Virginia football is set to host No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday in the Cavaliers' home opener. Here a few of the top headlines heading into this week's game.
Injuries Hit the Line
UVa head coach Mike London announced on Monday that the Cavaliers will be without two offensive lineman for the season. Red-shirt offensive lineman Jake Fieler and back-up center Eric Tetlow had season-ending surgeries during preseason camps. Remember Fieler at one point had won the right tackle job over Eric Smith.
Also on the injury list is offensive guard Ryan Doull. Virginia did not go into too much detail about the injury, but Doull, was starting at left guard, still remains out of the depth chart, however, is expected to return this season.
Jack McDonald is listed as the No. 1 left guard with John Pond named as the No. 2.
To help with the issues on the line UVa is looking to Jay Whitmire, who missed last season with a back injury. Whitmire played a variety both tackle and guard in the Cavaliers' opening game against UCLA.
“It was good for us that he had been trained to play both inside and outside,” London said, “and that’s how he played in the game, both at guard and at tackle.
“Jay graded out well, according to [offensive line coach Dave Borbely], and felt good coming out of the game.”
Hamm Expected to Contribute
Virginia only had 98 rushing yards against UCLA, so having Daniel Hamm back for Notre Dame will be a great boost for the ground game. Due to a wrist injury on Saturday, Hamm only participated on special teams, but according to London, Hamm is expected to get a few carries against the Fighting Irish.
“We look forward to him having a chance to carry the ball and be a part of this offense,” London said. “And we look forward to him doing it this particular game.”
Taquan Mizzell and Albert Reid are your number one and number two at running back on this week's depth chart.
Feeling the Pressure
After allowing the most offensive yards since 2013 against Clemson, the UVa defense is hoping to regroup and bring on the pressure against Notre Dame and its quarterback Malik Zaire.
“We were disappointed in our performance, overall,” said junior linebacker Zach Bradshaw. “We wished we would have played better— forced more three-and-outs. Our third-down percentage was not that good. ... And you got to force turnovers to win games.”
“He’s [Zaire] different,” Bradshaw said about Notre Dame's dual threat quarterback, "we’re trying to keep him contained.”
Making it Count
UVa football made three trips to the redzone in its loss to UCLA, but only came out with field goals. That was a problem that plagued the Wahoos last season as well-the 'Hoos only scored touchdowns 47% of the times in the redzone.
"When you're in the red zone three times, we needed to put the ball in the end zone. I think that's a game-changer," said UVa quarterback Matt Johns. "That turns into 21 points instead of nine, and that flips the switch and maybe gives us some more momentum going into the second half."
Johns calls it "frustrating" when it happens over and over again. "When it happens once, it's like, `You know what, they made a good stop. They're a good defense. It's going to happen.'"
For the signal caller, however, his touchdown toss to Taquan Mizzell at the end of the game will hopefully inspire the offense moving forward.
"Fortunately we finished the game strong. That's a credit to our players. We're not going to give up. We scored on our last drive, and we've got to build off of that."
Behind Enemy Lines
Tarean Folston, Notre Dame's leading rusher last year, suffered a season-ending knee injury against Texas on Saturday night.
Mizzell had a bright showing against the Bruins. The UVa junior running back finished with a career-high eight receptions and 100 yards.
"It was a good game for him," London said, "and we look forward to more progress from him."
"Numbers don't reflect the job that our running backs did, especially [Mizzell]," said Croce. "He ran the ball much better, much more like a college football running back-one cut, downhill. We just have to get our guys on blocks for a little bit longer, seal off the backside a little longer, and these runs are going to start to pop."
Not the End of the World
Although Virginia opened up the season with a loss, fullback Vincent Croce is putting the loss into perspective.
"I think it's been so effective because we're all on the same page and we all try to preach the same message to the team. So we've just been assuring the team that it's not the end of the world," said Croce. "Yes, we lost a game. Do we want to win them all? Absolutely. But we lost to a very good team. We've all seen the corrections. We know what we have to do moving forward, and it's our job as leadership to ensure that everybody is doing their part in getting those things corrected."