Who is this Brian Delaney kid? UVA kicker emerges from shadows to key upset

uva brian delaneyHeading into Saturday, UVA placekickers were a combined 3-of-6 on field-goal tries, with a long of 32.

What this means for an offense: well, you pretty much have to punch it in.

Brian Delaney is rocking it on kickoffs, in the meanwhile, averaging 63.5 yards per kickoff, with 18 touchbacks on 31 kicks.

Saturday, Delaney had his number called in the second quarter for a 26-yard field-goal try. His kick was a little low for the situation, but good, and put the ‘Hoos up on No. 15 Miami, 3-0.

On the final play of the first half, with Virginia up 10-6, Delaney would get the call again, this time on a 47-yard try.

It would be the longest make for a UVA kicker since Ian Frye back in 2015, and it would put the ‘Hoos up 13-6 at the half.

Delaney would add a 32-yarder with 10:49 to go in the fourth quarter, what turned out to be the game-winning points.

And Delaney was on the field for the game’s final meaningful play. He connected from 29 yards with 30 seconds left, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty would give Virginia a first down that would allow the Cavaliers to run out the clock on the 16-13 upset.

OK, so, question: where has this been all season long?

“Everything has to be earned. I mean, it’s frustrating for myself, because at times I feel like I can do more, but we always say that you have the role that you earn, so I earned that role, and I didn’t earn more, so it’s just motivation to work,” Delaney said after the game.

That’s the stock answer. Reality is, kid had better be the kicker the rest of the season, because the fact that he was out there this week kicking 47-yarders, and this was the first we’d seen of him outside of kickoffs, is coaching malpractice.

Delaney’s range, based on just the one kick, adds a new dimension to the Virginia offense, which until Saturday needed to get the ball into the red zone to have any chance to get points on the board.

The #1 kicker on the depth chart for the season opener, A.J. Mejia, was just 1-of-4 on kicks outside of 29 yards, so it wasn’t even automatic that getting the ball into the red zone would lead to points.

Assuming Delaney’s performance on Saturday wasn’t a fluke, you can consider yourself in position to get at least three all the way back to the 30.

That’s huge, and it would seem to be something that you need to have in your playbook if you’re a team that thinks of itself as being championship-caliber.

Column by Chris Graham

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is now available at a special pre-sale discounted price of $20. The book is expected to ship by May 15, 2019, and expected to retail for $25.
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The book, with additional reporting by Scott Ratcliffe and Zach Pereles, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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