By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Shawn Moore was eager to get to the West Coast this week, in part because he knew that Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles awaited him in Los Angeles.
“One of my all-time favorite places,” said Moore, who fell hard for the restaurant when he played quarterback in the NFL.
The promise of mouth-watering food, of course, was not the only thing that excited Moore about the trip. At 10:30 p.m. Eastern time Saturday, UVa (1-0) meets 16th-ranked Southern California (1-0) at the L.A. Coliseum.
Moore is in his first year as wide receivers coach at his alma mater, and the “one thing I’ve preached all week is this is an opportunity to play on a national stage,” he said on a teleconference Wednesday night.
“I don’t think a lot of people are expecting us to do well against this team, but I think as well as we’ve been practicing, and with the confidence these guys are playing with right now,” Virginia has a legitimate shot.
The Trojans are “going to be fast, they’re going to be big, and they’re going to be strong,” Moore said. “But I think we play in a pretty competitive conference … I fully expect us to be competitive and have an opportunity to win this football game.”
New coordinator Bill Lazor’s pro-style offense piled up 205 yards rushing and 283 passing last weekend in UVa’s 34-13 win over Richmond. USC opened with a 49-36 win at Hawaii. The Trojans gained 524 yards but allowed 588.
“It’s hard to really take anything from what Hawaii did. Hawaii is a spread offense,” Moore said. “The one thing we did see is, if you’re the type of team with a pro offense and you run a three- or four-wideout set in third-and-long, you basically got a glimpse of what SC’s defense did in a third-and-long type situation when you bring that extra receiver in the game.
“Just watching, I think they won’t play the same type of defense that they did against Hawaii, because in Hawaii they basically had to take a linebacker out and keep their nickel and dime [defenses] in at all times, because Hawaii had the threat of that extra receiver in the game. But we did get to see the personnel. We got to see the linebackers run. We saw the defensive line. They didn’t really get a lot of push in the Hawaii game, but I think that’s a tribute to Hawaii’s [offensive line]. Those guys did a hell of a job of blocking.”
By seeing some “of the things that Hawaii did,” Moore said, “just in terms of getting the ball out quick and their draw plays, those type of deceptive plays, I think we were able to gain some information in terms of how we can attack the SC defense.”
By the end of training camp last month, three of Moore’s wideouts — senior Dontrelle Inman, junior Kris Burd and sophomore Tim Smith — had separated themselves from the other receivers.
Against Richmond, Inman and Burd each had a career-high 7 catches. But Smith had only 1 reception, for 8 yards, and dropped an on-the-mark pass from quarterback Marc Verica.
“Watching those other two guys catch balls in the first half, I think Timmy wasn’t really playing with a sense of urgency,” Moore said, “and that’s one thing I’ve been trying to preach to him: You’ve got to play fast at all times. I think he just relaxed on that pass out in the flats that he dropped. He started running before he caught the ball, and it didn’t allow him to focus on the ball and catch it and then run. But I think he’s going to be fine. I think he learned from that experience this past game that, ‘Hey, I’ve got to come out and play fast and be ready to perform at all times.’ And hopefully he will have his breakout game this week. I’m looking forward to seeing him play.”
A season ago, Jared Green had 15 catches, the third-most of any UVa wideout. Green is still on the team, but Moore said another junior, Matt Snyder, has become the No. 4 receiver.
“He’s a guy that I’m comfortable with if one of those three guys go down,” Moore said. “Matt Snyder could step right in, and I don’t feel like we’ll miss a beat. He’s tough. Not as explosive as those guys” — Inman, Burd and Smith — “but knows his assignments, and he’s a guy that I can count on when I put him in.”