Quarterbacks: B +
Jacory Harris looked confident and responded nicely after the poor throw to Aldarius Johnson on the flee-flicker in the first quarter. He totaled 232 yards on 18-for-31 passing. A.J. Highsmith threw his first career touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
Running Backs: A +
The two-headed monster of Graig Cooper and Damien Berry was unstoppable. Cooper ran for a career-high 152 yards, including a 70-yard burst. That was the longest run from the line of scrimmage since Frank Gore took a carry 77 yards in 2001. The Cavaliers bring out the best in Cooper as he ran for 131 yards against them last season. Berry has now scored at least one touchdown in five consecutive games.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A +
Leonard Hankerson had a tremendous bump-and-run catch for a 35-yard score. LaRon Byrd was able to break away from double teams. Jimmy Graham showed off his vertical jump and basketball abilities as he hauled in a touchdown in the back of the end zone.
Offensive Line: A
Harris was sacked twice but the line made holes for the running game and the short passing game was successful. Also kudos to the O-line for protecting Harris when he got in a shoving match with a Virginia defensive lineman.
Defensive Line: A +
An amazing job by the defensive line. For the first time since the Oklahoma game, pressure was provided and it paid off. Olivier Vernon was all over the backfield. Virginia only had 149 yards of total offense.
Secondary: A –
Brandon McGee got beat on the Cavaliers lone offensive touchdown but other than that the secondary was flawless. The players made tackles and held Virginia to just 2-for-12 on third downs. Sam Shields played well and Jared Campbell had several pass deflections.
Special Teams: B
I understand there were two missed assignments on the two blocked punts, but Matt Bosher had three touchbacks in eight mile-per-hour winds. And the play of the year thus far was Thearon Collier’s Devin Hester-like punt return as he zig-zagged across the field for 60 yards. There were three great blocks by Colin McCarthy, Ramon Buchanan and Chavez Grant. It was the No. 2 play on “SportsCenter’s Top 10.”
Randy Shannon got the revenge he was seeking against Al Groh and the Cavaliers. The shorter practices this week paid off as the Canes looked energized and had fresh legs. He played the backups in the fourth quarter, which was a wise choice. There was also more blitzing and pressure which is a key ingredient for success.
Justin Antweil may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.