Virginia Defense Looks To Get Back On Track

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Virginia won 9 games.
UVA’s Joey Blount attempts a tackle against ODU. ~ Kris Wright

The Virginia football team generated a lot of excitement for fans late last season as it marched to nine wins. That included a four-game winning streak in November that saw the Hoos take down both of their chief rivals in North Carolina and Virginia Tech. The latter snapped a 15-game skid against the Hokies.

That surge at the end of the season secured UVA’s first ACC Coastal Division title, its first appearance in the ACC Championship Game, and its first invitation to the Orange Bowl.

Still, a little more than a month apart, the co-defensive coordinators for the Cavaliers met with reporters and shared a similar line of thinking. Neither Nick Howell nor Kelly Poppinga could shake the feeling that the defense didn’t play up to the expected standards late last season.

It’s clearly still gnawing at them months later.

“We have a bad taste in our mouth right now,” Howell said in mid April. “We’ve been able to watch the Clemson game multiple times as a staff and with our players. We’ve been able to watch the Florida game multiple times with staff and players. We did some good things, but we did some things where we didn’t put our best out there and we left a lot out there so we’re going like crazy right now and using that as motivation to fix that.”

“We have a bitter taste in our mouth right now of how we finished the season,” Poppinga said in late May. “Props to our offense,