First off, there’s going to be a giant rubber ducky floating around the Point this weekend. If that alone doesn’t make you want to come to the game, then something is wrong with you. But seriously, who isn’t excited for a 40ft rubber duck, LASER PANTHER, and HOMECOMING!!!???!!! For those who don’t get the laser panther reference, during Friday’s fireworks off of the Cathedral, there will be a laser panther crawling around.
On to football!!!!!
Virginia is not all that different than Duke. They are better defensively and a bit more talented. One thing to immediately look for is they will try to pressure Tom Savage. Duke was a bit more passive defensively than I anticipate the Cavaliers will be (I’m calling them the Cavaliers, not the Hoos). Duke was too passive and got eaten alive because of it.
Virginia will blitz and try to put pressure on Savage. He’s too talented to let him stand there in a clean pocket. If they want to stop this offense, they’ll have to rattle him. The good news is the offense is ideally set up to combat the blitz if the right plays are called and the offense makes the correct reads. The best way to stop the blitz is a quick pass. If the ball is out in <2 seconds, most blitzes aren’t there yet.
I anticipate this will be the day the TEs get really involved in the passing game. If blitzes are coming, they’re mostly going to come from LBs and Safeties (obviously). Those guys cover TEs. If we’re consistently in Ace packages (2 TEs, 2 WRs, 1 RB) like we’ve seen most of the season, one of the 2 TEs will be open on blitz plays. The other option is screens. We’ve seen some screens to Boyd this season, but something the offense ran in the spring that really worked was TE screens. Orndoff had a huge touchdown on one in the Spring game. I bet we’ll see that play come out Saturday.
Add in WR screens to Boyd (Street has been a superb blocker thus far and Boyd is more dangerous in open field) and the offense has the ability to make the Cavaliers pay if they blitz. The question is whether or not the plays are called at the right times. Something I would love to see is if the offense could audible. If they’re showing blitz, I hope the coaches give Savage the ability to change plays. That’s the next stage in his development given that he’s seeing the field a lot better now.
If all else fails, pound the rock. When you have a 230 pound brute averaging nearly 7 yards per carry, nothing makes life easier than a decent gain on 1st down. The entire offense opens up on 2nd and 4. The offense won’t move the ball at will like they did against Duke, but I expect them to break 30 points.
Pitt’s defense is still a huge question mark. The good news is that Virginia is possibly the worst offense in the ACC. The defense and special teams pretty much beat BYU on their own in what looked like a monsoon at times. Their touchdown drives were 16 and 13 yards each; they were set up thanks to an interception and a blocked punt. The defense added a safety and their kicker nailed a 53 yard FG and that’s how you get their 19 points. They did not cross the BYU 30 yard line once. They only made it past midfield twice.
I’m willing to ignore the Oregon game (like I’m ignoring the FSU game for Pitt) but when you fail to score until the 2nd quarter against VMI, that’s an issue. VMI gave up 37 points to the North Greenville Crusaders. Yes, a D2 school. VMI plays Robert Morris this week.
I said the same thing for the Duke game that I’ll say for Virginia. If the defense executes and doesn’t screw up big time, Virginia’s offense will struggle. Now, given that we know this could be a major issue, it’s difficult to tell what Virginia will be able to do on offense. They aren’t that talented, but neither was Duke. Outside of their 2 RBs, Park and Hamm, there’s not a whole lot to be scared of.
Virginia’s key to victory will be pressuring Tom Savage and taking advantage of mistakes by Pitt’s defense. If the defense is merely mediocre and the offense has a respectable game, Pitt wins easily. I’m predicting Pitt 34 Virginia 17. One of the three TEs will have a big game and the front 7 will be much more disciplined.
Quick note, I’m moving this weekend. While I’ll be at the game, there won’t be any columns from me until Monday at the earliest. My apologies if this column feels rushed, I wanted to get something out before the game. Enjoy homecoming, enjoy the giant rubber duck and as always, HAIL TO PITT!