Virginia vs. Central Michigan: a breakdown
The Cavaliers look to secure their first win of the Mendenhall era
As the Cavaliers return home for a matchup with Central Michigan, here is the Cavalier Daily Sports staff's breakdown of the week four game.
Three keys to a Virginia victory
Limit automatic first down penalties
A false start here or an offside call there rarely dooms a team. But when the penalties are frequent and of greater severity, they can determine outcome, as both a facemask and pass interference did in Virginia’s last game. The Cavaliers need to find a middle ground between timidity and recklessness.
Force field goals in red zone
The Virginia defense contained the Huskies in the red zone last week, twice forcing field goals. Overall, it was a commendable effort: one that finally gave the Cavalier offense a fighting chance at outscoring its opponent. A repeat bend-but-not-break performance on defense against Central Michigan could help Virginia earn its first victory.
Take calculated shots deep
Based on what videographers, managers and media personnel relayed during the offseason, sophomore wide receiver David Eldridge was supposed to be a deep threat this season. Junior quarterback Kurt Benkert connected with him regularly on long balls in practice and camp. It’s time to let Benkert loose once or twice. It’s time for him and Eldridge to reconnect.
Players to Watch
Coming off arguably his top collegiate performance, in which he recorded six tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery, junior defensive end Andrew Brown continues to mature under Mendenhall. Virginia will expect the former Gatorade National Player of the Year to bully Central Michigan’s offensive line as he did against Connecticut.
The senior running back showed improved ball security last Saturday, carrying the football 11 times for 66 yards without a hiccup. The ACC’s leading receiver amongst running backs last season also caught six passes for 40 yards out of the backfield. Expect the Cavaliers to involve Mizzell early and often in both phases of their offense.
After showings like the one he had last Saturday — 11 tackles (two for a loss) and 1.5 sacks — junior linebacker Micah Kiser has to be in conversation as one of the most exceptional players at his position in college football. It is a privilege to watch Kiser man the middle of Virginia’s defense every week.
With 67 touchdown passes and 9,354 yards, good enough for second and third place in school history respectively, senior quarterback Cooper Rush has established a standard of success while at Central Michigan. Through three wins in 2016, the veteran Rush has totaled 957 yards through the air and thrown 11 touchdowns to three interceptions.
Another proven senior leading Central Michigan’s offense, wide receiver Jesse Kroll has tallied 1761 yards and nine touchdowns over his career. The Algoma, Wisc. native has followed up his stellar 2015 season with a total of only 12 catches and one touchdown in three 2016 games, but rest assured, Kroll remains a sure-handed weapon.
Then-redshirt freshman Fountain started every game in 2015 for Central Michigan, ranking third on the team with 67 tackles by season’s end. Each game this year, Fountain has stepped up his tackling rate from the previous outing. The redshirt sophomore racked up a team-high nine tackles last week against UNLV and looks to sustain his upward trend.
2016 Statistical Leaders
Kurt Benkert (QB): 60 completion percentage, 698 yards, five touchdowns, four interceptions
Albert Reid (RB): 36 carries, 227 yards, 6.3 yards per carry (YPC), two touchdowns
Taquan Mizzell (RB): 28 carries, 121 yards, 4.3 YPC, one touchdown
Keeon Johnson (WR): 17 receptions, 159 yards, 9.4 Yards Per Catch (YPC), two touchdowns
Olamide Zaccheaus (WR): 14 receptions, 157 yards, 11.2 YPC, one touchdown
Micah Kiser (LB): 34 tackles, three tackles for loss (TFL), two forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks
Zach Bradshaw (LB): 22 tackles, three TFL, one forced fumble, .5 sack
Cooper Rush (QB): 65.7 completion percentage, 957 yards, 11 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
Devon Spalding (RB): 31 carries, 166 yards, 5.4 Yards Per Carry (YPC), one touchdown
Jonathan Ward (RB): 22 carries, 135 yards, 6.1 YPC, one touchdown
Mark Chapman (WR): 13 receptions, 186 yards, 14.3 Yards Per Catch (YPC), two touchdowns
Corey Willis (WR): 11 receptions, 182 yards, 16.5 YPC, four touchdowns
Malik Fountain (LB): 18 tackles, three tackles for loss (TFL)
Nathan Ricketts (LB): 17 tackles, three TFL, one forced fumble, one interception.