50 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff: Red Zone Defense

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Virginia won eight games last season.
Virginia reduced opponents’ touchdown rate in the red zone last season. ~ Photo courtesy Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

The Virginia football team won eight games a year ago with its first bowl victory since 2005. The defense played a major role in that success. The Hoos ranked in the top 25 nationally in multiple categories from interception to total defense.

The “50 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series is back to look at one reason why the defense was so good.

28 – Red Zone Defense Drops But Gains

UVA’s defense proved to be stingy when it came to scoring last season. The Cavaliers gave up 21 or fewer points in seven games and allowed just 20.1 points per game. That ranked 21st in the country. Only National Champion Clemson (13.1 ppg) and Miami (19.5 ppg) were better in the ACC.

Virginia kept opponents’ scoring down, in part, by keeping them from even getting close to the end zone. Opponents managed to get inside the 20-yard line just 33 times all season long. That tied for 11th nationally and represented the best showing for Bronco Mendenhall’s defense so far in Charlottesville.

With relatively few chances in the red zone, that put a premium on making the most of those opportunities. UVA took a step back in scoring percentage allowed from 2017, but took a big step forward in the touchdown rate. Overall, opponents scored 28 times inside the red zone (that was tied for 15th nationally, though it came at a high 28 for 33 rate) with