After their confidence-building 19-16 win over BYU last week, Virginia is not intimidated by the Ducks. Instead they seem eager for the challenge of meeting a #2 team as a 23.5-point underdog, finding motivation in Nike U.'s reputation and style.
Cavalier left tackle Morgan Moses told Mark Gionotto of the Washington Post, “They’ve got great facilities, but at the same [time], their facilities is not playing on the field. No matter what the uniform is, if it’s Nike or Russell [Athletic], it’s not going to help you play better. We know they’ve got hundreds of helmets and we might have two helmets. But it’s still going to protect your head.”
One hurdle cleared: Virginia defensive back Demetrious Nicholson applies a helmet to the privates of BYU running back Jamaal Williams. The Cavalier secondary combined for 39 tackles in the upset victory, holding the Cougars to 13-40 passing (Andrew Shurleft, The Daily Progress photo).
The Wahoo defense was superb last week against BYU, the offense not so much. The Hoos rode a 53-yard field goal, a fumble, a blocked punt, 5 passes batted down at the line, a safety and a late-game interception returned to the BYU 13 to the upset of the Cougars. Led by defensive end Eli Howard's 11 tackles and two sacks, the defense mashed Bronco Mendenhall's Pistol offense on a storm-drenched field, holding them to just 310 yards in their first 92 plays, 13-40 passing. On the last play of the game BYU qb Taysom Hill heaved a desperation 52-yard pass to make the stats look better.
It was a dominating effort, fueled by a big, active defensive line that hopes to do the same kind of damage against the Webfoots. They play a 4-3 front, not used much in the PAC-12, so Oregon's offensive line will have to adjust to different blocking assignments. Harold is joined on the line by tackle David Dean, (6-1, 290), tackle David Urban (6-7, 295), and strong side defensive end Jake Synder (6-4, 270). That's a lot of beef, and they were disruptive against BYU. 18 times, Coug tailback Jamaal Williams ran into that line and was held to two yards or less. Urban contributed 3 of the blocked passes, and altogether the unit had 4.5 tackles for loss, holding Williams to 144 yards on 33 carries.
The secondary was pretty good too, breaking up six passes and combining for 32 tackles. Strong safety Anthony Harris was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week after his interception, blocked punt and a sack, but cornerback Maurice Canaday chipped in with another 13 tackles. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta had his team in a Nickel package for most of last week's game, with Canaday sneaking into the box, They were aggressive, with lots of blitzes and stunts. Expect the same disruptive strategy against the Ducks.
This week in practice, like many teams do the week of the Oregon game, the Scout team is running in shifts against the first team defense. One unit huddles while the other runs a play, then the second Scout offense runs another play and so on. But the Scout team doesn't have a De'Anthony Thomas or a Marcus Mariota, let alone two of them.
Even so, the Virginia players seem eager for the chance to knock off the high-flying lake dwellers from the Pacific Northwest. "Even though Oregon runs it that much faster, I think we showed on film we can handle it and be in good shape," Harold told ESPN.com. "I think we're ready to play against that even that much more of a high-paced offense."
Canaday was even more blunt. He told Gionotto that he was eager to play "the best of the best." "This is my opportunity right now," he said.
If the Cavs can get their offense untracked against Oregon, they have a chance to keep it close for the first three quarters, see if the hype, the heat, the humidity and the travel produces a sluggish effort from the visitors. Nicholls had great success throwing short and underneath against Nick Aliotti's defense. Colonel tailback Marcus Washington burned them for 11 catches and 92 yards. Screens, draws, short passes and a scrambling quarterback kept the Nicholls offense on the field for 343 yards, 22 first downs, and 40 minutes. Reserve defensive back Troy Hill got beat for a 56-yard bomb on a post pattern (Aliotti said he was supposed to have gotten help from the safety).
Oregon's defense was supposed to be deep, massive and dominant, but that's a lot of yards and possession time to give up to one of the worst teams in the FCS, 2-20 over the last two years in the NCAA's second division. Virginia has two capable tailbacks. Starter Kevin Parks bounced off three tacklers on his 13-yard touchdown run to win last week's game, and freshman Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell, like Oregon's Thomas Tyner, was a 5-star prospect in high school. Oregon's linebackers are going to have to do a lot better job covering this week, or the Cavs will stay close, and the Wahoo faithful will start to believe that this is their magical year.
Although Virginia has rarely been the kingpin of ACC football (their last conference title was in 1995), they have a history of giant-killing. Last season they went 4-8, but the wins included victories over traditional powers Penn State and Miami. In 2011 Mike London's squad finished 8-4, besting #12 Georgia Tech 24-21 and #25 Florida State 14-13.
In 1995 the Seminoles were 7-0 and like the Ducks, ranked second in the country. On a Thursday night game in Charlottesville the Wahoo defense stopped Bobby Bowden's squad at the goal line on the last play of the game, and won 33-28.
But the last time Virginia faced a Top Five team was November 2011. Virginia Tech came to Scott Stadium and rolled to a 38-0 victory
The history is inconclusive. Reputations don't matter. In 48 hours, Mark Helfrich faces his first road game, on the road against a chippy opponent with a newly-stout defense. The Ducks have to prove that the "every game is the Super Bowl" talk is more than lip service.
While this game looks like a definite trap, I think that by the 4th quarter Virginia will be more Wahhh than Hoo.
@DSH_Newton rather have them confident then hungry!
@goducks58 Funny! I'll steal that for the fourth quarter Tweet stream.
@UODUCKGIRL Virginia relishes the chance to play #2, but the Ducks are used to wearing the target. Hoos' offense is not likely to keep up.
@UODUCKGIRL @DSH_Newton Thanks DuckGirl. I enjoy your site, a fun read from a feminine perspective. Should be a great game.
@Duckbill Andrew Grief of the Oregonian reported that "Saturday’s forecast calls for an 81-degree day with 10 percent chance of rain."
Under Kelly, the Ducks were flawless in games like these. The Visor was 33-3 in conference play, a league record 92% wins. The Ducks won 15 games in a row as the visitor (with a neutral site loss to LSU in 2011; their last loss on an opponent's field was Stanford in 2009). They never lost to inferior teams, never had a hiccup game like the Beavers have had with losses to Eastern Washington and Sacramento State.
The Ducks haven't shot themselves in the foot in a long time; under Coach Bellotti, it happened every once in a while.
Saturday Oregon fans begin to find out what they truly have in their new head coach.
@Dale Newton @Duckbill a little yeah,, but ,, i say that the Tennessee game next week is where we will see MH start to be revealed as head coach. I say, Virginia for all its hot air and hopeful thinking, cannot score on offense, and after a few punts and ducks scores, becomes desperate to try to stay in the game, They then press, and don't kick when they otherwise would have, and the ducks score on interceptions, turnovers, and the ducks crush them even more than i first thought!! 55-10. Goodbye Virginia, you will never know what hit you, cause you do not really understand what is headed your way. But, you will soon find out.
@nyduck @Dale Newton @Duckbill The Volunteers are likely to be 2-0 after this week's game against Western Kentucky, and thinking optimistic thoughts as they come West. This season will be a grind for Oregon. They'll wear that top-ranked, facilities-spoiled label all season. Each game is its own kind of trap. They can win, but they have to suspect that everything is a trap.