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Virginia decided to show up and play to win. They looked like a team that could knock off a ranked opponent, and not just because they knocked off #21 Louisville last week. They played with similar power against the Cougars.
As expected, the quarterback running had a big impact on the first drive, resulting in a touch down–only it was Virginia’s QB, Lambert, and not Taysom Hill. This first drive garnered Virginia enough momentum to propel the Cavaliers to a 16-13 half time lead. But in the third quarter, Taysom Hill ran through three Cavalier players, dragging one with him to the end zone to make sure the Cougars would take the lead and the Cougar’s never gave it back.
Virginia, lost their starting quarterback Greyson Lambert in the 3rd quarter, but Matt Johns may have played better, leading Virginia in a comeback attempt and 17 fourth quarter points that still fell eight points short from a chance at overtime.
The stats look like the game favors Virginia. UVa came out and orchestrated some long clock-consuming drives. Virginia’s first drive, one of their few quick drives, surprised BYU and the Cavaliers got a touchdown. Momentum seemed to be with Virginia for much of the first quarter. After that BYU stiffened in the red zone, playing “bend but don’t break.” They held the Cavaliers to three field goals in the 2nd quarter. BYU scored 10 points themselves, and then shut out the Cavaliers in the 3rd quarter.
Despite the stats seemingly favoring Virginia, BYU looked like the better team. When the Cougars scored, their scoring drives were quick and looked easy. They usually had drives under two minutes and only had two drives as long as 10 plays–usually 6 plays was enough.
After Virginia’s first drive, the Cavaliers seemed to struggle to get down the field and score. They had five drives of 10 plays or more, 4 over 12 plays and one 16 plays. Virginia had 35 first downs (10-22 on third down). The 22 third downs is the key reason why Virginia almost won, yet it also an indicator of why they lost. They didn’t get first downs very easily. BYU couldn’t stop Virginia consistently, allowing them to slowly march down the field, but the Cougars consistently almost stopped Cavaliers. The Cougars forced the Cavaliers into third downs 22 times. The Cavaliers also tried for four fourth down conversions, converting twice. The Cougars stopped Virginia enough to force the Cavaliers into three field goals in the 2nd quarter and kept the Cavaliers from scoring in the 3rd.
Part of the reason BYU couldn’t seem to stop Virginia’s long drives was due to penalties. The Cougars gave Virginia six first downs from penalties alone. Take away those penalties and BYU stops a couple more Virginia drives.
Whether using the clock was game plan or just a result of BYU barely not stopping Virginia’s first downs, the clock domination almost worked out for Virginia. BYU got tired on defense by the 4th quarter and gave up 17 points, including a 13 play, 98 yard drive for a Cavalier touchdown. This pulled Virginia to withing 8 points.
Unfortunately for the Cavalier’s, their kickoff team gave Adam Hine a wide lane for a kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
BYU had zero turnovers. A key to surviving Virginia’s domination of the clock and the stats. Taysom did put the ball on the ground once. It didn’t result in a turnover, but it was part of a three and out, allowing Virginia to get the ball back late in the 4th quarter down two scores.
Virginia had the ball taken away from them twice, once on a fumble and once on an interception. BYU only scored 3 points on those plays. Virginia also turned it over on downs once late in the fourth quarter.
BYU once again had 12 penalties for 133 yards making the score closer than it was.
BYU needs to clean up the penalties. They will not go undefeated if they continue to have these mistakes. If they have a high turnover game combined with such penalties, they could beat themselves. BYU likely would have won by three touch downs without their penalties.
Virginia needs to keep playing tough and playing the entire game. They looked strong. They are 1-2 against ranked teams but both losses by a single score. They almost mustered up a come from behind win against BYU and their offense gave up too many touchdowns to UCLA’s defense. Against BYU, they won first down often. Keep that up and learn to finish in the red zone. Settling for three field goals in the second quarter against BYU shows that Virginia needs some better red zone plays and execution.
The Cavaliers could go on a winning streak. There next five games are against unranked opponents before they play last year’s national champions, Florida State.