BYU (0-0) at Virginia (0-0)|
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 31, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scott Stadium (61,500) -- Charlottesville, Virginia.
Television: ESPN U. Home Record: BYU 0-0, Virginia 0-0. Away Record: BYU 0-0,
Virginia 0-0. Neutral Record: BYU 0-0, Virginia 0-0. Conference Record: BYU
0-0, Virginia 0-0. Series Record: Virginia leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Coming off their fourth losing season in the last five years, the
Virginia Cavaliers hope to put their best foot forward on Saturday afternoon
as they kick off the 2013 campaign against the BYU Cougars.
In 2011, the Cavaliers produced a record of 8-5 and were 5-3 in ACC play, but
the team took a major step backward in 2012 as they won a total of just four
games in 12 opportunities, one of those victories coming against FCS foe
Richmond in the season opener. Two of the other triumphs, while coming against
prestigious opponents such as Penn State and Miami, were both by just a single
Virginia enters the year having lost two straight, bowing to both North
Carolina and Virginia Tech last November.
As for the Cougars, they had their struggles a year ago as well, just 2-2
after four games and 4-4 through eight outings, but head coach Bronco
Mendenhall was able to get his crew on track at just the right time, closing
the regular season with three wins in four tries.
BYU accepted an invitation to take part in the Poinsettia Bowl against local
favorite San Diego State and took out the Aztecs in a 23-6 final, giving the
team an 8-5 finish to the campaign and more than enough reason for the
administration in Provo to sign coach Mendenhall to a contract extension
The Cavaliers lead the series by a count of 2-1, although BYU won the most
recent encounter back in 2000, 38-35.
A huge challenge for the Cougars this season will be identifying a quarterback
who can lead them for several more years. Taysom Hill saw time in six games,
starting once, last year and completed better than 59 percent of his pass
attempts, en route to four TDs against a pair of picks.
Making the transition to a new signal-caller a little easier is the return of
senior wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who leads all active FBS receivers in
career receiving touchdowns (28), and is third in total catches (203). An All-
America candidate and on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award yet again,
Hoffman owns the fifth-highest total for all-purpose yards (4,052) in school
Throw in Ross Apo and JD Falslev as fellow returning starters on the outside
and Hill, or perhaps Ammon Olsen, who is listed second on the depth chart,
should have some clear-cut options down the field.
Coming out of the backfield, one that is protected by three returning starters
along the offensive line, will be running back Jamaal Williams who had more
starts than anyone else at the position in 2012, resulting in a team-best 775
yards and 12 touchdowns on 166 carries.
The Cougars were dealt a serious blow on the defensive side of the ball only
days into the month of August when starting defensive back Jordan Johnson
suffered an ACL tear in practice and will now miss the entire 2013 campaign.
Johnson started 12 games a year ago, finishing with 48 tackles and 15 pass
breakups, the latter tying him for 11th in the nation.
The squad still has Craig Bills and Daniel Sorensen coming back in the
secondary, but no one had a nose for the ball like Johnson and he will be very
difficult to replace.
Sorensen is actually the top returning tackler for the program with 68 stops,
adding three interceptions and a couple of forced fumbles, but with Johnson
out of the picture he might need to step up his efforts even more in order to
fill the void.
As great as Johnson was in 2012, the defender of record for BYU is still
linebacker Kyle Van Noy who was a one-man wrecking crew for the Cougars and
still decided to return for his senior season in Provo. A candidate for the
Nagurski Trophy, and the Bednarik, Butkus, Lombardi, Maxwell and Walter Camp
Awards in 2013, Van Noy was an Third Team All-American in 2012 after posting
22 tackles for loss and 13 sacks on just 53 total stops.
Virginia head coach Mike London, now in his fourth season with the program,
decided to gut his coaching staff after last year's disappointing showing,
bringing in Steve Fairchild to be his offensive coordinator, Jon Tenuta as the
defensive coordinator, and Larry Lewis heading up the special teams.
London and Fairchild have had to find a new starting quarterback and it
appears the man to answer the call is David Watford, an in-state product from
Hampton who is entering his sophomore campaign. The other signal-callers on
the roster are all freshmen, so the appointment of Watford is almost by
Darius Jennings will be a key receiver for Watford to start off, having caught
48 balls for a team-high 568 yards and five touchdowns last year. Dominique
Terrell, E.J. Scott and Jake McGee, only part-time starters in 2012, will also
be on hand to aid with the transition on offense.
Losing running back Perry Jones means the Cavs are also without their top
receiver from a year ago after Jones caught 49 passes for the squad. However,
retaining Kevin Parks means the top ground gainer is ready for another go
around after carrying the ball 160 times for 734 yards and five touchdowns.
Applying more pressure at the line of scrimmage will be something Virginia is
striving for, after finishing 10th in the ACC and 98th nationally with only
1.42 sacks per outing. No one other than Chris Brathwaite had more than three
sacks a year ago and he is no longer around, putting even more pressure on the
youngster in 2013.
Add to that the loss of top tackler Steve Greer (122 stops), and the
rebuilding project on the defensive side of the ball gets even bigger for the
With so many unanswered questions for the Cavs on both offense and defense, to
expect them to come out of the chute and be ready to compete against a solid
BYU squad is a lot to ask.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 27, Virginia 13
08/28 10:39:37 ET