Fans call them the Wahoos or just the 'Hoos, but by any name, the Virginia Cavaliers played some stout, opportunistic defense in upending BYU last Saturday at Scott Stadium.
The team with the three nicknames followed a brilliant defensive plan by coordinator Jon Tenuta in shutting down the Cougars' vaunted no-huddle spread offense, winning 19-16 in a game that featured a downpour that flooded the exits and resulted in a lightning delay of over two hours, taking over six hours to complete.
Parking it in the end zone: Kevin Parks' 13-yard touchdown scamper bolted Virginia to gutty 19-16 win over BYU in their season opener last week, a game that has to give the Cavaliers confidence as they prepare to face the Ducks (John McDonnell, Washington Post photo).
The Hoos handled a lot of adversity, overcoming two second-half deficits for the win, using a safety, a 53-yard field goal, a blocked punt and a late fourth quarter interception to stymie the Mormons with a little ACC inhospitality.
Tenuta's Wahoo warriors frustrated BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's Pistol Offense all day, forcing dual threat quarterback Taysom Hill into a 13-40 passing performance for just 175 yards, 1 td and the pick. Defensive end Eli Harold was a 6-4, 230-lb. Tasmanian devil on the edge with two sacks and 3.5 tackles per loss. Junior strong safety Anthony Harris was Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week for his effort, which included 11 tackles, a sack, the blocked punt, and the clutch fourth quarter pick.
Down 16-12 with just three minutes to go in the game, the Cavs defense had BYU facing a 3rd and 6 play from their own 34. BYU decided to throw for a first down in an attempt to ice the game. Instead, Hill threw high on an out route to running back Jamaal Williams who could only tip the ball up as Harris swooped in for the interception at the 45. He returned it 10 yards, then lateralled to middle linebacker Henry Coley who powered another 22 yards down to the 13 to set up the winning touchdown.
One play later running back Kevin Parks bounced off three tacklers on an inside handoff for the go-ahead score.
Tenuta employed a mix of blitzes and stunts to confuse BYU's offense, which managed just 3.9 yards per play on 93 plays. The pressure disrupted the Cougar tempo, and it didn't help that the grass field was a swamp after the heavy rains.
The veteran coach has 32 years experience, 15 of it as a defensive coordinator with stops at Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and Ohio State. He's coached in 16 bowl games including the 1998 Sugar Bowl and 1997 Rose Bowl with the Buckeyes. Tenuta also played at Virginia, a three-year letterman as a defensive back 1978-80.
Head coach Mike London has been at the school for three years, taking over in 2010 when Al Groh was fired. In 2011 he led the Cavaliers to an 8-4 season and was named ACC Coach of the Year. He's one of 10 African-American head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
After the game London told Gene Wang of the Washington Post, “I’m just so proud of this team. I wish I could tell them. It was a long game. To have a win like that, first game, opening game against a well-coached team is a tremendous boost.” Wang added that London's voice was so hoarse from shouting that reporters could barely hear him in the post game news conference, drained by the inspiring, come-from-behind victory.
The Hoos have a new weapon on offense, a former 5-star running back from Virginia Beach, Virginia Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell. 5-10, 185 with 4.5 speed, Mizzell was an Army All-American as a high school senior, playing against Duck recruit Thomas Tyner in the annual All-Star game. In his last game for Bayside High School the elusive running back dashed for 175 yards on 20 carries, but so far as a Wahoo he's been limited to kick returns and a few touches as a backup to Parks.
London and the Cav staff will certainly note the success Nicholls' Marcus Williams had catching passes out of the backfield against the Ducks, and Oregon's linebackers will be challenged to tackle Parks and Smoke one-on-one in space. They'll have to an improved job in coverage, or there will be more lightning at Scott Stadium on September 7th. The game will be televised nationally on ABC/ESPN2, primary in some markets, secondary in others, kicking off at 12:30 Pacific Time.
[Follow The Duck Stops Here on Twitter @DSH_Newton.]
Great write up Dale, after seeing Virginia's offensive output from the BYU game I am confident the Ducks should be able to win this game going away. However, there are some things playing against the Ducks favor for this game. First they must travel nearly 3000 miles to play the game, I played small college basketball and I remember going on short flights for road games and we would usually come out flat and have to work our way back into the game. Not saying this will happen for the Ducks but it could be a factor. Secondly the temperature in Charlottesville for the game on Saturday is supposed to be around 86 with humidity around 85%. For all our west coast players this could play a factor, luckily we have way more players from the south on our team than we used to who are accustomed to this sort of thing. I still believe the Ducks are the far better team and will come out with the victory but I think it might be close at the half with the Ducks pulling away in the second half.
I guess it would've been better to ask where you see Virginia finishing inn the ACC. Sorry for the poorly worded question :)
Great write up Dale, just curious what you thought about the ACC as a conference, I watched Clemson for the first time ever, and I have to admit, I've always thought of the ACC as a weak division, not that one team makes a division good, but how do the other teams stack up?
