State of the Program, Part 2: The Offense

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With Marques Hagans at QB, the Cavaliers became a power running team in 2004.

Following his team’s 35-14 loss at Penn State in 2002, Virginia coach Al Groh was asked about the difference between the two teams. He gave a succinct answer: “Power.”

At the time, even as the Cavaliers were on their way to a surprising nine-win season, Groh wasn’t pleased with their lack of size, strength and power, particularly on offense. The running backs were young. The offensive line was light. The ground game was among the worst in the country.

Virginia still managed to move the ball and win its share of games – more than its share? – with a West Coast passing attack and some well-timed and executed trick plays. But Groh, who preaches toughness at every turn, had a different vision for his offense. He didn’t just want one that could out-finesse or outsmart opponents. He wanted one that could overpower them.

Finally, last year, he had it. The 2004 Virginia offense was, in many ways, the kind of attack that Groh spent four years trying to build. He had experienced backs and veteran linemen who had gone through Evan Marcus’s strength program several times. Junior tackles D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Brad Butler, who had started as freshmen, were among those with dramatic weight and strength gains.

The result was a seismic shift from the short passing game of 2001-2003 to almost a pure power running game in 2004, as the numbers attest…

Rushing yards per game

2001: 106.0

2002: 126.9

2003: 130.2

2004: 242.8

Rushing attempts per game

2001: 31.3

2002: 34.7

2003: 33.8

2004: 45.8

Rushing yards per carry

2001: 3.4

2002: 3.7

2003: 3.9

2004: 5.3

Rushing TDs

2001: 5