Football looks to rebound with matchup against Ohio

Cavaliers host Bobcats for last game before conference play starts up

Perkins Ohio Walsh

Junior quarterback Bryce Perkins had 123 rushing yards against Indiana.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

After falling to Indiana on the road last week, Virginia returns to Charlottesville to face another non-conference opponent as Ohio comes to Scott Stadium for the second meeting between these two programs.

The Cavaliers (1-1) are looking to use Saturday’s game against the Bobcats (1-0) as a chance to rebound from the disappointing loss to Indiana (2-0).   

“[I’m] disappointed we didn’t win the game,” Coach Bronco Mendenhall said of the loss last weekend. “There are still areas that we can improve on. Indiana controlled the line of scrimmage. We made enough plays to be in the game, but not enough plays to win the game.” 

Virginia particularly struggled in the first half against the Hoosiers, with the score at half-time being 20-9. 

“We can't afford to come out sluggish the first half," junior quarterback Bryce Perkins said. "We have to put drives together. We've got to execute. Most important, we've got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot — a holding call here, a penalty here, just little stuff that prevents a drive from going the distance."

One of the things that Virginia struggled with was getting senior tailback Jordan Ellis involved in the game. 

“It was one of the biggest differences in the game, and to me, one of the biggest differences in the outcome,” Mendenhall said of Ellis’ limited presence. “Without establishing Jordan and having that presence of getting yards when we gave it to him, it puts stress instantly on Bryce, which then moved to other positions, which made us less consistent. We need more touches and a bigger presence.” 

Against Richmond, Ellis certainly had the presence Mendenhall was looking for — he had a career-best 146 rushing-yards, earning him the honors of ACC Running Back of the Week. However, against the Hoosiers, Ellis had just 63 yards on 12 carries. 

Leading the way for the Cavaliers in rushing yards against Indiana was Perkins, who had 123 yards. This made Perkins the first Virginia quarterback since 1941 to rush for over 100-yards multiple times in the same season. 

"We just need to move forward and learn from the mistakes,” senior wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus said. “We know what we're capable of doing."

Virginia’s offense will now have the opportunity to learn from those mistakes against the Bobcats’ defense, who allowed 484 passing yards and 161 rushing yards in their only game of the season so far. Despite the defense’s struggles, Ohio’s offense played well enough to get the 38-32 win to start off the season 1-0. 

“[Ohio’s] offense is very capable,” Mendenhall said. “They score a lot of points. As you watch, the system is really well-established. Frank Solich serves on the board of trustees, as do I, and so I've gotten to know him. He's a really good coach. Very good offensive mind.” 

Solich is in his 14th season of coaching with Ohio, and the Bobcats have gone 98-71 (.580) during that time. Last year, the Bobcats finished 9-4 overall, and 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference East Division. They averaged a gain of 433.1 yards a game — with 244.5 rushing yards and 188.5 passing yards – and scored an average of 39.1 points per game. Ohio was tabbed MAC favorite in the league's preseason media poll, which was announced in late July. 

In the opening game of the season for the Bobcats, senior wide receiver Papi White had a career-high 154 receiving yards on a career-high eight receptions. Junior quarterback Quinton Maxwell, who came into the game in the second quarter, completed 17-of-25 of his passes and had 233 passing yards. Maxwell threw for two touchdowns and also ran for two. 

Ohio’s strong offense will clash with a Virginia defense that has showed flashes of success. Against Indiana, senior safety Juan Thornhill blocked an extra point and had an interception, which made him the ACC Defensive Back of the Week. Sophomore safety Joey Blount also had a career-high 13 tackles. However, Indiana was still able to establish a strong running game. 

“There were enough inconsistencies in our line for their running back to get through,” Mendenhall said. “It means our linemen were off, which meant the linebackers were off and led to gaps that shouldn’t have been there.”

The game Saturday will be Virginia’s last chance to clean up some of these mistakes and establish more success before ACC play begins. 

“We just need more and more and more and more of playing the game at the right level and the right precision to where it's [consistent] and holds consistently in the critical moments,” Mendenhall said. “Inconsistency was really our downfall, again, not by points given our yielded, but simply by our opponent being able to hold onto the ball and affect the clock.”

After Saturday’s game — which is scheduled for 3 p.m. kickoff — the Cavaliers will remain in Charlottesville as they prepare to host Louisville on Sept. 22 at 12:30 p.m.  

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