Technique spoke with Matt Wurzburger, football beat writer of Virginia’s student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, to preview this week’s football game between the Jackets and the Virginia Cavaliers. Tech won 35-10 on homecoming the last time these two teams played each other.
Technique: The Jackets have an impressive tendency to buckle down and turn things around completely in the last few seconds of the game. How do you expect Coach Mike London is preparing to combat Tech’s ability to gain a win in a last minute drive?
Cav Daily: That’s a great question, but I don’t have a solid answer to that. Quite frankly, teams under Coach London have not performed in clutch situations. You don’t have to look any further than Virginia’s game against UNC. The Cavaliers were down 16-13 after the third quarter, and the Tar Heels scored 10 unanswered in the fourth. Obviously, the best way to combat a potential game-winning drive is keep hold of the ball, which is not one of the team’s strong suits. Virginia turned the ball over four times in that final quarter against UNC.
Technique: Obviously Tech’s win over FSU last Saturday has jumbled the ACC rankings a bit, and there has also been some discussion of Coach London’s contract as Virginia’s head coach ending within the year. How would you say Coach London and the Virginia football program are gearing up to finish out the season as an ACC competitor?
Cav Daily: It is important to remember that Virginia is not technically eliminated from bowl contention, but it will take a 4-1 finish against Georgia Tech, Miami, Louisville, Duke and Virginia Tech. So naturally, making a bowl game for the first time since reaching the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2011 is still the end goal for this team. I believe that doing so is the longest of long shots, so I think the more realistic goal is to finish the season as strongly as possible, and by that I mean play competitive, competent football for the final five games. Above all else, we should be defeating Virginia Tech for the first time in 11 seasons. If the Cavaliers could find a way to defeat the Hokies then the season wouldn’t feel like a total failure.
Technique: As Notre Dame and Duke proved earlier this season, an agile rushing defense that can put pressure on Justin Thomas and shut down his passing option early on in the game has a good chance of victory. Will the Cavs’ defense be able to combat Tech’s swift triple option without cornerback Tim Harris, who is out with a shoulder injury and after losing linebacker Eric Gallon to a season ending injury?
Cav Daily: The triple option has been a thorn in Virginia’s side ever since Paul Johnson took the reins at Georgia Tech in 2008. During his tenure with the Cavaliers, coach London is 1-5 against the Jackets, and Tech’s average margin of victory in those five games is 16.6 points. The triple option is hard enough to stop when at full health because it requires so much defensive discipline. Pounding the ball on the ground wears down a defense. I wouldn’t characterize either Harris or Gallon as elite players, so the Cavaliers will miss them more in terms of depth than for their playmaking skills.
Technique: Coach London commented on the Cavs’ proficiency at scoring in the red zone and how important the points per possession are during that time. Only about half of their red zone points have come from touchdowns. Tech’s defeat of FSU revealed shortcomings in FSU’s redzone offense, as FSU’s young offensive line had some issues protecting their quarterback as Tech’s defense completed assignments and crowded FSU’s offensive line. How do you expect UVA to perform in the redzone this week?
Cav Daily: I would expect more of the same in terms of redzone touchdowns. Virginia has scored on 89 percent of their trips to the redzone, but only scored touchdowns 53 percent of the time. We’re seven games into the season, so I have no reason to expect a miraculous change.
Technique: This week no UVA players were named to the ACC Players of the Week list and the Cavs have lost quite a few players to injuries. Is there any player in particular that you think should have made the cut for ACC player of the week or could possibly earn the title after this week’s meeting with Tech?
Cav Daily: Personally, I don’t get too worked up about weekly awards. Any given week will see multiple players worthy of awards, but there is room for only one player at each position. I think Taquan Mizzell made a compelling case for Offensive Back of the Week. He rushed for 117 yards on 24 attempts and added 57 receiving yards. I do believe that if Virginia is to beat Tech then Micah Kiser is going to have to play at a very high level. I’d argue that Kiser is the Cavaliers’ best defensive player this season, and as a linebacker he will need to play a big role in slowing down the brutal triple option.
Technique: What do you think is the biggest advantage UVA might have over Tech and is it enough of an advantage to win the game?
Cav Daily: I’d say Virginia’s biggest advantage over Tech would be in the passing game. Through eight games the Jackets have allowed 1,558 passing yards, which is the third-highest total behind in the ACC behind only Virginia (1,740) and Syracuse (1,752). Matt Johns is often too careless when throwing the ball, but he can sling the football around. But no, it will not be enough of an advantage. Tech’s offense will have its way with the Cavaliers, and Virginia’s offense is not potent enough to keep up with the Jackets.
Technique: Any predictions for the final score?
Cav Daily: Georgia Tech 44, Virginia 23.