99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff

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Virginia kicks off football season in fewer than 100 days.
Juan Thornhill celebrates an interception last season. ~ Kris Wright

The most recent entry in the “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series looked at something that troubled the UVA defense last season because quarterbacks had some success running the football. For the next article, I thought it would be fair to look at something on the opposite side of the spectrum.

One thing the defense did well last season: steal the ball in the air. How good was it? Let’s look.

No. 90 – Interceptions

One area that The Sabre has kept tabs on for a while is turnover margin because it’s played a big role in the program’s struggles through the years. While the team still finished with a negative turnover margin last season, it was a small number. The Hoos ended up -1 for turnovers on the season. That’s one reason they made it back to a bowl.

Something that played a big role in that category last season was interceptions. The Cavaliers snared 15 picks in 2017, good enough to tie for 23rd nationally. More important than the national ranking, however, is how much better that number was than the previous two seasons. In 2015 and 2016, the Hoos tallied 13 interceptions combined with four in Mike London’s final season and nine in Mendenhall’s first season.

In fact, UVA’s 15 interceptions in 2017 matched the best number from the previous decade. The 2014 team also had 15 picks. Only two Virginia teams have posted more INTs dating back to the 1998 season, the beginning of the archives on VirginiaSports.com.

The 2001 team totaled 18 as five different players had multiple picks. Shernard Newby led the way with five, Chris Williams and Jamaine Winborne each had three, and Angelo Crowell and Jerton Evans each had two. Earl Sims, Almondo Curry, and Jermaine Hardy had one each. The 1998 team had 16. The 2002 and 2005 teams each had 15 too.

Of note, all but two of those seasons with 15 or more picks since 1998 ended with a bowl game. The 2001 team and the 2014 team each missed it by one game with a 5-7 record.

  • 2017: 15
  • 2016: 9
  • 2015: 4
  • 2014: 15
  • 2013: 10
  • 2012: 4
  • 2011: 12
  • 2010: 11
  • 2009: 12
  • 2008: 11
  • 2007: 11
  • 2006: 10
  • 2005: 15
  • 2004: 9
  • 2003: 13
  • 2002: 15
  • 2001: 18
  • 2000: 10
  • 1999: 15
  • 1998: 16

The good news is that most of the interceptors from 2017 are back. Brenton Nelson and Juan Thornhill both return after snaring four picks each last season, while Chris Peace, Bryce Hall, and Chris Moore are all back after making one interception each last season. Only Quin Blanding, who also had four INTs last season, is gone.

If Virginia can get multiple players in on the interception act again in 2018, that will be a big boost to the defense. The secondary is expected to be a strength for this season’s team so it will be interesting to keep track of the INT numbers as the year unfolds.

Since starting the “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series, more than a week has passed. Topics so far have included Jordan Mack, Han Solo, and recent transfer commit Cassius Peat among others. The previous articles are below. Click away.

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1 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Kris- This is fantastic and I think we will all begin to see Bronco’s defense especially get better as his BYU teams were consistently in the top 25 and two were in the top 5. Also, Coach Anae’s offenses consistently scored over 30 points a game. When you hold your opponents to under 21 a game and score over 30, you usually come out on top.

    Love your stuff,


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