charlottesville, we reached out to Paul Wiley who is an editor with Streaking the Lawn. He was gracious enough to supply some of his time to us in going through a Q&A about the Cavaliers, the best place to eat in Charlottesville, and the upcoming game on Friday.
What is the biggest strength and biggest weakness of the Cavaliers thus far in 2015?
The biggest strength, or at least the biggest improvement, has been strong QB play. Over the past several seasons, Virginia has had ... issues with the man under center. Last year, Matt Johns and Greyson Lambert proved true the old adage that if you have 2 QBs, you don't have any. Through three games so far, Johns has shown an ability to hit open receivers, stretch the field, and keep the offense rolling, even using his legs when needed. Not all UVa fans were on board with the decision to make Johns the starter, but I think it's safe to say we've all been on board with the results so far.
The biggest weakness continues to be play-calling, on both sides of the ball. We knew what to expect from offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild: baffling decisions to throw screens on third-and-long, a pig-headed insistence on POWER RUNNING GAME GRRR despite not having the personnel for it, and too much lateral movement without making progress downfield. Apparently the neural anesthetic in Fairchild's coffee got into defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's as well.
When Tenuta had elite pass rushers like Eli Harold and Max Valles, his all-blitz, all-the-time defense worked. Without them, opposing QBs aren't under pressure and as a consequence, the secondary is getting torched. Both coaches seem stuck in their ways, to the Hoos' detriment.
Right now the Cavaliers rank 105th in the FBS for total defense, but still managed to keep Notre Dame close all the way to the end. What kept them in that game?
Matt Johns and WR Canaan Severin. The roommates hooked up 11 times for 153 yards, as Severin used his large frame to get deep balls over smaller Notre Dame defenders. The defense was able to come up with almost enough stops, and LB Micah Kiser in particular played his brains out. After such a strong performance against a good opponent, lots of us in Hooville started to expect more positive things than the season initially promised.
The ACC looks very strong this year. Although it doesn't look like Virginia will contend this year, when do you think the Cavaliers have a chance at rising to the top?
Not until the athletics administration takes football as seriously as basketball, baseball, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, etc. There's an air of acceptable sub-mediocrity with the football program that directly contradicts the athletic department's stated motto of "Uncompromised Excellence."
Investing in new facilities is nice, and the University has decided to make a pretty big commitment in that direction. But it's going to take a similar commitment to holding coaches accountable for their performance before Virginia can even get back to where it was in the 1990s.
How does playing at Scott Stadium stack up against the rest of the ACC and other schools across the nation?
It's one of the most picturesque settings in college football, with the pergola and The Hill in the northwest end zone echoing Jefferson's Academical Village, and the Blue Ridge Mountains framing the horizon behind. When it's full and rocking, it's as great a place to be as there is, at least for my money.
Getting it to full and getting it rocking, though, is another issue. I'd love to see the team entrance more carefully coordinated to get the fans hyped up, for instance; seeing what Clemson gets with the entrance by Howard's Rock or Virginia Tech gets with Enter Sandman, one sees what could be.
Leading rusher Taquan Mizzell still hasn't found the end zone through 3 games. What gives?
The coaches seem to be wanting to use a thunder-and-lightning backfield: Mizzell gets the carries between the 20s, but Albert Reid gets the carries up against either goal line. Reid hasn't demonstrated any particular penchant for effectiveness in those situations, though, so one would hope Smoke (Mizzell's nickname from high school) would start picking up more carries in scoring opportunities.
If you could be coach for a day, what would be the first thing you would change about the Cavalier football team?
Change the culture, from just working harder to actually working smarter. Dumb mistakes are the calling card of UVa football under Mike London. So is stubbornness in the coaching box. Day one of a Wiley regime, Fairchild and Tenuta are out, replaced by coaches who are willing to adapt their preferred philosophy to the personnel and situation at hand.
Although it may be small compared to the elite fan bases in college football, we still have a small but faithful following that travels wherever the Broncos go to play. For those fans traveling, where's the best place to get a bite to eat in Charlottesville?
There isn't one best place, as Charlottesville is probably the best place to get a bite to eat in all of Virginia. Earlier this season, we put together a "Gameday's Greatest," a reader-nominated and reader-elected list of the best places in the Charlottesville area to do all sorts of gameday activities: bars before and after the game, breweries and wineries out in the county, and restaurants of every stripe and flavor. Start from there, but follow the advice of any local you ask. We know our food and drink.
How do the Cavaliers win on Friday? Inversely, how do the Cavaliers lose?
Virginia wins if it's willing to break from its tendencies and play to its strengths. Let Johns run the offense with a freer hand; let a stout defensive line bottle up the run and leave the secondary free behind them to cover receivers and confuse an inexperienced QB. If the Hoos keep ramming their collective heads into a brick wall over and over, hoping the wall gives up first, we're not likely to see a positive outcome for the Cavalier faithful.
Finally, tell me the final outcome of the game.
Our staff was uncharacteristically optimistic about this matchup. I think a lot of that has to do with the Broncos' QB uncertainty. Hope springs eternal for Virginia fans, even if there's not any real rational reason for it. I'm going to think that a Friday night game means something weird happens; after all, this is UVa's first Friday game against anyone other than Virginia Tech since 1994. Virginia 21, Boise State 19 in an error-filled weirdo affair.
STL also took the time to create this cool graphic about the game coming up on Friday night. It is very aesthetically pleasing and deserves a look-see.
Although Virginia is clearly in a state of uncertainty, it's never easy for a mid-tier program to make a cross-country trip to a hostile environment. Boise State is currently a 2.5 point favorite heading into Friday night's contest. So come ready and prepared for a close one.
We want to thank Paul again for taking the time out of his busy day to fill this out for us.