In the aftermath of Virginia’s 59-10 loss to No. 2 Oregon on Sept. 7, the Cavaliers felt they were prepared for anything going forward.
World-class speed? The Ducks flew by the Wahoos for 350 rushing yards.
An All-American quarterback? UO’s Marcus Mariota had two touchdowns and over 220 yards by halftime.
A quick-strike offense? Oregon didn’t have a touchdown drive last longer than 3:08.
“It’s definitely probably the fastest team I’ve played,” said UVa defensive tackle Brent Urban in the moments following the loss to the Ducks. “It’ll kind of help us the rest of the season when teams don’t have that type of speed. I think it just prepared us for playing any type of explosive player in the future.”
Flash ahead to Saturday and the Cavs got the next closest thing to Oregon on their schedule.
The No. 9 Clemson Tigers were in town, bringing with them, perhaps, the ACC’s most dangerous quarterback-wide receiver combination and the nation’s leader in sacks.
What transpired wasn’t much different than what occurred less than two months earlier.
Clemson (8-1, 6-1 ACC) produced the same scoreboard whipping — 59-10 — but just did it with more yards and less participation from its stars.
Tajh Boyd’s day was done less than five minutes into the third quarter after he hooked up with Sammy Watkins for a 96-yard touchdown that put the Tigers more than comfortably ahead, 42-7.
Boyd threw for 377 yards and accounted for four touchdowns. Mariota, who didn’t quit until the fourth quarter, had 321 total yards (199 passing, 122 rushing) and three scores.
Clemson, with 610, also piled up 53 more yards than Oregon. The Tigers’ longest scoring drive lasted 2:44.
Any glaring differences between a couple of juggernauts on UVa’s 2013 schedule?
“The thing that they have is an accomplished, veteran quarterback,” said Virginia head coach Mike London. “They have vertical threats in their passing game with Watkins and other guys. They threaten you with the read outside and speed sweep plays. They do a lot of things that affect the way you play.
“You can’t miss a tackle and you can’t be a step too late or too slow because they exploit that.”
That statement was similar to London’s post-Oregon reaction.
“We played an excellent football team,” the fourth-year coach said on Sept. 7. “They got on us early and in every phase. We could not stop them defensively and we struggled with interceptions. The players in their system execute and do what they are asked to do.”
Virginia linebacker Henry Coley, who made a team-high 11 stops against Clemson after only making four against Oregon, called the BCS-destined foes “almost exactly the same.”
But what about UVa (2-7, 0-5)? Has anything changed for the ‘Hoos since being blown out the first time this season?
The scoreboard indicates no.
Of course, against the Ducks, the Cavs had their full allotment of defenders. Against the Tigers, they were without cornerbacks Maurice Canady and Demetrious Nicholson as well as Urban.
“Injuries are a part of the game,” London said. “Everybody has injuries on their teams, but when you have three players that are some of your best players, it is difficult. We have to find a way to make things happen for ourselves.”
But injuries couldn’t be an excuse for the other side of the ball.
The Cavaliers welcomed back star tight end Jake McGee on Saturday after he missed the Georgia Tech game, but the junior, often blanketed in coverage, could only make two catches for 12 yards.
Quarterback David Watford completed 16 of 35 passes for 130 yards with an interception and was sacked once. He was 29 of 41 for 161 yards and three picks against Oregon.
Like the Ducks, the Tigers limited the Cavs to less than 300 yards of offense.
“They’re a pretty good team,” said UVa running back Kevin Parks. “I think they pass the eye test. They were pretty big across the board, the whole team. They’re a very good ACC team.”
Virginia will try to break a six-game losing streak on Saturday at North Carolina.