Not much went right for Virginia offensive in the opener against the Richmond Spiders. If you are looking for a bright spot, it would be with the Cavaliers new quarterback. Coming into the season, we weren’t sure whom Bronco Mendenhall would choose to lead his offense. We found that answer in the appointment of East Carolina transfer Kurt Benkert being named to the role. Against the Spiders, Benkert went 26 for 34 with 264 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interceptions.
The passing game did solid in the first game, but where the major struggles came was in the running attack. Of the 302 total yards, only 38 came on the ground. What makes that even sadder was that the 38 yards came on 21 carries, meaning there was a 1.8 yards per rush Saturday. Oh yeah, the three fumbles lost didn’t help either. Perhaps it was the first game jitters with a new offense but still there’s a long way for this Virginia offense to go. As mentioned, the team has switched offensive styles and moved to an up-tempo pace. Look for lots of spread out receivers and for Benkert to sling the ball all over the field.
Robert Anae joined the Virginia coaching staff along with Bronco Mendenhall from BYU. Anae puts a strong focus on the passing game over the run game, as I suppose we saw with the stats from Saturday’s game. In between two stints at BYU, Anae spent time on Rich Rodriguez’s staff at Arizona. We see a lot of those same concepts as the Wildcats run, with an up-tempo offense that’s focused on pass first and not afraid to give the quarterback some room to run.
What an abysmal start to the season for the Virginia offense. It’s not too fair to look at the stats from last year given the coaching and scheme change, so week one might just be the best stats we have to run off of. As mentioned, the team managed to rack up just 302 yards. Obviously the scariest thing is that only 38 came on the ground. It’s not like they were playing the Washington State throw the ball 100 times plan, they still managed 21 rushes but just couldn’t get anything going.
I do like the look of the offense though, as they are playing a much faster pace with lots of spread. Honestly, don’t be surprised if the Cavaliers still put up some points in this one. There will be plenty of possessions to go around, and as poor as the offense looked last week, there were still some bright spots, particular how Benkert threw the ball.
Three players to watch:
Taquan Mizzell, #4, senior running back, 5' 10", 195 lbs.
The senior running back will be one of the key pieces for the new look Virginia offense. Last year he put up 671 yards on 163 attempts, which was good for just four touchdowns. He’s also a big threat receiving, last year getting 75 catches for 721 yards and 4 touchdowns. Against fellow Pac-12 opponent UCLA last year he put up 145 receiving and rushing combined yards with one touchdown. Really tough start to the season though for Mizzell. On seven carries in the opener he had just seven yards. Slightly better receiving game however with 4 catches for 24 yards.
Olamide Zaccheaus, #33, sophomore wide receiver, 5' 8", 185 lbs.
After using two of the top receivers last year, the Cavaliers will rely on the retuning sophomore and many freshmen to lead to way. Zaccheaus saw the field more as the season went on, with his best performance coming against Duke with 3 catches and 89 yards. Also a running threat, as to end the year against Virginia Tech he had ten carries. Had a pretty solid receving game to start the year with 5 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Kurt Benkert, #6, junior quarterback, 6’4” 230 lbs.
Benkert came in to steal the job away from the two incumbents. The transfer from Eastern Carolina was the best fit for the role in the new uptempo offense for the Cavaliers. Benkert never played much at East Carolina, attempting just ten total passes. In the first game for Virginia he put up 3 touchdowns, one interception along with 264 yards. They attempted to rush him eight times for just three yards.
Depth chart takeaways:
· Lots and lots of “OR’s” on the depth chart, we can see this as either a good thing because there’s a lot of depth or a bad thing because there’s a lack of talent
· The biggest question mark perhaps comes with the tackles as both are listed as an “OR”.
· No true freshman cracked the lineup