Happy Thanksgiving Hokies!
Caroline Darney, from our SB Nation sister site Streaking the Lawn, sat down with Gobbler Country to discuss the upcoming football game between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Virginia Tech Hokies. Caroline is a regular contributor at Streaking the Lawn and an old Navy buddy. She also helped me get the gig here at GC! You can find her and I trading tweets, so give her a follow @
Bryce Perkins seems to be the only offensive player to fear. It very much seems that his ability to carry the offense is the number one indicator of whether or not UVA will win. What are some of the other offensive weapons at UVA’s disposal, and would they be able to carry the load if Perkins wasn’t playing or wasn’t playing well?
He’s the most obvious, but certainly not the only. Perkins is dynamic and a game-changer, but he’s flanked by a talented, grind-it-out running back in Jordan Ellis and an explosive and elusive wide receiver in Olamide Zaccheaus. OZ will make defenders miss tackles and can rip off long yardage plays and leads the team with six receiving touchdowns. Beyond that, I’m a big fan of wide receivers Joe Reed (who also does kick returns) and Hasise Dubois. That duo has combined for nine touchdowns on the season and are big, strong guys who can go up and get the ball.
I agree that as Perkins goes, UVA goes. If he makes good decisions (no interceptions, throws the ball away when he’s going to take a loss), and can keep the Hokies honest at the defensive line with his running capabilities...it’ll be good for the Hoos.
The ACC Costal division is traditionally a mess, but this year seems to be particularly ridiculous. Do you think UVA squandered a chance to win the division, or was it something that wasn’t realistic this year?
Nah, this is a team that was picked to finish dead last in the conference and was in contention for the title all the way up into week 12...in a rebuilding year! Virginia is still ahead of schedule and I don’t think any of their losses (at NC State, vs Pitt, at GT) were embarrassing or bad. They beat who they should have beaten (Liberty, Richmond, Ohio) and got strong performances to beat Louisville, Miami, and Duke. This year has been fun...so far.
After Perkins what is the team’s next best strength – offensively or defensively – that gives the Hoos a chance to win?
Virginia’s secondary is probably the strongest unit on the field for the Hoos, and that bodes well when you look at the fact that Willis has thrown for 17 touchdowns this season. Bryce Hall is absolutely fantastic and leads the country in passes defended with 19. If you don’t want to throw to him, good luck against Juan Thornhill, who is tied for 4th nationally with five interceptions this season. Beyond that, I’m high on the linebacking corps, too. Charles Snowden (6’7”) is a pain in the ass and senior Chris Peace is the elder statesman of the group.
There seems to be a mental block in the last decade and half that stopped the Hoos from winning this game. It isn’t the first time they’ve faced a beleaguered Hokie squad hoping to retain bowl eligibility. Is that perceived mental block still there this year? Why or why not?
Oh man I hope it’s gone. What I like about the team’s approach this season is that they are hitting it head on and clearly making this game a priority. There’s been a lot of talk in recent years that this game just means more to the Hokies, and it’s hard to find any evidence to the contrary. This year, the team has been vocal in their desire to end the streak and that it is more than just another game. This isn’t to say that they weren’t “trying” to win in the previous seasons (though some performances on the field would indicate the opposite), but that they’re leaning into it being a big deal this year. That makes me more hopeful than maybe anything else. It’s incredibly hard to account for the mental aspect of losing, but that’s something that Coach Mendenhall has explicitly tried to fix about UVA’s culture. We lost for so long, we had to learn how to win....sad, but true.
The eyeball test indicates that UVA has not been in a better position to win over the last 14 years. Do you pull it off? Give me a final score!
[dry heaves] This is so unbelievably stressful. Virginia has looked better, played better, been rated better by all of the computer metrics...they have to get it done, right? I say yes. Perkins has a day and the Hoos win 28-17.
Thanks again to Caroline and Streaking the Lawn for the time! Though, I sure hope she is wrong about the game’s outcome! Be sure to check their site for my conversation with them!