Andrew Brown led the Virginia Cavaliers with 13 tackles for loss and was second on the team with 6 sacks a year ago, the type of production Cavalier fans had expected from the then-junior ever since he arrived on Grounds as a 5-star athlete out of Chesapeake in 2014.
Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall entered 2017 preseason camp looking for the 6’4”, 285-pound senior to build off of last season’s performance, which meant becoming a more complete player at the defensive end position. This meant improving in one area in particular.
“Coach Mendenhall and [defensive line coach] Vic (So’oto), their biggest emphasis for me coming into camp was stopping the run,” Brown said. “They know I have the athleticism to come off the edge in pass rush, but now it’s time to show the world that I can stop the run as well.”
“I’ve definitely come a long way in the run game,” Brown said.
With the exception of some quarterback scrambles, Virginia’s defense has fared well against the run so far in 2017. The Cavaliers surrendered 168 yards in the season opening win over William & Mary. However, running backs only managed 83 yards and 3.46 yards per carry in that contest. Tribe quarterback Tommy McKee accounted for 89 yards on the ground, with most of those yards coming in scramble situations.
UVA held Indiana’s running backs to just 70 yards and 2.69 yards per carry. The Hoosiers gained 111 on the ground in total, 26 of which came on a touchdown run by quarterback Peyton Ramsey.
Following a stat-less performance against William & Mary, Brown emerged against Indiana with 6 tackles, 2 of which went for a loss, and a forced fumble. The performance was exactly what Mendenhall was hoping to see from his standout senior.
“That was his best football game since I’ve been the coach here,” Mendenhall said during Monday’s weekly press conference. “He’s learning to play run defense. Until maybe this last game he’s been inconsistent in playing run defense. He loves to get off the ball, loves to rush the passer and go up field and cause disruption. In run game defense, that actually works against you because it creates seams and gaps. He played assignment sound, productive, physical, reliable, consistent football. I only remember one play. I think it was the first quarterback run when their new quarterback came in that he didn’t play appropriately in terms of his run responsibility and that’s giant progress. It helped him and it helped our team.”
Especially in a 3-4 defensive set, sophomore defensive lineman Juwan Moye says, it’s important for every player to maintain their designated positioning and responsibility. One misstep hinders the entire defense.
Of Brown’s performance against the Hoosiers, Moye noted: “He played in the scheme of the defense. He understands he can make plays just by doing his job. He doesn’t have to do extra spectacular things.”
“He became a more complete player [against Indiana],” Mendenhall said of Brown. “Now that’s the first of many more games this year, but I was encouraged because he became a more total player.”