Adjustment time: UVA’s Nick Howell talks about getting ready for football in a mostly empty stadium

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It was odd, doubly odd, to hear Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth talking last night about how loud the 17,000 people at the Kansas City-Houston NFL kickoff were.

Odd, one, because, they were loud for 17,000.

Odd, two, because, there were actual people at the game?

The crowd won’t be an issue at the Commonwealth Cup clash next Saturday night in Blacksburg. Public health protocols in Virginia will only permit at most 1,000 people in the stands, and the actual number scattered around Lane Stadium is likely to be lower than that.

What kind of an impact will that have on the game on the field?

“I’m not sure what that’s going to be like. To say that it’s different for the home team, and not different for the away team, I don’t think that will be accurate,” said Nick Howell, the co-defensive coordinator at UVA, which faces Virginia Tech in the nationally televised 7:30 p.m. clash.

It’s going to be different for both sidelines, to be sure.

The road team at least doesn’t have to worry about going to silent counts for snaps on offense.

Audibles for both offenses could get interesting, in the sense that, sure, it will be easier to make adjustments at the line, but then, the guys across the line of scrimmage get to hear everything, too, so you might have to make note of that, and change things up series to series, so as not to tip your hand.

And then there’s the issue of energy.

“I think you’re going to have to generate intensity on your own,” Howell said.

Howell has been trying to take note of how teams in other sports have adjusted to the current climate.

“You know, just when I’m watching on TV, I’m watching the NBA, you know, in their little bubble, and that kind of looks like its purest form of basketball right now, where dudes are really scrapping and playing extremely hard. So that’s impressive,” he said.

By Week 2, even, surely as the season plays out into October and November, teams will have this part of the game figured out.

The first time out might be awkward, though.

“I think both teams are going to have to adjust to that,” Howell said. “And I think really, it comes down to just concentrating on your assignment and playing really, really well together and not worrying about the outlying factors.”

Story by Chris Graham


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