Cavs take on Hoosiers in homecoming game
After first win, squad will try to put pieces together as team faces Indiana in Charlottesville
With a win under its belt, the Virginia football team will look to refocus its energy Saturday against Indiana in the Cavaliers' Homecoming game. The game marks the only matchup between Big Ten and ACC programs during the regular season.
"This is a big physical team," coach Al Groh said of his squad's opponent.
To defeat the Hoosiers, the Cavaliers will have to figure out how to win at Scott Stadium, as they have yet to win a game at home this season. Off to a dismal start after a loss to FCS rival William & Mary, a resounding defeat against then-No. 16 TCU and a disappointing "almost" against Southern Miss, Virginia has had to primarily rely on its defense to prevent the team from falling into total disarray. The Cavaliers have allowed only 16 third down conversions in 61 attempts, and their pass defense has allowed an average of only 156.5 yards per contest, ranking it eighth nationally.
The defense also keyed Virginia's first win last week against North Carolina, recording two interceptions and allowing only three points. Cornerbacks sophomore Chase Minnifield and senior Chris Cook combined for the picks as the Cavaliers held the Tar Heels to only nine first downs.
Against Indiana's dynamic offense, led by junior quarterback Ben Chappell, Virginia will need to see similar defensive production. Chappell already has thrown for 1154 yards and five touchdowns, while freshman tailback Darius Willis leads the Hoosiers with 244 rushing yards. Sophomore wide received Damarlo Belcher, who has caught 23 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown, also poses as a potential threat.
"They're pretty tough, they're fast," senior safety Brandon Woods said. "They run the spread offense as our offense. We're definitely going to have to make this a physical game."
While Virginia's defensive unit looks to contain Indiana's quick-strike attack, it also will need its offense to put up points and to respond positively to an exciting Homecoming game atmosphere. Although the Cavaliers have averaged only 19.5 points per game this season, senior quarterback Jameel Sewell helped the offense score 50 points combined in the past two games, and both he and his teammates will look to continue improving on that side of the ball Saturday.
"He really stood in there, passed up any opportunity to run the ball and completed a very vital play to the outcome of the game," Groh said of Sewell's performance against North Carolina.
As the Cavaliers seek to build momentum as their season nears its halfway point, a win against the Hoosiers also could require some extra homework.
"We definitely try to do some extra research - the way they play, their girlfriend's name," redshirt freshman Steve Greer joked.