Penn State Recap: Deja Vu

419220_10151021586236104_131477638_nWe’ve been here before. Oh, have we been here before. Most people point to the 2007 ‘Cardiac Cavs’ season when Virginia games come down to the wire. But don’t forget last season, as the Hoos were involved 6 games decided by 7 points or less. Well, in watching the 17-16 victory over Penn State, it was actually one game from each year that had me doing a double take.

2007: Virginia 17, Wake Forest 16

The last time UVa won a game 17-16, it was at home 5 years ago to Wake Forest. Down 16-10, the Hoos used 10 plays to go 56 yards in 3:57. Mikell Simpson ran it in the endzone with 2:18 to give Virginia a 17-16 lead. Wake moved the ball down the field and had a shot at a 47 yard field goal with seconds on the clock to win it. But Sam Swank, one of the best kickers in the country, missed his 2nd attempt of the game and the Hoos prevailed.

This week: Down 16-10, the Hoos used 12 plays to go 86 yards in 6:36. Rocco’s pass to Jake McGee in the endzone with 1:28 to go gave Virginia a 17-16 lead. Penn State moved the ball down the field and had a shot at a 42 yard field goal with seconds on the clock to win it. But Sam Ficken missed his 4th field goal attempt of the game and the Hoos prevailed.

2011: Virginia 14, Florida State 13

It was a low scoring game and, with the clock slipping away, the Hoos really needed a spark. And Rocco delivered. Down 13-7 and getting the ball with 1:53 to go, Rocco went into beast mode, completing 4/4 passing for 65 yards. By far his best drive of the game. Hoos went up 14-13, but there was 1:16 left on the clock. Florida State marched the ball down the field and with :03 seconds to go missed a 43 yard field goal. Hoos win.

This week: It was a low scoring game and, with the clock slipping away, the Hoos really needed a spark. And Rocco delivered. Down 16-10 and getting the ball with 8:04 to go, Rocco went into beast mode, completing 6/6 for 97 yards. By far his best drive of the game. Hoos went up 17-16, but there was 1:28 left on the clock. Penn State marched the ball down the field and with :01 second to go missed a 42 yards field goal. Hoos win.

General Notes

  • Anybody else sunburned? Luckily the pouring down rain right at the end of the day cooled it off a little.
  • Officially there was an attendance of 56,087, but Penn State owned a lot of those tickets, too many in fact. Credit them for scooping them all up. I won’t get on the soap box about season ticket holders, but there were more than enough empty seats throughout the game, so I don’t want to hear the noon kickoff excuse.
  • Overall, UVa fans were very respectful about the entire Penn State issues all day. I did see some non-UVa fans walking around trying to rile up the PSU people with a disrespectful mascot uniform, but it was just some out of town ‘trolls’. I was proud of the entire effort.


The Good: Rocco had another solid game 21/33, 258 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, including the game winning TD pass to McGee. Let’s not gloss over the fact that Virginia was 2-for-2 in the red-zone, both going for touchdowns.

The Bad: The use of Sims. I can kinda see the logic bringing him in to try to ‘jump start the offense’ after the fumbled snap, but Sims not look spectacular. Shoot, he really just looked like Rocco Lite. 2/3 for 5 yards, both were check downs in flat routes. The first drive was a 3-and-out, the second one he fumbled. Two things you can take away. First, Rocco is the man driving this bus right now until a MAJOR melt down and, second, if London and Lazor ever try that again, you have my permission to question their sanity. It wasn’t like we were down by multiple scores. We were up 10-7 in a defensive battle. You don’t need to be working Sims out in those situations.

The Good: Our running backs were able to make it from the locker room to the field.

The Bad: Every aspect of the running game. 40 yards on 17 carries by our backfield (Parks-26, Jones-14). Inside, outside, nothing was working for them. I have never seen a game where we were that shut down. On one play in the 2nd quarter, Perry Jones instead of cutting outside Oday who was man-on-man with the PSU DE, he ran right into Aboushi, took a few steps, and let the DE tackle him. We will know a little more after GT and TCU, but Virginia will have to figure out what happened real quick.

