As a UVA alum, I've never tried to disguise the fact that I am biased towards our starting QB. This is now the eighth season that I've watched him play (though I guess the years he was backing up Dogfighter in Atlanta should not count), and what I saw yesterday was, in some ways, a microcosm of the past eight years. This is going to be stupendously long--my apologies. 1. Early struggles in games. What inspired me to write this was a post by Texans Chick in another thread about Schaub starting slowly in games this year. Her observation was that this was not a trend he showed last year. She is, as usual, right, but last year was the aberration. I had forgotten about this until a friend reminded me recently, but Schaub often got off to rocky starts in games at UVA. He authored some of the best comebacks in school history (17 down at Wake, 21 down to UNC, almost erasing a 20 point deficit at GT), but the reason we were trailing was due, in no small part, to his early struggles. Obviously, trailing Wake Forest (even under Jim Grobe) and, say, the Steelers are two entirely different matters, so Schaub definitely needs to get out of the gate quicker. 2. A veteran of QB controversies. For all of his accolades at UVA, Schaub was not a popular favorite for much of his time there. As a sophomore, he split playing time with another, more mobile, sophomore. This was 2001, the year after Vick was drafted by the Falcons; finding "the next Michael Vick" was an obsession everywhere, but especially so in Dogfighter's home state. I don't need to tell you that Schaub is about the polar opposite of Vick in every respect, but, in 2001, that did not endear him to the fans. Worse still was his 0-5 record as a starter that year (sound familiar?). The biggest moments of that season came courtesy of the other QB, though Schaub did play in just about every game. However, in the ensuing offseason, the other QB was (allegedly) embroiled in a mass cheating scandal and transferred to Richmond. So Schaub went into his junior season as the QB by default, but few were excited at the prospect. Which leads me to . . . 2a. The booing of Schaub. Yesterday was not the first time Schaub's home fans booed him and chanted for his backup. In the first game of Schaub's junior season (against Colorado State, of all teams), Schaub struggled early and was yanked in favor of a hyper-mobile freshman. The frosh ignited the team, but the two alternated series as the game went on. Though he played better (once again) in the second half, Schaub was greeted by a smattering of boos each time stepped onto the field--the fans wanted the other guy. It got worse: with UVA trailing 32-29 with about 4:00 left, Schaub air-mailed a pass that Dexter Wynn picked off and returned to the 5. The entire stadium booed mercilessly as he came off the field after the pick. Most everyone assumed (with varying amounts of glee) that Schaub's days as a starter were over as the freshman nearly pulled the game out. The coaches named the freshman the starter for the next game at Florida State. It was not surprising that the Noles swallowed the frosh whole in Tallahassee--what was surprising was that Schaub came in and led the Hoos on 3 long TD drives in the second half (albeit after the Hoos were already down 30). The Hoos still lost, but he looked like a completely different QB. He never looked back, and the booing of Schaub against Colorado State became a moment of UVA lore, somewhat akin to Philly fans booing Santa Claus. [Two weeks ago, my hope was that Schaub was following a similar career arch with the Texans that he did at UVA: first season as a platoon starter (albeit for injury reasons last year), starting his second year as an unpopular choice, struggling early that second year before the light coming on again in North Florida (Jacksonville, this time). That's a little too much superstition, but what the heck?] 3. Protecting the football. Akin to point 1, Schaub's struggles with turnovers almost always occur either early in games or late in games when his team is behind. Once he is dialed in and his team is ahead, the guy becomes Iceman: zero mistakes. In a pique of frustration after the Indy collapse, I went back over the play-by-play of every game Schaub played in his career in college and the pro's to find all the turnovers he committed in the second half where he was ahead in a game (neither I nor my buddies could recall any). I found a total of three in eight years. The first was in his first game back after a month off due to a shoulder injury (see #5, below)--he was off on his throws all that day but managed to pull that game out in another comeback. His second was in the bowl game that year (they still won) where he threw a fade to Heath Miller but the defender made a spectacular play. The last was his rookie season in Atlanta. For all his faults, the guy definitely understands when it is especially inappropriate to take risks with the ball. This can be frustrating when he's throwing 3-yard passes and 3rd and 8, I admit. 4. Attacking downfield. What has really surprised me about Matt during his time here is how persistent he is in attacking the intermediate-to-long zones in the passing games. At UVA, he was derided as the "Duke of Dink" and the "Sultan of the Swing-Pass" because a disproportionate percentage of his throws went to RBs and TEs. Part of that was because UVA had some very ordinary wideouts and an extremely young offensive line during his last two years, but my one doubt upon his acquisition was whether he could go down the field with authority. I think most would agree that he's done well in that regard. 5. Health. Schaub never had a knock for being fragile wihle at UVA. He separated his throwing shoulder the first game of his senior year and missed a month, but that was the only injury of any consequence he had. But he took some huge shots his last two years--UVA those years had virtually no running game and a young OL, so defenders teed off on Matt. Still, getting clocked by a 220 pound college LB and a 250 pound pro are two entirely different matters. So I cannot say whether his injury issues are behind him. In any event, I apologize if this has descended into cheerleading for my fellow Hoo. But some of the parallels between his career at UVA and his time here so far are a bit eerie. Even with the booing yesterday, I'm not worried about his psyche because I've seen him come back from it before. I'm not worried about job insecurity affecting his play because he didn't let it before. I am worried that he needs to come out of the gates with more authority, but I think he can. I know many of you are not convinced that he's the guy going forward. That's totally understandable given the results so far, but if history is indeed repeating itself, we're all in for some fun times. Go Texans!