Virginia opens ACC play this week, welcoming the Florida State Seminoles to Scott Stadium.
When you ask most Virginia fans about Florida State they immediately think of 1995. Thoughts of the goal line stand and beating the no. 2 team in the country come to mind. It is easily the biggest win in recent UVA football history.
Unfortunately for current fans, Tiki Barber ain’t walkin’ through that door.
This year’s Seminoles have to two things the Cavaliers are going to have to try and beat. One, a very stout run defense. The most yards they have given up on the ground in a game was when they were blown by Oklamhoma, 37-17, and even then they gave up only 128 yards. Virginia was able to put up only 125 against VMI, most because they started slowly and rushed for only 15 yards in the first half. The Cavs can’t afford a start like that against Florida State. Head coach Mike London says Virginia is going to look for “cracks and crevices” in the Florida State defense. He says hopefully they will be able to create running lanes that tailback Perry Jones can slip through. He admits that this is something bruiser Keith Payne won’t be able to do as much, and they’ll use him in more of a power role. They’ll need to successfully set up the running game to get first downs and make play action effective. This will be a tall order against Florida State.
Two, they have to deal with Heisman-caliber quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder was banged up a bit against Oklahoma, but that was three weeks ago. Reports are now that he is fine and has been participating fully in practice. The Cavaliers need to get pressure on Ponder early. They can afford to play at the beginning of this game the way they have played at the beginning of their other games. Virginia allowed Richmond and VMI to keep it close in the first half. Play like that against FSU and they’ll be down three touchdowns at halftime. If they allow Ponder to get into a rhythm they could be in for a very long afternoon. London said that he has made the defensive front a focus this week. He understands how good Ponder is and the importance of getting to him early.
Funny enough, another danger for the ‘Hoos could be coming out of the locker room for the game too amped. Against USC you could tell the ‘Hoos were fired up, and it cost them. They committed stupid penalties, mostly late hits, that were the result of over-aggression. They need to find a middle ground, somewhere between the way they started against Richmond and the way they started against USC. If they do that they have a chance to stay in this game. Virginia is mostly a team of unknowns, but when they are at their best they can play with anyone. I think the outcome of this game will be largely determined by Virginia’s mindset in the first half.
About the Author
Written by Gabriel Rodriguez
Born in Germany, early childhood in NYC, raised in the D.C. area, currently reside in Charlottesville, VA. Big fan of the NY Giants and San Antonio Spurs.