The Virginia Cavaliers in action on Saturday, making their home debut against the visiting Wyoming Cowboys. After an embarrassing season opener on the road at Pitt, the Hoos needed to come out strong, and put on a show for the home crowd. By the time the dust settled, many fans left the stadium happy with the victory, but leery about how the Cav’s earned it, and what direction the team will take in the next few weeks.
The theme of Saturday’s game was missed opportunities. The Cav’s played bend but don’t break defense, throughout the duration of the game. Wyoming was able to move the ball up and down the field seemingly at will. However, the Virginia defense was able to tighten up in time, to hold the Cowboys to just three first half points, and three second half points.
The Cowboys racked up 313 total yards of offense, 168 yards on the ground, and 145 yards in the air. They dominated the Cavaliers in every offensive category. Despite low totals in yards, the Cowboys were able to find gaps in the Cavalier defense, whenever they needed to. This included a fourth down conversion in overtime that nearly sent the game into a second OT, if not for a horrible miscue by the kicker when he missed the extra point causing the Cowboys to fall 1 point shy.
The best aspect of the game for Virginia was their special teams play. Kicker Chris Gould converted on two of three field goal attempts, including one from 34 yards out that would tie the game, and eventually send the game to overtime. More importantly was the job done, while punting the ball. On several occasions he was able to pin Wyoming at or inside their own 10 yard line. From their it was either a break down in the defense, that let the Cowboys move the ball beyond the shadows of the uprights, or the Virginia offense was in capable of moving the mall even with good field position.
The biggest move of the game came with 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, with Virginia trailing 6-3. To begin the drive Coach Groh turned to junior QB Kevin McCabe to replace Senior and Captain Chris Olsen. When McCabe entered the game, the atmosphere around the stadium instantly changed. There was a charge that went through the crowd as everyone anticipated what the young McCabe could bring to the table. One thing we all knew for sure was after the poor performance over the past two weeks, the level of production from the QB could not get any worse.
McCabe came into the game and looked prepared to take on whatever the Wyoming defense threw at him. McCabe completed his first pass for 20 yards to Jonathon Stupar. He never turned back from that moment. While in the pocket Kevin McCabe looked calm and full of poise. He felt the Wyoming pressure and was able to buy time with his feat. McCabe was able to move with the pocket, keeping his head up, and his eyes down field. On several plays, this bought him enough time to look downfield and make a play to keep the Cavalier offense moving. The mechanics on Kevin McCabe’s throwing motion looked impressive also. Take the time to set his feet in before throwing, he ensured he was well balanced, and be able to keep his passes under control and not let them float. He also showed a knack for reading though his progressions. This was useful on three third down conversions, when McCabe made his reads and found the open receiver on the out routes, and worked the sidelines.
In Overtime, Kevin McCabe threw a strike to Kevin Ogletree that put the Hoos up in OT, after the converted extra point form Gould. For the first time all day UVA appeared to have a swagger to them when running the offense, which is something they have lacked all season.
While McCabe may be the answer for the Cavalier passing attack, however an answer for the problems of the running game has yet to be found. Jason Sneiling was out of action this weekend due to injury. This left the burden of the rushing attack on second year player Cedric Peerman. He was simply unable to carry the load. Peerman netted 44 yards rushing for the game, and as a team the Hoo’s netted 32 yards on the ground. It does not matter who is under center for Virginia, if they cannot get their rushing numbers up they will never be able to move the offense down field. Teams will be able to key in on the inexperienced QB’s and dominate the Cavalier offense.
Now it appears the Cavaliers have found a starting QB for the rest of the season. McCabe has the potential to turn into a solid two year starter for the program. Stability is something the Cavaliers need as they continue to search for an identity for this young team. At least this may be the end to one question for the Cavaliers, but there are still plenty more to be answered.
A win is always a good thing, and it’s great that the Cavaliers have made it back to .500, but they need more work. The schedule will only become more difficult as Virginia enters the ACC schedule. It is difficult to say what the future will hold for the Cavaliers, but if Saturday is any indication, Cavalier fans better prepare for what will be a long season.
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