Without seeing the byu va game its hard to tell just from final score how good or bad either team is, But, having read the game recap, and seeing the teams were closely matched, virginia got a interception run back to the 13 yard line with 2 minutes left in the game, I will dare to guess how the ducks will fare against virginia. First, i will read into the game recap and score that both byu and va are unranked and near equal opponents. And, after VA scored byu inside 2 mins went to the 40 yard line quickly, and thus had a shot at taking the game back in the final moments, Virginia;s offense will be no problem for the ducks, VA could hardly score an offensive touchdown all day at home in its season opener, everyone healthy, etc. Bad sign. Defense played well enough against BYU, who are probably somewhat close to Va this year. SO, i read, va offense gonna score little on the ducks, gonna commit several turnovers, interceptions. and ducks offense is going to run all over, and score a big number on the virginia defense, I expect this to be a 35+ point duck victory based on what can be inferred from Va's last game. Not worried at all that the ducks will have any difficulty with Va. Another blowout
@theduckforpresident DP, you are correct that the Cav offense didn't show much in this game, though they will be a step up talent-wise from Nicholls. Travel and time zone adjustments are always a challenge, especially the first road trip of the year to an extreme climate. The Duck nutrition and training staff do a tremendous job of emphasizing hydration, knowing that it starts four days out.. The team is practicing in the Mo and they've turned up the heat and humidity to simulate those conditions, and the depth and rotation the Ducks play should help them also.
Kelly's teams were perfect in these types of games. They never missed their three foot putts. We'll see if this edition has the same focus, if they still have the week-to-week hunger after moving into their fabulous digs.
@Stevoduck Stevo I'm just glad you ask me questions. ACC preview by Steve Lassan of Athlon Sports has UVa. 5th in the Coastal Division behind Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, ahead of Pittsburgh and Duke. Clemson and Florida State are the class of the Atlantic Division and potential BCS bowl teams. In the PAC-12 I'd compare the Cavaliers to Utah.
I really like your game summery... I hope the ducks can handle Virginia's d like you think. I'm not worried at all about losing just looking forward to finally seeing Oregon play someone decent.
@nyduck NYD calls it early, and in many respects, reasonably. It's still an incremental step up for the Ducks, playing an ACC team on the road coming off a big win in which their defense manhandled a no-huddle spread opponent in BYU.
The Ducks have things to clean up, Mariota in the passing game, the linebackers in coverage. This is an opportunity for Helfrich and the team to show they're not just 95% of a Chip Kelly team, bringing the focus against a lesser opponent. It'll be a good test of the win-the-day process, and great national exposure for Oregon in the Heisman race, the polls, and recruiting.
@Stevoduck It's an incremental step up for the Ducks and the opportunity to work on the errors of Week 1. Virginia has legitimate D-1 players and a capable coaching staff, Tenuta in particular. They will pose some problems and apply some pressure on defense, which is a good drill.
@Stevoduck all teams including oregon are in the warm up stages,, ducks will do what they always do,, and what all good teams do,, get better and better week by week,, that is what thier schedule is ideal this year,, they look like the serious contender they were expected to be this year.
@Dale Newton @Stevoduck Aye, it was a domed stadium, and I remember it well, I live in Peoria (a few miles from Glendale) and have a great view of University of Phoenix Stadium from my back yard. I wasn't able to afford tickets to the game but spent a lot of time down there hoping for a duck sighting and witnessed the resod. It's a neat process.
Since it's live grass, they have to water it, and in the wee hours before the game it was given a spritz of water and rolled into the dome. The combination of water and fresh sod was evident in the pre-game warmups and just about every cut LMJ tried. No excuses, just an observation.
There is a stikum quarterbacks should use (akin to pine tar) when it's raining. Some don't like the feel and how it takes the touch away from the ball. Do we know if Mariota used it?
@zduckfan @Dale Newton @Stevoduck Z, your point is well taken. The rain definitely seemed to bother Mariota throwing the football versus Stanford. It slowed the Ducks attack versus USC, though not as much as the Trojans did (didn't bother Matt Barkley, who was lights out that day). But the 2010 National Championship was played in Glendale in a domed stadium. Perhaps you're thinking about the turf, which was soft and sloppy after being improperly resodded a week or two before the game.
@Dale Newton @Stevoduck The one problem the Ducks have had in the past few years is when the field is wet. At the Natty, USC, Stanford... Rain kills speed and enhances strength because it takes away the crispness of the cut and the accuracy of the pass. Rain is anathema to Oregon, as are defensive coaches with excellent game plans for up-tempo spread offenses. It won't be an easy game, but the Ducks should roll.
@nyduck @Stevoduck In the last few seasons Oregon has always taken care of business in these kinds of games. In the Bellotti era it wasn't always the case. I'm optimistic, knowing the Ducks have a whole 'nother level of talent now, but it really is true that any team can beat you, particularly if you help them. Ducks have to get ready for a business trip, like always, to avoid a stumble. Every indication is that they will succeed marvelously.