Let’s start off by stating the big picture: the Hoos had a fantastic football season, which culminated in a prestigious bowl game against the defending national champion. Any of us would have been ecstatic to hear that news at the start of the season. The rough losses to Tech and Auburn to end the season, however, tarnish our perspective. In the coming weeks we can hopefully appreciate this significant step forward and the potential start of a new trajectory for UVA football.
Just as the Auburn offense was starting to gain traction, they successfully executed an onside kick after tying the game at 14. Auburn needed just five plays on the ensuing possession to take a 21-14 lead. The onside kick alone did not dramatically increase Auburn’s WP. However, when sandwiched between two quick scoring drives, the three events lessened the Hoos WP by more than 40% in approximately four minutes of game time. This sequence was precisely as devastating a blow as it seemed live.
[The Fake FG]
The Hoos were crawling back into the game when they faced a 4th and 6 at the Auburn 15. At the start of that play, their WP stood at 33% with an even 2.00 expected points on the possession. The resulting failed fake dropped their WP to 26%; a significant drop for a single game event.  If the Hoos had taken the field goal, their WP would have slightly increased their to 34%. A first down at the Auburn 9 would have yielded a WP of 42% and 4.83 expected points. Anything over a 44% success rate would make going for it a good decision, as the probability of gaining 9 WP vs. losing 7 WP would even out.  The historical success rate on similar 4th and 6 scenarios (in the NFL) is 42%. Consequently, this was technically a bad decision, although it’s really too close to be significant. Nevertheless, the unsuccessful fake continued the Hoos woes.
Overall, the Hoos defense simply faded after the first quarter; unable to contain the athleticism of the Auburn offense. That, and Onterio McCalebb is fast. It would have been interesting to see what impact Greer and Minnifield could have had on the game.
On a positive note, the passing game was surprisingly efficient. Rocco’s one interception was more of a Parks lateral to an Auburn defender. The offensive game plan as a whole was well constructed; some trickery without detracting from the team’s ability to execute the offense. Bill Lazor needs to be confined to Grounds with outside world contact.
While the game technically doesn’t mean anything for the Hoos, the nationwide exposure could have some positive and negative recruiting effects. On the plus side, recruits saw a team on the rise lead by a charismatic head coach. Conversely, they also saw a team not yet ready to compete against an established SEC program. Given Mike London’s recruiting prowess, I think he’ll be able to emphasize the former. Some major recruits are still undecided, so we’ll see if he can continue his string of strong classes.
Can’t wait for next season.
-  When the Hoos went up 7-0, the WP calculation includes the ensuing kickoff penalty, placing the Auburn offense at the 40. A touchback on the kickoff would have increased the Hoos WP by 3% to 72%. ↩
-  Hurting Auburn’s first QB Moseley was a bad strategic move, as he was 0-2 on drives. They had TDs on 4 of their next 5. ↩
-  Also, Barrett Trotter and his handlebar moustache made me angry. ↩
-  As an objective football fan, that was one of the most impressive onside kicks I have ever seen. The announcers harped on Hoos “turning and running,” but I’m not sure they would have stopped it if they knew it was coming. ↩
-  Although the first blocked punt was a -18% on a single play ↩
-  The play appeared to be blown, as a potential receiver fell down while running out into the flat. Hodges would have had a run/pass option based on the reaction of the covering CB. Not sure who fell, but it was costly. ↩
-  9 x .44 = 7 x .56 ↩