Virginia has ‘to put points’ up vs No. 2 Oregon
Virginia’s defense and special teams got high marks in the Cavaliers’ season-opening victory against BYU. Quarterback David Watford and the new offense got by on the bare minimum.
The Cavaliers’ touchdown drives covered 19 and 13 yards, and one was set up by a blocked punt, the other by an interception. Virginia was forced to punt 13 times, and it totaled just 223 yards on the day.
With high-flying No. 2 Oregon coming to Scott Stadium on Saturday, Watford knows the offense will have to be a lot better, and he’s taking it upon himself to make big improvements this week.
“Offensively we wanted to do more and we should have done more, and I take that on myself,” he said. “We had a great scheme in and (offensive coordinator Steve) Fairchild called a great game, and I just have to demand more from my guys and be more demanding of myself, be more of a leader out there on the field.”
Watford, who redshirted last season after sharing the job with Michael Rocco two seasons ago, finished 18 for 32 for 114 yards with an interception against the Cougars, and ran 10 times for 17 yards. It seemed like BYU was extra attentive to his scrambling, he said, with two or three players always tracking him.
The low yardage numbers didn’t seem to alarm Fairchild, however.
“That’s a very, very good defense when you saw them in person, and I thought we held our own in terms of playing a physical brand of football and we went over 100 yards running,” he said Wednesday. “Like I said, there’s a ton to improve on offensively, but I think that’s something you can build on.”
Fairchild has emphasized toughness since he arrived last winter, and while he liked what he saw on that front in the opener, the Cavaliers need to get results that show it more. They converted just 6 of 20 third-down chances against the Cougars, continually putting the onus back on their defense.
That’s more dangerous against the Ducks than almost anyone.
Oregon is one of the nation’s fastest teams, and had 500 yards rushing, a school-record 772 total yards in beating FCS-level Nicholls State 66-3. That all came while the Ducks possessed the ball for just 19:46 because the Ducks had 12 plays that covered 25 yards or more, and of their nine touchdown drives, eight took less than 2 minutes to complete. They reached third down just 10 times, converting six.
Defensively, they led the nation in turnover margin last season at 1.62.
“They just put offenses they face in tough situations because their offense scores a lot of points and then their defense goes out there, they pin their ears back and they get after the quarterback, a lot of exotic blitzes and schemes,” Watford said of the team that forced 40 turnovers last season.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge,” he said, “but I think we’ll be ready for it.”
They might even have a few wrinkles of their own that the Ducks haven’t seen yet.
“We still have a lot that we have up our sleeve that we can use and coach Fairchild is constantly coming up with different stuff every day.” Watford said. “Every practice we’re putting in something new.”
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