BOZICH | Louisville visits Virginia: What happened to the missing 38 points?
By Rick Bozich
ON THE ROAD TO CHARLOTTESVILLE (WDRB) -- Nominations are officially open in the bizarre statistic department.
In the 23 months since the University of Louisville football team made its last trip to Scott Stadium to play Virginia, there has been a 38-point swing in the perception of the two programs in Las Vegas.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s more than five touchdowns.
Two seasons ago Louisville was a 33-point favorite over the Cavaliers.
On Saturday, when the teams play at 12:30 p.m., the Cavaliers are likely to be favored by 5.
Where have those 38 points gone?
As WDRB sports director Tom Lane and I make our way Charlottesville, I consulted with Tom as well as my sidekick Eric Crawford and made a list:
*LAMAR POWER: Louisville’s last game at Virginia was played near the height of Lamar Mania.
Lamar Jackson had the Cardinals ranked fifth in the Associated Press writers’ poll as well as the USA Today coaches’ poll. They had lost at Clemson but were still considered a team capable of earning one of the four spots in the national playoff.
Louisville left Charlottesville with a 7-1 record, but the Cards’ showed some of the flaws that later surfaced in losses to Houston, Kentucky and Louisiana State.
They needed a 29-yard scoring pass from Jackson to Jaylen.
Smith in the final 13 seconds to wiggle away with a 32-25 win.
The Cards stopped themselves with a fumble as well as an interception. Although Louisville outgained Virginia by 186 yards, the Cards managed seven points in the first 40 minutes.
Other than Jackson running for 88 yards, the running game was merely OK -- which is better than it has been this season.
*ROSTER CHURN: Jackson isn’t the only starter missing from that team. He’s one of 19 starters gone from the 2016 team.
The only three Louisville guys scheduled to start Saturday who also started on Oct. 29, 2016 are offensive lineman Lukayus McNeil, Smith at receiver and defensive back Dee Smith.
Virginia’s roster has also turned over but the Cavaliers have not replaced a Lamar Jackson, a Jaire Alexander or a Josh Harvey-Clemons.
The Cavs have one offensive starter back from 2016 -- and he’s their best player, receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. He caught only four balls for 14 yards and a touchdown against U of L that day.
Zaccheaus has 363 receiving yards this season, including a career-best 247 last Saturday against Ohio University. Look for Zaccheaus. He will wear Number 4 -- and he’s only 5 feet 8.
*PERKINS POWER: Virginia has upgraded its performance at quarterback with Bryce Perkins. He’s better than your basic junior-college transfer. At 6-3, 210, Perkins is a full-sized, full-service quarterback.
In 2015, he was a top recruit from the Phoenix area who signed with Todd Graham at Arizona State but never contributed with the Sun Devils. He was redshirted in 2015 and missed 2016 with an injury.
That was enough to convince Perkins to jump to Arizona Western Community College, where he led his team to the championship game of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Perkins comes from an athletic family. His uncle, Don, was a solid fullback for Tom Landry with the Dallas Cowboys. His father played at Arizona State and briefly in the NFL. His brother, Paul, plays for the New York Giants.
In three games, Perkins has rushed for 100 yards twice and thrown for 670 yards with 7 touchdowns and one interception.
That’s not Lamar. But it’s not bad. Perkins ranks ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing on a team that also has the league’s No. 2 runner in Jordan Ellis, who is averaging 127 yards per game. Perkins also ranks fourth in the league in passing yards per game.
I asked Eric Crawford and Tom Lane to help me explain the swing.
This is what they said:
CRAWFORD: “I can do it in two words: Lamar Jackson. Need two more? Bobby Petrino. There was a time when Vegas couldn’t draw up spreads big enough when Petrino’s Louisville teams faced mid-level competition or lower. Now, that faith appears to be gone.”
LANE: “Louisville does not appear to be as good in any phase for the game. Virginia has a more balanced and dangerous offense than they did two years ago. Part of the ongoing closing of the gap between Louisville and the rest of the ACC that existed a couple of years ago.”
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