In The Sabre’s weekly Priorities, Picks & Power Players piece, I said “Look for a major improvement in the Virginia running game this week, which should lead to some better ball control numbers, a fresher fourth quarter defense and a better showing against the run. I see an upset coming in Chapel Hill.” The Cavalier offense did exactly that and, coupled with a strong defensive performance, Virginia was able to secure its first win of the season and make me look really smart.
Ras-I Dowling and the Cavalier defense is holding down passing numbers.
4th Quarter Production. I noted in the weekly Priorities, Picks & Power Players piece that “Clearly the defense is wearing down late as Virginia has surrendered 3.18 yards per carry rushing in the first three quarters of games and 6.92 in the fourth quarter. In fact, opponents have only 41 fewer rushing yards in the three final quarters than in the earlier nine.” That trend stopped Saturday as the Cavaliers dominated the 4Q with 10:07 of time of possession, 57 rushing yards to Carolina’s three and 82 total yards to UNC’s 40, most of which came through the air on underneath routes which Virginia was willing to surrender since the game was no longer in doubt. UVa outscored the Heels 7-0.
Pass Defense. Virginia’s pass defense entered the Carolina game tied for 12th in the nation allowing 5.3 YPA passing and 25th in yards per game allowed (163.7). UNC entered the game completing 60.4% of its passes for 7.2 yards per attempt. The Cavalier pass defense held the Heels to 55% and a remarkable 3.8 yards per attempt. Even more impressive is that Virginia’s coverage success in the first three games had come without much of pass rush. What may be a big concern for future opponents is that Virginia got pressure on T.J. Yates on Saturday to the tune of (unofficially) eight QB pressures, six knockdowns, three batted passes, and 2 additional pass break-ups. The Cavaliers now rank third in the nation in lowest yards per attempt (4.9) and 8th in passing yards per game (156.5).
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