Two years ago, the NCAA passed a new rule allowing teams to begin basketball practice 42 days before their season opener. For UVA basketball, that would mean an Oct. 2 first practice, basically four weeks from yesterday.
That’s the only good news for UVA sports fans on this Saturday after their football team looked as predictably bad as ever in a 34-16 loss at #13 UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
After a season that saw the Cavs get a little better in 2014, improving from a 2-10 finish in ’13 to a 5-7 finish that should have been better, there was some hope going into 2015.
That hope was clearly misguided. The UVA defense, the backbone of the 2014 ‘Hoos, gave true freshman Josh Rosen a game-long seven-on-seven drill, which not surprisingly the top quarterback recruit in the Class of 2015 excelled in, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns on a 28-for-35 day.
Rosen was sacked once, hit one other time, and the Virginia defense registered exactly zero quarterback hurries on the day.
Last year, the Virginia D sacked UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley five times in limiting the Bruins to one offensive touchdown in a 28-20 loss that was largely the result of three defensive touchdowns put up by UCLA.
The UVA offense was supposed to be a bit more manly than the 2015 unit, which offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild schemed to minimize the deficiencies on the line, utilizing a short-passing attack out of shotgun snaps that made it hard to get anything out of the running game.
Fairchild acknowledged the issues that the scheme created, and promised to put starting quarterback Matt Johns under center, to try to run the ball downhill, to pass off the run, to use his tight ends and fullbacks.
Then a couple of snaps into the season, there was Johns, back in the shotgun, and the running game never really got going, putting up a measly 2.9 yards per rush.
Johns had a nice first half, completing 12 of his 15 pass attempts for 137 yards, but once UCLA realized that the Cavs weren’t going to be able to run the ball effectively, the Bruins were able to pin their ears back and make life hard on the junior.
After the break, he was just 9-of-20 passing for 101 yards with an interception and a garbage-time touchdown pass to Taquan Mizzell, who had 100 yards receiving on eight catches, but could manage just 45 yards on the ground on 16 carries, 2.8 yards per attempt.
In other words, it was the anemic 2014 UVA offense, and the porous 2013 UVA defense, making an average UCLA team look like a playoff contender.
Next up for the ‘Hoos is a flight back to the East Coast and a relative short week to get ready for Notre Dame.
Another loss means an 0-2 start that foretells the end of the Mike London era in Charlottesville.
But that won’t come before the start of basketball practice. Again, that’s less than four weeks away.
– Column by Chris Graham