Notebook: Inside the UVA win over #21 Louisville
Take out the 14 yards lost on three sacks, and the 9-yard loss on a lateral from Lambert that was recovered by Louisville to end Virginia’s first drive, and less than three yards per becomes just under four yards per, against a Louisville defense that was among the nation’s best against the run in 2013 and was monster against Miami in its ACC opener two weeks ago.
After going vanilla in the running game the first two weeks, sending kevin parks and Taquan Mizzell into the line between the tackles on the bulk of their attempts, offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild mixed things up Saturday, sending Mizzell in motion from the slot as a diversion, getting him the ball with the effect of a reverse on a couple of occasions, and running one actual toss-reverse to Mizzell.
Fairchild also used quarterback Greyson Lambert, who the coach had said in the preseason had better wheels than anybody outside Bryant Hall seemed to be aware of, on a keeper that resulted in a 10-yard Lambert third-quarter touchdown run.
Maybe it was fitting, then, that it was the running game that put the game away, with Virginia running out the last 2:38 of the game clock with a 14-yard run by Mizzell around the corner, and then a succession of Parks 4-yard runs.
“In this situation, we just kept hammering away,” head coach Mike London said. “Maybe we weren’t successful every time, but when it came down to making the clock run at the end, whether it was kevin parks or Taquan Mizzell, it was something we relied on to get the win.”
A bounce finally goes Virginia’s way: Down 21-20 in the fourth quarter, the UVA offense stalled and was forced to punt from its own 39. The boot from Alec Vozenilek was far from his best, a wobbly 36-yarder in the direction of James Quick, who ran up to field the ball and in the process collided with a teammate, forcing a fumble that was recovered by special-teams gunner Kelvin Rainey at the Louisville 25.
“It’s about time it happens to somebody else,” London said, laughing. “I’ve seen it happen to us a couple of times. It’s great to have something happen in our favor and know that we deserve some of those breaks, too.”
Four plays later, Ian Frye put the go-ahead points on the board with a 42-yard field goal, his third of the game.
It would have helped if the offense could have gotten him a little closer, but Frye was ice water personified as he went through his paces before the kick.
“I thought to myself, this is what every kicker wants. I wasn’t nervous whatsoever,” Frye said.
Rainey, for his part in the sequence, was more than just somebody who was in the right place at the right time.
“The guy that was covering me was off, and I had been beating him most of the game,” Rainey said. “He just let me go, and the ball was there for the taking. It popped up at a weird angle, and I just reached out with one hand and got on it.”
The ball did bounce the right way, for once.
“We definitely haven’t been getting those bounces in the past,” Rainey said.
What a win over a ranked team feels like: The win over #21 Louisville was Virginia’s first over a ranked opponent since a November 2011 win at Florida State. It was also the Cavs’ first win over a I-A opponent since the 2013 season opener with BYU.
“I’m very happy for this locker room. It’s been a long time coming,” London said. “I believe this team is a team that has great resilience and never quits. If you can have those components in a football team, you can go far.”
London almost broke down when answering a question about what the win meant to him personally.
“I wanted it so bad, but I wanted it more for the players,” said London, whose seat, hotter than hot coming into the 2014 season after Virginia went 2-10 a year ago., may be more in the area of lukewarm after the win.
“To see a group of guys who have said, Coach, we are unified and committed to this program, and see them execute and come out with a victory, I’m so happy for them.”
Greyson Lambert was also close to breaking down after the game.
“I was about to cry,” the starting quarterback said of his emotions following the win. “It is amazing when we work so hard and the way we came together today. We stayed unified and made huge plays today. Football is an emotional game. I have never prayed so much in a football game before.”
Senior tailback kevin parks was all smiles, befitting a young man who is a cornerstone of the program that London is building in Charlottesville, as one of the coach’s first top recruits four years ago.
“It is big, man. Especially coming off a season like last year,” Parks said. “We will take a win whatever way we can. It was an ugly win, but we took it. We have to keep pushing from here and keep that momentum going.”
– Column by Chris Graham