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STL talks Mike London, Phillip Sims, and how to beat Virginia's defense. (Hint: it requires passing.)
Another week, another installment of Behind Enemy Lines. This time, we turn to Streaking the Lawn, the resident SBN
Maryland's Mexico Virginia blog. Head man Brian J. Leung - with the J. presumably to distinguish himself from the Brian Leung who authored "World Famous Love Acts" - was kind enough to virtually sit down with us and exchange a few questions and answers. Below, he offers a Hoo perspective on UVA's disappointing season, how to attack their defense, and what to expect from new QB Phillip Sims.
Head over to STL to check out our own answers to his questions, but first, read on below:
TT: Having lost four straight, things are going, uh, not too well for the Cavs right now. To be honest, looking at it from the outside, I see some similarities to how Maryland looked last year; the Terps had less talent, of course, but they underperformed relative to what they had - especially in regards to things like team discipline. I'm curious as to what the attitude is down there. Are folk in Hooville worrying about a potential lost season or in London losing the locker room? Or is this just a rough spell?
STL: It seems to me that most fans have sort of abandoned this season, or are on the brink of doing so. At 2-4, it's going to be a tough climb to win four of our final six to get back into the bowl picture. Winning all of their home games will do so though, so that's helpful. That said, even if this season goes down the drain -- which I personally am not at that point yet -- folks aren't going to abandon Virginia Football in the long term, because for most people, this is a rebuilding year and the last one in the near horizon. Mike London has a serious few classes of recruits here and should be able to turn it around pretty quickly. That said, Hoofolk like London as a recruiter, but is starting to worry a little about the DC and OC positions.
TT: On that note: Virginia's sixth in total offense and seventh in total defense in the ACC, but 10th in scoring O and 11th in scoring D. They're losing games that they statistically win. What's up?
STL: Exactly. Part of it is that Virginia's shooting themselves in the foot with penalties, bad catches, and key turnovers. The yards have come but Virginia averages 67.7 yards in penalties per game. If you average that evenly on both sides of the ball and subtract those yards from UVA's total offense and defense, you're looking at rankings that roughly match their scoring O/D. (I realize the analysis is a little screwy because everyone gets penalties, but Virginia is at the bottom of the country in terms of penalty yards.) Virginia's thrown 10 interceptions this year already and has had the favor returned only once. For now, "what's up" is that the Hoos are a young, largely undisciplined team that is making a lot of mental -- and coaching -- errors on the field.
TT: Obviously the big change is at quarterback, with Phillip Sims stepping in for Michael Rocco. At least against Duke, though, Sims didn't seem to light the world on fire. What different does he add to UVA's offense, and what are some reasonable expectations for what he'll do the rest of the year?
STL: The story for Sims all season is that he's taken a little while to master the playbook and really get everything under his belt. His repertoire right now is a bit limited still, and the coaching staff doesn't seem to have given him free reign quite just yet. You can expect a more balanced, consistent offense from the Hoos as Sims brings to the field a cannon of an arm that Rocco didn't seem to have. Last week during the first half Sims didn't use the deep ball that often. During the second, the Hoos relied almost exclusively on the deep threat rather than a couple slant routes here and there to throw things off. That resulted in Duke making quick, easy adjustments with their secondaries. Hopefully a lesson was learned and Virginia will use a little more of their arsenal this week. I expect a quick learning curve now that he's been named the starter.
TT: Defensively, I see a struggling, if still relatively well-rounded, unit in Charlottesville. Thing is, Maryland's offense is no better. In the matchup of the #12 scoring offense vs. the #11 scoring defense, what should the Terps looks to attack to come out on top?
STL: Air it out. If your freshman quarterback has the arm for it, take it to the air and attack our young secondaries, who haven't yet found their groove when it comes to defending those big plays. All of our safeties are freshmen or sophomores. Every last one of them. And everything you'd expect from a freshman or a sophomore is right there as well.
STL: The two players you may have heard of but don't know much about would be sophomore tight end Jake McGee and senior outside linebacker LaRoy Reynolds. McGee has stepped up big this season and if there's anyone who's going to return Virginia to a Tight End U reputation, it's this guy. Though he's been quiet the past couple games, he's been one of the most reliable eligible receivers we have, making multiple one-handed tightrope catches so far this season. He was especially quiet last week against Duke, but against a Maryland team that might struggle in the air, I expect him to make a bigger splash.
On the flip side of the ball, Reynolds is one of the senior captains who hasn't done much this season on account of injury. He broke his right hand in the third game of the season and had to sit out against TCU and Louisiana Tech. As a sophomore, he led the teams in tackles (66) and continued the strong effort with 81 tackles his junior year, second on the team. In his first game back, against Duke, he led the team with 11 tackles. If you don't keep an eye on him, you'll definitely get burned.
TT: And last one: who're you taking? Score appreciated, not required.
STL: I don't want to be a homer here (actually, I do) but Virginia has way too much talent on this team to drop down to 2-5 at the hands of Duke and Maryland. While Maryland has been outperforming expectations, I think this is the game that Virginia finally hits its stride, and is able to eke one out 17-14.