Virginia hopes to eliminate mistakes, win more close games in '23
CHARLOTTE, N. C. — Had they understood what they do now, there’s a thought among returning Virginia players that they could’ve avoided some of the on-field disappointment experienced last season and, perhaps, logged a better record.
The Cavaliers were 3-7 during coach Tony Elliott’s debut campaign in charge, and of those seven setbacks, three were by three points or fewer — by two at Syracuse, by two against Miami in four overtimes and by three to North Carolina — providing the Hoos hope that with correction, they can improve and flip tightly contested bouts in their favor more often this coming fall. “In a lot of those games, we were the reason we weren’t receiving the outcome we wanted,” Cavaliers senior running back Perris Jones said in July during the ACC Kickoff. “That in itself gave us a sense of motivation in that those teams weren’t better than us.
We just made mistakes they capitalized on, so if we eliminate those mistakes, then our record and our outcome will be what we desire it to be. ” Said senior defensive end Chico Bennett Jr. : “We could’ve played better complementary football, and it was unfortunate.
” Elliott recalled what went wrong against the Orange, Hurricanes and Tar Heels, and there was never a consistent finding. He said UVa played “bad on offense” in the first half of the loss to Syracuse even though the Hoos managed a more competitive second half to make it a four-quarter game. Against Miami, UVa twice drove the ball inside the opposing 10-yard line but never scored a touchdown, prompting Elliott to note the many chances his Cavaliers had to take control of the contest only to never do so.
And finally, versus Carolina, a poor special teams decision, according to Elliott, on top of the inability to get a key stop late — UNC converted all four of its third-down snaps in the third quarter and was two-of-three on fourth down in the fourth — derailed the Cavaliers’ bid for an upset. “But that’s also in the concept of trying to teach these guys to win games,” Elliott said. “Not find ways to lose games, but to win games and make those plays and win games.
So, we got what we earned, but we’ve learned from it. ” Bennett agreed. “So going into this season, I have no doubt in my mind that in those close games, we’ll be able to take over,” Bennett said.
“And Coach Elliott always says, ‘It always comes down to a play or two,’” Bennett continued, “and that’s truly what we’ve seen. It sucks to be on the opposite end of that, but going forward we have that in our grasp. ” Jones said enhanced comprehension and understanding regarding assignments and responsibilities for offensive players has him believing the offense can average more than the 17 points per game than it did last season.
“Just execution and guys buying into the overall scheme,” Jones said, “which is helping us in our performance and our effectiveness. Guys are believing in what we’re doing and are believing in their roles and are making sure they’re doing the best they can to be where they need to be when they need to be there. As a result, we’re working pretty good together right now.
” Elliott said that was a problem last year, and why the Cavaliers never appeared comfortable on offense. Their 22 turnovers lost were tied for the fourth most in the ACC. “The biggest thing you notice is the cohesion was not there,” Elliott said, “and you’re talking about offensive football.
It’s all or nothing. You can tell on any given play, at times, there was a guy or two or more who weren’t on the same page and what is the result of that? Not fully understanding what you’re doing, and then you look further and it’s you didn’t understand the terminology or didn’t understand the defensive recognition. So, there’s a lot of components to that, so starting with us it’s ‘Let’s simplify it and take all the assumptions out,’ because I think that’s where myself and the coaching staff made a mistake.
” Keeping those ideas in mind, Elliott said that after he and his staff adjusted, players made fewer mistakes this past spring and had a much better feel for what they’re supposed to do. Newcomer quarterback Tony Muskett, a transfer from Monmouth, said he’s been able to adapt to Virginia’s offense smoothly because he played in a very similar system with the Hawks and also because his surrounding cast of Cavaliers knows their responsibilities in their second year playing for Elliott. As for the defense, Bennett said the group is seeking to build on what it accomplished last year.
UVa gave up seven points per game fewer last year than it did in 2021. The Cavaliers return eight starters, including their entire defensive line, which Elliott said is critical for the unit for leadership. He said overall this season he wants “to see a football team that’s playing complementary football, that is working together, that are complementing each other, that are having fun, that are playing with a tremendous amount of energy, a tremendous amount of passion.
They’re focused and playing physical, and I think if you establish those things, then you have prepared yourself to be in position to win. ” .