50 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff: More Points

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Virginia won eight games in 2018.
Bryce Perkins returns as Virginia’s starting quarterback. ~ Kris Wright

If you felt like you were swaying to the Good Old Song more often last season, it wasn’t illusion. That’s because the Virginia football team scored its most points in a decade. By far.

Cue up the Cavalier Marching Band and sway along to the next article in the “50 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series.

40 – More Points!

UVA picked up eight wins and a bowl victory in 2018. That marked the most wins and the program’s first winning record since 2011. It was also the first bowl win since 2005.

A big reason why: the Hoos scored more points. In fact, they scored the most points for a Virginia team in the last decade. The was a full 60 points better – nearly 9 touchdowns worth – than the next closest output from the 2014 team. Obviously, most of those seasons weren’t bowl seasons but even if you take out the 28 points scored in in the Belk Bowl shutout of South Carolina, the 2018 team is the run-away winner.

Here’s the year-by-year list:

  • 2009 – 232
  • 2010 – 304
  • 2011 – 302
  • 2012 – 273
  • 2013 – 237
  • 2014 – 310
  • 2015 – 309
  • 2016 – 270
  • 2017 – 293
  • 2018 – 370

Make no mistake, there’s still a long way to go. The Hoos ranked just 68th (tie) nationally last year at 28.5 points per game. That was the highest points per game ranking since the 2010 team finished 75th (tie) at 25.3 points per game, but it was a full 4.0 points per game away from the top 25 scoring teams a year ago. Within the ACC, nine teams scored more points than the Cavaliers. (Side note: just other examples of how scoring has gone up in college football.)

Regardless, there was clear improvement for the offense in terms of putting points on the board. The Wahoos scored 100 more points than Bronco Mendenhall’s first season at UVA and 77 more points than the 2017 team. As someone who has written for years that the Cavaliers’ offense needed to score more points for the team to be more successful, it was good to finally see a big increase.

Within the scoring uptick, a trend continued. Since offensive coordinator Robert Anae arrived with Mendenhall, the Hoos have created more explosive scoring plays of 25+ yards than most seasons over the last decade. Last season, Virginia tallied 14 scoring plays of at least 25 yards. That was similar to 2017 and more than all but one year from 2009-2016:

  • 2009: 6 in 12 games (4 passes, 2 runs), 8 of 12 games with 0
  • 2010: 6 in 12 games (4 passes, 2 runs), 6 of 12 games with 0
  • 2011: 12 in 13 games (10 passes, 2 runs), 4 of 12 games with 0
  • 2012: 6 in 12 games (5 passes, 1 run), 8 of 12 games with 0
  • 2013: 4 in 12 games (1 pass, 3 runs), 9 of 12 games with 0
  • 2014: 5 in 12 games (4 passes, 1 run), 7 of 12 games with 0
  • 2015: 15 in 12 games (12 passes, 3 runs), 3 of 12 games with 0
  • 2016: 8 in 12 games (7 passes, 1 run), 6 of 12 games with 0
  • 2017: 17 in 13 games (16 passes, 1 run), 6 of 13 games with 0
  • 2018: 14 in 13 games (12 passes, 2 runs), 5 of 13 games with 0

First of all, three of the four best seasons in that list resulted in bowl bids so being able to score points quickly and score more points overall is a key part of a team’s success.

Anae’s first season was better in that category than all but two of the five years before his arrival. His second season featured the most long touchdown plays in the last decade. His third season topped all of the other UVA offenses prior to his arrival except for the 2015 team.

The 2016 season represents the only one since 2013 where Anae’s teams produced explosive touchdowns of 25+ yards in the single digits. As the offensive coordinator at BYU and UVA since 2013, his teams have scored 15, 16, 12, 8, 17, and 14 touchdowns of 25 or more yards. That’s an average of 13.7 long touchdowns per season or approximately one per game. If you throw out the first year at Virginia, the average climbs to 14.8 long touchdowns per season.

Building off of that, there are two big picture questions for the Virginia offense in 2019. First, will the Cavaliers increase their total points again? With Bryce Perkins back at quarterback, an improving offensive line, and several other returning players on offense, there is hope for optimism in that regard.

Secondly, will they continue to produce big scoring plays? Anae’s offenses generally have produced long scoring plays so it seems reasonable that this season could follow suit. With Joe Reed and Hasise Dubois back at receiver, the offense will still have two of its big play targets in the fold. That duo combined for seven 25+ yard touchdowns in 2018. So that’s at least a good starting point.

50 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff
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