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Virginia football vs. Old Dominion — A breakdown

Cavaliers set to play Monarchs in Saturday night showdown

<p>Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins has been explosive as ever in 2019.</p>

Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins has been explosive as ever in 2019.

Coming off a bye week, a well-rested Old Dominion visits Virginia Saturday for another night game in Scott Stadium. This will be the first-ever meeting between the Cavaliers (3-0, 2-0 ACC) and the Monarchs (1-1, 0-0 C-USA).

As Virginia tries to stay undefeated at home, let’s take a look at the players to watch and keys to the game that will decide the game.

Players to watch:

Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins

Perkins has been as dynamic as ever in 2019, leading the team in both passing with 668 yards and rushing with 158 yards over the first three games. Perkins has also accounted for nearly half of the team’s touchdowns. 

His ability to generate offense out of thin air makes it difficult for any defense to plan for him. Perkins’ fourth-quarter touchdown pass and his scramble for a two-point conversion against Florida State are proof why no team has been able to stop him so far this season — he can hurt opponents through the air or on the ground.

While Perkins has stepped up as needed, he still has a tendency to throw interceptions in challenging situations. After last weekend, he has now thrown two picks in back-to-back games. Although these turnovers haven’t cost the Cavaliers yet, Perkins has to be safer with the ball if Virginia wants to defeat tougher opponents.

If Perkins can go turnover-free against Old Dominion Saturday and continue to be his usual dangerous self, Virginia should have no problem taking care of the Monarchs.

Senior wide receiver Joe Reed

Outside of Perkins, Reed might be Virginia’s most dangerous weapon on offense. Against Florida State, Reed produced 140 total yards from a kick return, rush and eight catches.

Reed’s uncanny ability to make defenders miss and find space on offense has created problems for Pittbsurgh, William and Mary and Florida State. With just four defensive starters returning to ODU football from the 2018 team, Reed should have plenty of opportunity to punish the Monarch’s struggling defense.

While Virginia has many talented wideouts, Reed has been the most consistent this season and has served as Perkins’ go-to option on more than one occasion.

Even though Old Dominion’s defense is flawed, Reed will likely play a significant role against the Monarchs.

Keys to the game:

Don’t give up big plays on defense

The Old Dominion offense has had its fair share of struggles this season. The Monarchs are averaging just 308 yards per game against two defenses that are not of the same caliber of Virginia.

The Virginia defense should be able to comfortably handle Old Dominion and junior quarterback Stone Smartt, especially if the Cavaliers can limit the number of big runs and catches against them. 

Long runs and deep passes are an easy way for the Monarchs to generate some instant offense. 

A big play from freshman running back Lala Davis or senior wide receiver Eric Kumah could be the spark Old Dominion needs to score on Virginia.

Short passes, short passes, short passes

When the Cavaliers faced the Seminoles, Virginia was at its best when it turned to short-yardage plays. 

From screens to curls, the Cavaliers were firing on all cylinders when Perkins got the ball out of his hands quickly and avoided risky deep passes.

Focusing on short passes relieved pressure from the offensive line, helped Perkins play more comfortably and improved the offense’s efficiency. Virginia scored 21 points in the fourth quarter alone, while Perkins completed 17-19 passes with no interceptions.

Deep plays might be exciting, but Virginia is clearly more effective when its plays are dominated by short passes, and the Cavaliers should continue the trend against the Monarchs.

While Virginia is the favorite against Old Dominion, the Cavaliers shouldn’t underestimate the Monarchs. Last season, Old Dominion pulled off a big upset against Virginia Tech, and the Monarchs will be hoping to win again against the other half of the Commonwealth Clash.

Virginia plays Old Dominion Saturday at Scott Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.