Not exactly a masterpiece: But UVA will take it

You’re not going to confuse UVA’s 28-10 season-opening win over William & Mary with whatever Florida State or Alabama are going to do tonight.

uva footballBut in light of how the Cavs kicked off the 2016 season, losing 37-20 to Richmond, in a game that wasn’t even that close, hey, we’ll take it.

“One and oh is better than oh and one,” was how Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert put it afterward.

Virginia didn’t exactly steamroll its FCS opponent –  William & Mary had the ball down 11 with six minutes and change left in the fourth, and the final margin was made to look nicer with a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal with 55 seconds left – but then again, the outcome was never in doubt.

The ‘Hoos led 14-0 at the half, the second score coming on another fourth-down play, a nice fade-route connection between Benkert and wideout Andre Levrone, and 21-3 at the end of three quarters.

The Tribe was able to eventually rack up 168 yards on the ground, which might alarm you at first glance, but the bulk of those yards came on scrambles by W&M quarterback Tommy McKee, who gained 89 yards on 15 carries running for his life from a stout UVA pass rush.

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall noted figuring out the scramble problem as a key takeaway heading into next week’s game with Indiana. The issue, Mendenhall said, was front-seven guys not maintaining their discipline in their rush lanes, allowing McKee to break contain.

Another issue for Mendenhall and Co. to address over the Labor Day holiday will be the offensive line, which allowed Benkert to be sacked three times, and couldn’t consistently clear space for the running game, which gained just 92 yards on 32 attempts.

But, positives. Benkert threw for 262 yards, completed 69 percent of his passes, and directed an offense that didn’t have a turnover.

Hard to believe, but it was the first game without a turnover dating back to 2013.

And Jordan Ellis, despite the issues with line play, had a solid first game as the starting tailback, gaining 80 yards on 20 carries and scoring two touchdowns.

Special teams has some work to do. Freshman placekicker A.J. Mejia missed badly on a 42-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter, and barely nudged a second-half PAT over the crossbar.

Mendenhall said both were more issues with the snaps and holds. More work to do next week.

The offense moved the ball consistently. The defense, for the most part, stifled the William & Mary attack.

The outcome of the game was never in doubt.

And the good guys come away with the W.

It’s not championship football, but it’s better than the alternative.

Column by Chris Graham

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