Good afternoon, Canes fans. We’re back with another opponent Q&A, to learn more about this week’s opponent: the Virginia Cavaliers.
For the UVa side of this discussion, I got Caroline Darney, managing editor at Streaking The Lawn, our SB Nation sister-site, to give us some insight into the Cavaliers.
I joined Darns and STL for the other side of this Q&A, which you can see here:
Let’s get into it:
Q1. After a couple bad years (2-10 in 2016, 6-7 in 2017), Bronco Mendenhall seems to have UVa going in the right direction this year. What’s changed?
Caroline Darney: Personnel and development. This team literally had to learn how not to lose, as sad as that sounds. Now that Mendenhall has had two (plus) years to instill his program at UVA. He is closer to the type of quarterback (Thor-terback) that he wants, the defense is more comfortable with their schemes, and the team is disciplined. Coach London didn’t leave the roster in great shape (despite managing to pull in a lot of highly rated recruits), and that was particularly showing at line and QB depth. It has taken some crazy recruiting to try and correct those issues, and while a lot of that will hopefully shake out in the next couple years with some strong lineman on the horizon (cue the rap air horn noises), there are still some things to overcome in the present.
Q2. Miami struggles with mobile QB’s and Bryce Perkins fits that bill. Evaluate his play through the first 5 games of the year?
Darns: I’m going to give him a solid A. Outside of a handful of interceptions (two tipped passes, one at the end of a half, one pick-six against Richmond that was inconsequential), he’s been amazing. He’s got a passer rating of 153.14 (good for 4th in the ACC), and has passed for 1,125 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games. On top of that, he’s rushed for 341 yards and three touchdowns. The numbers are great, but what I’ve really enjoyed is that he’s making smart plays. Outside of the Indiana loss in a monsoon (his first game in the rain ever...he’s from AZ), Perkins has been on. He’s connected on the deep ball, can buy himself time with his legs, and is a good game manager. Biggest worry for this game is how much time the offensive line will give him with Miami’s line coming at them.
Q3. Why is Olamide Zaccheaus still on campus? We got enough of him last year (6 catches, 67 yards, TD)
Darns: He is actually majoring in “Annoy the Hell out of Miami” so it’s going well. Nah, Olamide is just an outstanding player. He’s electric and is one of those dynamic players that can go off for a huge play at any moment. Zaccheaus has 501 yards (just over 100 yards/game) this season, and is averaging 15 yards per reception. He leads the team with six receiving touchdowns, and where he really makes an impact is yards after contact. He’ll make you miss and then turn on the jets.
Q4. Quietly, Virginia’s got a top 25 defense. What’s the scheme like and who are the players to know?
Darns: I know, right? How fun. Mendenhall runs a 3-4, putting a lot of emphasis on the linebackers. The defensive line is young and learning, but I’m a huge fan of this linebacking corps. There’s still a lot of youth and inexperience with the linebackers, but there’s also a lot of raw talent. Sophomores Zane “ZZ Stop” Zandier and Edward “The Abominable” Snowden are two of my favorite players, and injury has necessitated they step into starting roles. That duo are third and fourth on the team in total tackles. In the secondary, Juan Thornhill has been outstanding and is a tough guy to beat. I’m concerned about the line’s ability to fluster Perry, which seems to be key to keeping the Miami offense’s time on the field short.
Q5. Prediction time: who wins this key ACC Coastal match up on Saturday?
Darns: I’ll probably regret saying this, but I actually like the Hoos in this one in a close game. They’re due a big win and factoring in the lights and Homecomings and a (hopefully) electric crowd....I’m hoping maybe the Canes are a little slow out the gate after an emotional game last week. Virginia was able to smack Miami in the mouth last year, but couldn’t hold on. I’m hoping the former happens again, but not the latter. Close game...I’m saying 35-31 Virginia.
Thanks to Darns for doing this Q&A with us. You can follow her work, and get all the Virginia Cavaliers coverage you need over at Streaking The Lawn.