Inside the Numbers: Awful horse-collar tackle call aside, what happened to the UVA offense?

uva pittI have to admit, the mechanism that allows me to analyze football games shut down for me after the awful horse-collar tackle call on Elliott Brown.

By and large, I’m a calm, rational guy, prone to crunching numbers to a fault. But one thing I’m not good at is processing injustice, even the nonsense kind, in football games.

I let the bad call on Brown, which extended a Pitt drive that eventually produced the game-winning points in a 23-13 Panthers win at UVA Friday night, take me out of the game.

I think the ‘Hoos might have done the same.

After that drive, Virginia limped its way to a long field goal by Brian Delaney that made it 14-13 Pitt. Then, on the first play from scrimmage after that field goal, Darrin Hall ran a million yards, or, upon further review, 75, for a touchdown that took whatever air was left in Scott Stadium the eff outta there.

OK, it was just a one-score game, still, but, nah. Virginia went three-and-out, allowed a short Pitt drive that led to a back-breaking field goal, then went four-and-out.

The call on Brown was a bad call, an awful call – the kind of call that should get the official, referee Riley Johnson, at the least a private reprimand.

Seriously, grabbing a jersey in the middle of the back at the numbers is not a horse-collar tackle. It’s just not. And, Mr. Johnson: you were standing five feet away, and, c’mon, look at the replay, and how you let Kenny Pickett, the Pitt quarterback who was tackled on the play, talk you into the call.

You should be ashamed.

That play leads to a fourth-and-14 for Pitt at its own 12. Virginia gets the ball back around midfield, up 10-7, midway through the third, a first down out of field-goal range.

Score a touchdown there, it’s a two-score game for Virginia, and Hall isn’t running loose in the secondary in the fourth quarter.

But, that didn’t happen.

Virginia still had its chances, and only mustered 56 yards from scrimmage in the second half, against a Pitt defense that gave up 600-plus against Duke last week.

Duke hung 45 points on the Panthers. Central Florida hung 45 on Pitt. UNC – UN-friggin’-C – hung 38 on these guys.

Pitt held Virginia to 13 points, a single touchdown – on a one-play drive in the first quarter – and two field goals.

You tell me before the game that Pitt has 23 points and 254 yards rushing – they had 54 and 484 last week in the win over Duke – and I’d have told you, great, blowout win for Virginia.

The offense didn’t get the job done, bottom line.

Try: 249 yards total offense, again, just 56 after halftime.

Forty-four yards rushing.

Bryce Perkins was sacked five times, and because sack yards come off his rushing totals, he officially had negative-seven yards rushing.

Count it like they do in the NFL, and it’s not much better: 10 carries for Perkins for 39 yards.

Virginia is not going to get much going with Perkins running for 39 yards, with Jordan Ellis gaining 46 yards on the ground, nearly half that coming on a 22-yard run on the drive spanning the third and fourth quarters that led to the single score for Virginia in the second half, the aforementioned long Delaney field goal.

The offensive line couldn’t create holes for Ellis and Perkins on his designed runs. They couldn’t sustain pass-blocking enough in the second half to let Perkins find receivers downfield. Perkins was too indecisive, and that played a role in two big fourth quarter sacks that snuffed out drives.

The defense: sorry, but it did its job. Pitt had 315 yards total offense and 23 points. I said it above, and will say it again here: that’s enough to win.

And that has nothing to do with that horseshit horse-collar tackle call.

Column by Chris Graham


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