It's senior day on Saturday as the Eagles welcome the visiting Virginia Cavaliers. To preview this weekend's game between BC and Virginia, we sat down with Brendan from the excellent Virginia blog From Old Virginia to get his take on this year's Cavaliers team.
In exchange, we answered some questions on the Eagles over on their site. Be sure to check em out.
BC Interruption: UVA's starting senior QB Marc Verica has quietly put together a decent season, leading the conference's second best passing offense and throwing for 2,347 yards and 14 TDs to 12 interceptions. Can you comment on Verica's performance to date? Also, that INT total seems a bit high, no? Are you worried about Verica going up against a BC pass defense than leads the nation in interceptions (17)?
From Old Virginia: "Marc Verica throws interceptions" is just a fact of life around the UVA camp. Dogs bark, birds fly, and Marc Verica will make a really dumb decision at some point in the game that results in a guy in the wrong jersey carrying the ball the wrong way. BC's interception total doesn't bother me because the likelihood of a Verica INT is almost totally independent of the opponent's propensity to snag them. I think Verica by himself doubled Duke's total all year.
Verica's performance has otherwise been decent as the coaches have adapted to his peculiarities. For once we have an OC who knows what he's doing, and by and large he's done a good job of setting Verica up for success. When he's on, as he was in the first three quarters of last week's game, he really has a beautiful touch on the ball.
BCI: The Cavs rushing defense ranks 107th nationally. What has been the cause of UVA's woes defending the run? If there's a strength on the defensive side of the ball, what is it? And which defensive players will we hear about often on Saturday?
FOV: Neither I nor anyone else following the Hoos has the first clue about why the defense in general has plummeted off a cliff. The biggest worry is that that sentence may also include DC Jim Reid. It used to be a pretty good defense. The only working theory which makes any sense is that the defense has had trouble adjusting from Al Groh's 3-4 to Mike London's 4-3. And I stress that it's London's 4-3, because as a defensive coach, Reid's specialty is the 3-4. It could be that the problem lies partly in Reid's unfamiliarity with the 4-3 relative to the 3-4. Mainly I'm hoping it's just that a new scheme really does take a season plus plenty of offseason work to really learn properly.
The front seven's better playmakers are DE Cam Johnson and SLB Laroy Reynolds. But the best player on defense is probably CB Chase Minnifield, a deserving all-ACC candidate in his own right. Any interceptions thrown by BC quarterbacks are probably going to be his doing.
BCI: Starting cornerback Ras-I Dowling will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his left ankle. What impact, if any, will the loss of Dowling have on this team the rest of the way?
FOV: Very little. Dowling has missed practically every play this season anyway with various knee and hamstring problems. The defense to this point is already Dowling-less for all intents and purposes, so what you've seen is what you'll get.
BCI: The Cavaliers have gone over 100 penalty yards in each of their last three games, including a season high 145 yards on 16 penalties last week against Maryland. Can you point to a root cause for all these penalties? Simply getting jobbed by the refs? A little of A, a little of B? What gives?
FOV: If there was any referee tomfoolery last Saturday, it was failure to call enough penalties on Maryland, which committed their fair share of uncalled pass interference. Our own penalties were our own damn fault. False starts abounded. It's just something that London is going to have to hold players accountable for.
BCI: At 4-6 (with two of those victories coming over I-AA fodder), what's the current pulse of the Virginia fanbase? How does UVA's performance to date measure up to your expectations for year 1 under Mike London?
FOV: 4-6 sounds about right for this part of the season, but personally I'm disappointed that we didn't look competitive in most of the tougher ACC games on the schedule and didn't capitalize on the chances to win during the softer part these last two weeks. 4-6 before the season would have assumed a win over Duke or Maryland, not Miami. Much of the fanbase is already calling for DC Jim Reid's head over the defense, which is a perfect illustration of why I was always so skeptical of the anti-Groh movement to begin with. People are certainly puzzled as to why it's the offense that has carried the team and the defense has looked so bad; the expectation was that it would be the other way round while the offense rebuilt. But I think most people are just gritting their teeth with the understanding that rebuilding ain't easy, with of course a healthy dose of "it's Groh's fault."
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got in this one? Final score not mandatory but appreciated.
FOV: Whatever the under is, take it. It's strength on strength and weakness on weakness in this game. And it should be close; though BC is on a winning streak and UVA a losing streak, it's easy to imagine any of those games going the other way. But BC needs this one for bowl eligibility, it's Senior Day, and UVA still has this tendency to shoot themselves in the foot. BC 20, UVA 14.
BCI: Thanks for joining us, Brendan.
For more info on the Virginia Cavaliers, be sure to check out From Old Virginia.