Following the heartbreaking loss to NC State last Friday night, Virginia is looking to change the direction of their season Saturday afternoon on the road against Boston College. The Cavaliers (0-4, 0-1 ACC) have had opportunities to win each of their last three games, but fourth quarter collapses and preventable mistakes have led to their current record. The Eagles (1-3, 0-2 ACC) are coming off a tough loss in which Louisville doubled their score. However, each of their other three games has been decided by three points or less. If this trend continues, we can expect yet another nail-biter this weekend.
Boston College player to watch – Junior defensive end Donovan Ezeiruaku
The three-star recruit was one of two Boston College players to make the all-ACC team prior to the season. Although he is off to a slower start this season with just one tackle for loss and zero sacks through four games, he is coming off a dominating 2022 campaign. Last season he led the Eagles with 8.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. The Cavalier offensive line, which has struggled early in the season, will need to keep him away from the quarterback if they want to find offensive success.
Virginia player to watch – Freshman linebacker Kam Robinson
A player Coach Tony Elliott mentioned by name in his post-game press conference, Robinson got his first collegiate start against NC State last weekend. He did not disappoint and led the team with 11 total tackles. With graduate student linebacker Josh Ahern likely to return this week from injury, Robinson’s defensive role is unclear — he is, however, one of the most talented players on the Virginia roster and Elliott will likely be hard-pressed to keep him off the field.
“[Robinson’s] got good football instincts,” Elliott said. “He can do things in pass coverage that you don’t typically see out of that position.”
Boston College’s Offensive Line vs. Virginia’s Run Defense
One of Boston College’s biggest strengths is its offensive line — headlined by graduate student offensive lineman Christian Mahogany. The pre-season all-ACC honoree had to sit out all of 2022 due to an injury but has the talent to be a first-round draft pick come April. He is the 43rd-ranked player in the country according to ESPN and has already garnered himself a second-team ACC award in 2021.
The supporting cast around him is also quite strong. Three of the other starters on the line are four-star recruits, including sophomore offensive lineman Logan Taylor, who may sound familiar to Virginia fans. Taylor transferred out of Charlottesville after the end of last season after having an incredible year. He started every game at offensive tackle in 2022 and gave up just four sacks.
Putting pressure on this talented group will be a tough task for the Cavalier defensive front. The group found success last weekend against NC State and is capable of continuing that success on Saturday afternoon. Last game, Virginia picked five tackles for loss including sacks by junior linebacker James Jackson and graduate student defensive end Kam Butler. The stops made by this unit late in the game kept the Cavaliers up to the bitter end.
One thing the Virginia defense will need to commit to, however, is stopping quarterback runs. Last weekend, senior quarterback Brennan Armstrong was the leading rusher for the Wolfpack with 64 yards rushing. Sophomore quarterback Thomas Castellanos has a similar tendency to run. In their last game against Louisville, Castellanos had a 38-yard run and against Florida State he had a 45-yard run on his way to 95 total yards rushing. Limiting this explosiveness will be key for the Cavaliers to win this game.
Virginia’s passing game vs. Boston College defensive backs
If Virginia is going to score a lot of points Friday afternoon, they will most likely need to come out of the air. Although freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea has played outstanding, all indications point towards Elliott rolling with senior quarterback Tony Muskett under center.
“My philosophy is you don’t lose your starting job because of injury,” Elliott said. “Each week we go into it with Tony being the guy until we get to the game and we assess [Muskett’s health]. I think he’s much closer. I anticipate that Tony will be ready to play this week, and that’s how we’ll roll.”
If Muskett is indeed chosen as the starter, he will have big shoes to fill as Colandrea ranks second among ACC quarterbacks in yards per completion and third in yards per pass attempt. Against the Wolfpack, he overcame a costly interception to lead a game-tying drive, a sign that despite his freshman status, he is ready for ACC-level competition.
The Eagles have struggled recently in defending the passing game as last week they allowed five touchdown passes and a total of 388 passing yards. They also have yet to force an interception this season.
The Boston College secondary unit is headlined by graduate student defensive back Elijah Jones who leads the team with three passes defended. Jones will likely have the tough task of covering graduate student wide receiver Malik Washington, who was recently honored as the ACC Receiver of the Week. If he can continue his hot start to the season and Muskett can exploit a relatively weaker defensive back group, the Cavaliers will be in good shape to run up the scoreboard.
If Virginia is able to stop the Eagles’ rushing attack and continue their success in the passing game, this game could turn out to be very winnable. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Saturday and the game will be broadcast on the CW.