Al Groh often stated in the weeks leading up to the Gator Bowl that a victory would require exceptional play from all three operations – the offense, defense and special teams. Well, the Cavalier special teams, as it has all season, delivered a mixed-bag performance and while the offense was effective at times, second half breakdowns doomed the Hoos.
Some readers may find my defensive grades high considering the scoring, Texas Tech’s high passing yardage and YPC, plus the high rate of third and fourth down conversions. But when a defense holds an opponent below their seasonal averages in virtually every offensive category, that’s a championship caliber effort and that’s what the Cavalier defense delivered in the Gator Bowl. So let’s change things up and start with them.
Overall Grade: 83.51 (B)
I thought this was a total team effort and so much of our analysis will apply to every unit. As we review our four primary keys to the game for the Virginia defense they included:
Pressure and physicality
Limiting yards after catch (YAC)
Force the Raiders to be patient and make them make play-after-play and convert multiple first downs to score
Dominate the red zone
As noted above, the defense held Texas Tech below its season average in nearly every offensive category.
The Virginia pass defense held Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell to a 127.67 QB rating (his third lowest of the season). The Cavs also held the Raider triggerman to a 63.8% completion percentage, which tied the Hoos with Missouri for the top mark defensively against Tech this season. The 407 passing yards were the third least by the TT offense in 2007.
Virginia also did an excellent job limiting TT’s quick-strike capability by forcing the Raiders to sustain drives to score. Seven of Tech’s 14 drives went seven plays or more and Virginia forced Tech to punt four times (the second highest game total on the season). The Hoos forced five three-and-outs (or fewer plays) on a team that had tallied 16 total ALL SEASON (1.3 per game).
Another focus for the defense was to limit the YAC and again the operation was stellar. The open field tackling and help effort was there and held the Raiders in check, limiting an offense that produced 49 plays in excess of 25 yards...
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