Quarterback controversy and other reasons why UVA football will limp past Richmond on Saturday

lambert intUVA coach Mike London isn’t naming a starting quarterback heading into Saturday’s game with Richmond, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who’s going to trot out with the offense for Virginia’s first possession.

If London was going to make a change at quarterback, he would have already told us that it was going to be Matt Johns getting the start over Greyson Lambert, who won the job in the spring and was named by London to be a team captain before having a disaster of a first half against seventh-ranked UCLA last weekend.

This is just a hunch on my part, one based on my years as a politics beat reporter. Because that’s what I’m reading here, that London is playing politics with the media. Think about it: if he’s going with Lambert all along, which I say he is, he doesn’t want any more heat from a fan base already upset with the vanilla offensive game plan and play-calling that didn’t aid the effort to pull the monumental upset of the Bruins, and the way to avoid that is to put the decision off.

A game-time decision to send Lambert out there for the first series will elicit some boos, maybe a lot of boos, from the home crowd, but that can quickly be forgiven if Virginia starts moving the ball.

Therein lies the problem from my view. Another hunch here, but I’m betting that London and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild keep the game plan vanilla for Richmond with another big game next week against Louisville looming. Whatever wrinkles Fairchild has worked in after looking over the UCLA game tape, he will want to preserve for Louisville to see for the first time in live action in what is clearly a must-win game for London to keep his job at the end of the season.

So expect more of the same as to what we saw last week from Virginia: more read-option dives between the tackles, short passes into the flat and over the middle, a dink-and-dunk effort that will eat time, slowly move the ball downfield and keep the score artificially close into the second half.

Which, ironically, given the circumstances, add to the boos from the frustrated critics in the home crowd, who will see Lambert throwing short passes on second- and third-and-longs and wonder aloud as to the sanity of the coaching staff. The Virginia defense, which looked formidable in limiting UCLA to one offensive scoring drive last weekend, will more than hold its own against a Richmond attack that is among the best in I-AA, but the game will be a one-score game into the second half, and a mistake or two like we saw last week, and it’s anybody’s game.

The strange confidence from the greater Wahoo Nation that came out of last week’s near-miss against a Top 10 game will evaporate, but as long as Virginia gets the W at the end of the day and can turn its attention to Louisville with a chance to pull the upset, the brain trust will be happy.

– Column by Chris Graham

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