Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found

Box Score

-- 431 yards of offense. It's almost two years to the day since we last broke 400 yards.

-- Virginia's offense:
              Poss  Plays   Yds   Punts
First Half 6 49 261 1
Second Half 8 39 102 6

-- Written on one of Darrell Blackman's gloves is "WWJD." Here's what Jesus would not do, Darrell: Jesus would not attempt to field a punt inside the five yard line. He also would not attempt to give 55,000 people a heart attack by muffing the ball nine yards into the end zone, miraculously avoiding a safety, and fumbling at his two yard line. I didn't know it was possible to dodge a bullet that large.

[Update: A reader points out that it would not have been a safety had Blackman been tackled in the end zone. I didn't know that, and neither did Darrell, apparently. My bad.]

-- Donald Bowens: size, speed, hands, athleticism. When he puts all of those things together--hey, you saw.

-- I couldn't help but appreciate the perfect form tackle that UVA kicker Chris Gould put on Donald Bowens during a second half kickoff return. Gould's hit sent the ball flying out of bounds.

-- This is the sequence at the end of the Wolfpack's second-to-last possession:
N 1-10 V33   Eugene, J. rush for 1 yard to the UVA32 (Nate Collins;Byron Glaspy).
N 2-9 V32 Timeout Virginia, clock 02:23.
N 2-9 V32 Eugene, J. rush for loss of 2 yards to the UVA34 (Jermaine Dias).
N 3-11 V34 Evans, D. pass incomplete to Bowens, D..
N 4-11 V34 Pierson, B. punt 19 yards to the UVA15, downed.

At the start of the series, Virginia had two timeouts and this was the now-or-never point at which they had to start using them. Groh used one of his timeouts after our first down run, but then chose not to stop the clock after second down, preferring instead to save the TO so he could stop the clock after third down. This is a fairly common tactic in this situation, and it's a pet peeve of mine because it's a mistake.

If we get a first down here, we can run out the clock, the game's over. So Virginia cannot afford to allow a third down conversion. Obviously, this being a 3rd-and-long situation, we're far more likely to convert by throwing the ball rather than running it. And had Al Groh used his last timeout after second down, you can bet that we would've run the ball on that third down to burn clock; at the same cost in elapsed time, Groh would've increased the chances that we would fail on third down and his team would get the ball back.

Instead, he did just the opposite by keeping the timeout in his pocket, removing all the incentive from choosing to run. Groh made a move that encouraged his opponent to select a more optimal course of action, which is not something you ever want to do. Dana Bible is a smart man, and he recognized the situation: Virginia's going to stop the clock after a run, so we might as well pass; with the outcome of a failed conversion here--in terms of the clock--now equivalent regardless of whether a run or pass is called, it makes sense to do what gives us a better shot at a game-ending first down, which a pass does. The pass fell incomplete and Virginia got its stop anyway, but that's not the point. As a good poker player will tell you, it's about decisions, not outcomes. We should never have been given good reason to throw the ball in that situation. This was an incredibly important moment totally mangled. UVA blew it and got lucky.

Evans Throws Under Pressure