The Good: Darius Jennings is emerging as Rocco’s favorite receiver. He followed up his 84 yard Richmond game with a 68 yard performance on Saturday. He has got the deep out route under control and you could tell that Rocco will look at him more and more as the season goes on.

The Bad: It was a tie with ‘what happened with Tim Smith’ and ‘how does Terrell drop that pass’. London only said it was ‘an issue’ that Smith had on the sideline, but he would be healthy again for GT. I don’t think that cleared up anything, but it was another weapon out for half the game. And the one thing holding by Terrell right now is Terrell. If you have seen the play in question, it was a play action QB roll out dragging Terrell across the field in the middle route between the linebacker and the secondary. Nobody was around him for at least 5 yards in every direction and he turned up field before he caught the ball. Now, he did redeem himself when Lazor ran the same play later in the game and he turned it into a big gain and a first down.

The Good: Jake McGee. Player of the Game. Not even close. He catches everything including Rocco’s desperation heave 44 yards downfield (which is about as far as he could throw it). Even Mathis played well (when he didn’t false start) and had a touchdown catch as well. Remember when I said TE play was going to be important this year, especially in the red-zone. Both TDs were caught by tight ends in the red-zone.

The Bad:  Nothing really, just noting that I don’t see a lot of Phillips out there at all. I know he was out there, cause he shows up in the box scores. He is clearly the better blocking tight end and maybe that’s all he is going to be used for, in jumbo sets.

The Good: More of the same from last week. Oday and Morgan looked good.

The Bad: The line gave up 3 sacks and 7 TFLs while not being able to block for the running game one bit. PSU was blitzing all day long and the Hoos didn’t know what hit them. It won’t take long to realize that this can’t continue, especially over the next two weeks.


The Good: The defensive line looked better this week. And while the starters were solid, it was their backups who played great. Walcott had 6 tackles and 3 pass breakups, showing that you can never take the safety out of him. And while Harold only had one tackle, you could see he was clearly more active and better than last week.

The Bad: Production from the defensive tackle group is still not where we need to be, which was reflected in the Penn State quarterbacks having PLENTY of time to throw all day long.

The Good: Steve Greer. 15 tackles. Career high. 2.5 TFLs. Career high. 2 sacks. Career High. Whenever you need him to have a great game. Bam. We are going to miss him next year. But don’t forget Coley, Reynolds, and Romero, who all had multiple tackles and at least a half TFL. This group is getting to be very solid.

The Bad. Not much, just would like to see them send more linebackers on blitzes. Seemed to work out in the base 4-3 and even in dime when only 2 LBs are on the field.

The Good: I thought the secondary did a very good job. They gave up 209 passing and 2 touchdowns. The first was to their nemesis: tight ends. But the tight ends only accounted for a few catches and around 30 yards and Penn State uses multiple tight ends most plays. The second TD was an amazing catch coupled by an amazing throw, but it looked like Hoskey was beat on the ‘go’ route. But Hoskey wasn’t fooled on the PA pitch back pass and has Robinson covered the entire time. Nicholson was stellar as was Harris, who looks like he is closing the talent gap with classmate Tra, the other 4* DB in the 2011 class.

The Bad: Still some growing pains, but they still haven’t seen elite receivers yet. Still have to play the LBs in zone a lot versus blitzing, but as they improve, look for Reid to dial some more up.

Special Teams

The Good: Second week. Second flawless effort. Solid, if not outstanding, in all phases.

The Bad: I know I’m wrapping up UVa, but you have to feel bad for PSU’s kicker, Sam Ficken. He missed 4 field goals, including one from 20 yards, and had an extra point blocked. And on a team that really needed a boost, he must feel devastated. All you can do is shake it off and move on.

Final Whistle

There was no way we should have won this game. 32 yards rushing, 4 turnovers, and 10 penalties. End of line. Credit the defense after we turned the ball over, “allowing’ only 3 points off of those turnovers. While Penn State missed all those kicks, the defense was never rattled all game long, even forced with short fields. At the end of the day, a win is a win and we really needed it.

Hamilton Riley

About Hamilton Riley

Mild mannered contractor by day, sports blogger by insomnia.