Virginia fans got plenty of bang for their buck on Saturday at the Spring Game. First off, London didn’t switch to the running clock after the first quarter, so we all got to see more plays. But, more importantly, the Hoos unveiled their new ‘Lazor 2.0’ offense, which had plenty of people buzzing. So what’s new and what else can we take away from the 20-17 win by the Orange over the Blue? Here is our analysis.
If Lambert made a statement about his future starting ability, Rocco shut the door on who is numero uno this season. Rocco ran 5 series and lead scores on 3 of them, going 12/21, 194 yards on the day. Lambert’s first drive of the game came in the 3rd quarter and he went 4/4, 54 yards, 1 TD, but eventually settled and finished 8/15, 75 yards, 1 TD. Watford wasn’t too shabby either, showing that he could be a serviceable backup this year, went 10/23, 131 yards, 1 INT.
But, Rocco looked the most consistent. He lead two touchdown drives, both finished off by Perry Jones, and lead on drive that ended up on a 42 yard field goal by Frye. He looked better on the out routs and in the “intermediate+” realm, at about 15-25 yards, but still is not the consistent downfield passer, which is the biggest knock on him at this moment. But it’s not like he can’t move the ball quickly. The Orange teams 2nd drive of the 3rd quarter, he lead a 3 play, 55 yard drive, where he hit Terrell for 25 yards and Swanson for 28 before Jones went untouched up the middle for 7 and the TD. At the end of the day, if, and this is a big if, they redshirt Lambert (and Johns), I will not have too big of an issue.
In the backfield, it was more business and usual. Jones only rushed for 26 yards, but had 2 touchdowns, including a 1 yard touchdown push on 4th and Goal. Parks and Richardson did a switcheroo at half and traded teams, but both were effective not only rushing it, but catching as well. The lone QB touchdown pass came from Lambert to Parks, who juked the last 7 yards to the goal line. But the play of the day would have to be from, shocker, Khalek Shepherd. Shepherd, already having a nice day, broke off a 75 yard up the middle run to tie the game at 17-17 in the 4th. Now I understand it came against the 2nd string defense, but it will be hard to keep him off the field.
Now while the wide receivers had great days (Terrell, Gooch, Smith minus the drop), it was the tight ends that were on display. And front and center was Jake McGee. He is not the prototypical blocking TE, but he showed that he can catch the ball and pick up huge chunks of yards. Lazor made a bold statement on Saturday that the days of the ground and pound of the past 2 years will be complimented by a passing attack that will utilize the tight ends and full backs. This was something that UVa did a lot of in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but got away from the past half decade or so. If Virginia can add this element to the offense, it will give them another ‘big play’ option that is harder to defend on the college level.
Lastly, there was not a lot to take away from the offensive line, with 4 starters not playing. The 2nd and 3rd lines looked good springing the running backs, but it was obvious that pass protection was not that crisp. In addition, Cody Wallace had a low snap that Rocco had to fall on, which killed the drive. It’s not all bad, but I’m glad we get the rest back in the fall.
While in a short game like this, you would thing that giving up 37 points overall means the defense will be down, but it was obvious they were going at about 75%. With the no contact on the quarterback rule, you have to play the game in 2nd gear. But a few people did stand out as some playmakers to watch next year.
The line was on point (against the backup O guys), and Snyder and Renfrow lead the way. You know Snyder is going to get his, but he will be able to push QBs up in the pocket from the strong side, waiting for guys like Hill, Brathwaite, and Renfrow. The DTs will be the nucleus that the DEs will build off of in the fall. And how about Renfrow? He just seemed to be in on every play, either recording the sack, or batting a ball down, or finishing off the tackle. I say the same thing about Croce. Whenever good things happen, they are always around. Croce was the recipient of a Rob Burns tip, but had the ball knocked out of his hands by Richardson as he was running down the field. Can’t win them all.
With Greer out in the 2nd row, Romero, Coley, and LaRoy each had a solid day, but Taylor at Mike for the Blue did more than hold his own. Shoot, even Windle at SLB had a sack. If we can be solid on the 2 deep, and I mean productive 2nd teamers, it will make life a whole lot better.
Secondary was a bit of a mixed bag, and about how you would think. Nicholson, Hoskey, and even Harris made some nice plays, the middle was wide open most of the day (see Ends, Tight). Now again can’t read much into it, but there is still plenty of work with this young group.
Only two units got work this game: field goal, and punting. Vozenilek looks like he is going to be the punter (who was our fav after CNU), and he looked good, even after the first snap was low and behind him. Field goal wise: AV was 0/1, Jarrett was 2/2 from short, and Frye nailed a 42 yarder. So it sounds like things are shaking out. But the news was on punt returns where (shocker) Terrell muffed both of his tries, although one was called a halo violation against LaRoy. And that brought in a new face into the mix: Tra. Nicholson fielded 2 punts and actually caught and moved the ball in a positive direction. Could he be the face out their come September? I know the staff will want him to try it out some more, but he could really stabilize that part of the UVa game if he can keep that up.
That’s it for the spring kids. See ya’ll in the fall.