BTP: Bryce Perkins had an awesome performance against Louisville last weekend, notably hurdling a defender with relative ease. What will the Wolfpack need to do to contain him?
CD: As is the case with most QBs, the key is to get quick and consistent pressure on him. The offensive line has performed better recently, giving Perkins time to find his guy or read what the defense gives him. If Jordan Ellis finds success early and the line gives him a chance to establish a consistent mid-range passing game...he will be a bigger threat. His best performance came against Ohio (25-for-30, 379 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT) where he only needed to use his legs some (10 attempts for eight yards) as Olamide Zaccheaus and Jordan Ellis just dominated. Last week against Louisville, Perkins was confident in all aspects of his game. He’s shown that he can be accurate downfield, but can also literally run over opponents. Forcing him into consistently broken plays and making him change plans on the fly is the biggest thing you can do to limit his damage...or have it rain and make his receivers drop the ball.
BTP: Bronco Mendenhall notably raised eyebrows at ACC Media days when he said that UVA only had 27 ACC caliber players, but so far he has the Cavs playing like one of the better teams in the conference. What has he been able to do to have UVA playing so well?
CD: Well, we take issue with the way that statement was initially reported as it drastically misconstrued his intent and ignored important context. That number of 27 didn’t count those that had graduated, nor the incoming class. That’s neither here-nor-there, however. Bronco and the coaching staff have done an outstanding job preparing this group (especially with regards to strength and conditioning), and it’s clear that the experienced players are more comfortable with schemes and plays on both sides of the ball. There’s still a ton of young players (especially on the defensive line) and some injury issues (especially with linebackers), but the athleticism improving on both sides of the ball seems like it’s allowed coordinators more creativity and ability to go a little deeper in the playbook.
BTP: Who on the Wolfpack offense presents the most trouble for UVA? How about on defense?
CD: Ryan. Finley. My. God. The arm on that dude is going to be a problem. When you come into a game averaging 370 yards passing as a team...that’s terrifying. I think the Virginia secondary has improved over the course of the season and guys like Juan Thornhill and Bryce Hall are trouble for receivers, but the talent Finley possesses is something to behold. Defensively, I’m going to say the defensive line. I know it’s a bit of a cop out to go with a unit or group rather than a person, but getting Jordan Ellis going is so crucial to our offense. He’s been an absolute workhorse and if we want the passing game to make any noise, we have to get that train going early and often.
BTP: Heading into Saturday, which player should NC State fans know about that maybe doesn’t get much notoriety, but will still play a major role for the Cavs?
CD: I’ll give you one on each side of the ball. Hasise Dubois (16 receptions, two TDs, 180 yards in four games) is one of my favorite players on the team. He’s second on the team in receptions and yardage, and is a good downfield blocker (which is maybe my favorite thing in football). At 6’3”, 215 lbs, he’s a physically strong player, and he’s got good hands (omg please don’t drop a ton now that I’ve jinxed him). Defensively, I have to shout out my new favorite player the Abominable Snowden aka Charles Snowden. He’s a 6’7” linebacker who had a team high eight tackles, one INT, one fumble recovery, two pass break ups, and a sack against Louisville. Snowden is everywhere, and he’s going to have a lot more expectations placed on him now that both senior Malcolm Cook and junior Jordan Mack are out with injuries.
BTP: Suddenly the Coastal looks up for grabs - how do you see the rest of the season playing out for the Cavs?
CD: It’s definitely wide open! I think Miami and Duke are the two that are the early “class” of the Coastal, but after that? I wasn’t impressed with VT in their opening win over FSU and feel pretty validated after that loss to ODU. Defensively, they’re thin, and now with starting QB Josh Jackson out...we’ll see. Virginia is right up there in my opinion because Pitt, GT and UNC haven’t looked good. At all. This stretch with Louisville, NC State and Miami is arguably the toughest of the season so far, and if the Hoos can take one of the next two and go 2-1...things are looking good for a return to a bowl game. I’ll hold off on any official predictions until after I see the Hoos play a good ACC team (y’all).
BTP: Let’s get a prediction for Saturday - who leaves Carter-Finley with a victory?
CD: Yeah, I see this one being a hard fought battle with the Wolfpack coming out on top by less than a touchdown. I’ll say 35-31 final?