A lot of the run-up for yesterday's games in the local papers took the form of Al Groh and the UVA players describing it as an opportunity to find out where they stand as a team, as they try to rebuild after a decent year in 2007. By the end of the game, Al Groh could have been forgiven for thinking that next time, maybe USC could just grab some See's Candy at the airport as a host gift, as opposed to the "gift" of showing just how big the gap is.
I'd like to give you a sense of the mood around the campus and the tailgates yesterday, but my refusal to spend any time in Northern Virginia not required for work came back to bite me in the ass and we were thwarted to no end by the northern end of Lee Highway, so we squeaked in just before kickoff.
Scott Stadium is a really cool venue, well situated in a neighborhood and sunk down; the students section is effectively a hill where the UVA undergrads congregate in standing room only. I have never seen so many sundress-clad co-eds in my life, and I had to laugh when I heard some kid trying to rant at us for being so unsightly - apparently 1962 is the benchmark for preppy kids there.
I was a little concerned about the possible effects of the heat - while newspaper articles mentioned the prospect of rain and severe weather, it was a muggy 90 degrees - a lot of the visitors from California in the stands were visibly wilting by half-time. It didn't seem to slow the players down though.
As I mentioned, we got into our seats in enough time for kickoff, and for all intents and purposes, that was it for the Cavaliers.
We had assumed that the Virginia fans would be a little less, um, lackadaisical than SC fans at a home game, but aside from the Cavaliers' scoring drive and the occasional third or fourth down defensive series, they were pretty quiet and started leaving early in the third quarter. As the game went on, it got progressively emptier.
I took this picture a couple of minutes after the end of the game - and it wasn't because the exits were so well designed.
Paragon indicated that this game probably didn't test the Trojans that much, and I would tend to agree. Virginia didn't roll over, but they weren't really able to get much going - good plays here and there, either on defense or on run-blocking, but nothing consistent. SC looked not bad. From our vantage point in Row Z (the only place in the stadium catching a breeze, so we weren't complaining), we noted the following:
- Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson were looking very good indeed
- Bradford and Johnson stood out for getting good yards
- I hadn't appreciated McKnight's ability to find & shoot through closing gaps until I saw it in person
- By the end of the third quarter, the O-line was effectively scrimmaging, alternating run blocking screens to get the kinks worked out
- Sanchez looked not too bad, but he really needs to stop with the low percentage throws into coverage
As mentioned above, we weren't able to get much chance to talk to the locals, but I must say that the Virginia fans were all kinds of classy after the game. After a bludgeoning of that nature, you could understand if there was some shouting or posturing or aggravation afterwards, but we didn't see any of that - mostly people who had experienced a game that was sobering in more senses than one, and were doing a little post-game tailgating to cheer up a bit.