Game Preview: UVA looks to avoid its own Ramblin’ Wreck at Georgia Tech
This weekend, Virginia (2-8, 1-5 ACC) travels to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech (6-4, 3-4).
The losing streak for the Cavs is at five after another egg laid in the home finale last week against Miami, which walked away with an easy 34-14 win, with UVA putting up almost no resistance in the second half.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall responded to the loss by demoting starting quarterback Kurt Benkert in favor of the 2015 starter, Matt Johns.
Benkert has struggled notably of late, his issues dating back almost certainly to the picksix he threw at the end of the first half of the 45-31 home loss to Pitt in October.
He threw two more INTs, including another picksix, in the fourth quarter of the 27-20 loss at Wake Forest on Nov. 5.
Johns, of course, led FBS with 17 interceptions in 2015, so it’s not like ball security is a habit of recent Virginia QBs.
Getting to know: Georgia Tech
You’ve heard that the Yellow Jackets like to run the ball, right? Georgia Tech put up 309 yards on the ground in its 30-20 win at Virginia Tech last weekend.
Matthew Jordan, in his first career start, ran for 121 yards on 32 carries at the pivot of the triple-option. Marcus Marshall had 143 yards on 19 rushes, none of them for negative yards, incidentally.
Jordan threw seven passes on the day. You’re looking at a run:pass ratio of roughly 8:1.
And by the way, if the normal starter at QB, Justin Thomas (561 yards rushing, 5.0 yards per carry, 1,168 yards passing, 7 TDs/1 INT), is healthy, he’s starting.
The Georgia Tech defense is nothing special, giving up 25.6 points and 408.6 yards per game, including 163.8 yards a game on the ground. Frankly, the struggles on D are why this team is only 6-4, and why Virginia will be able to hang around in this game longer than it should.
Getting to know: UVA
Matt Johns is your starting quarterback. He’s a good kid, a hard worker, gets the most out of his skill set, which is limited.
We have no idea how he will look in the new offensive scheme of offensive coordinator Robert Anae. In 2015, under the previous regime, Johns threw for 2,810 yards and 20 touchdowns, with the aforementioned 17 interceptions, completed 61.3 percent of his passes and put up a 127.8 passer rating.
From a pure numbers perspective, this would be an improvement over Benkert (2,430 yards, 20 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 57.6 percent completion rate, 122.9 passer rating).
Benkert has the far better arm; Johns has the far better moxie. Likely it’s going to be the case late Saturday afternoon that you’re going to wonder why he didn’t win the job in fall camp.
Unfortunately, no quarterback on the roster, and few in the alumni section of the media guide, can put up enough points to account for the deficiencies of the Virginia D (32.2 points per game, 445.9 yards per game).
Playing against the triple-option is always tough because you generally only play against it once a year, and of course the team that runs it does so 12 months out of the year. Everything about Georgia Tech week is different.
That said, the UVA defense doesn’t look on paper to be the kind of team that can slow the Tech running attack down. For the season, the run D has allowed 179.2 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry.
If there’s any good news, it’s that the weak point of the defense, the lack of decent corners, is not in the crosshairs against a team that completed two passes last weekend.
Preview by Chris Graham