Anae on offensive tempo: ‘Hang on to your hats, boys’

Brennan Armstrong
Brennan Armstrong. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

The UVA offense ran 84 plays in the 38-20 win over Duke in the season opener on Saturday, the most for a Virginia team since Week 2 in 2017.

The ‘Hoos ran a snap every 24.7 seconds Saturday, harkening back to offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s days at BYU, when he pushed tempo with quarterback Taysom Hill, now in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints in the slash role.

What you saw Saturday was by design, which is to say, you can expect to see Virginia pushing tempo on offense in 2020 with sophomore quarterback Brennan Armstrong at the controls.

“You know, every year is new, and we are working on our new identity, and this is part of our new identity,” Anae said Wednesday.

The trick to going tempo on offense is trusting your QB, which says a lot about what Anae and Mendenhall think of Armstrong, the first player recruited as a prep to UVA to start under Mendenhall and Anae.

“We thought it might give us just an edge in terms of tempo, and hopefully playing fast and executing fast, getting rhythm momentum and confidence. Our intent was to be aggressive rather than tentative, even though we have a new quarterback. That was a way that we thought symbolically we could tell him we have confidence in him. And even put a little bit more on his plate, but we thought he can handle it,” Mendenhall said.

Armstrong, as you probably expected, struggled early, but as the game worn on, it seemed to slow down for him, and he and the offense peaked in crunch time.

Armstrong was 8-of-9 for 144 yards and two TDs in the fourth quarter as Virginia rallied from a 20-17 deficit.

“It was good to see him kind of get into the flow of the game, battle back, show resiliency, and, you know, in the game with our better foot forward,” Anae said.

There might be a temptation to dial back a bit on the tempo this week at #1 Clemson, a 27.5-point favorite going into the 2019 ACC Championship Game rematch in Death Valley in prime time Saturday night on the ACC Network.

“Now we’re going to have a chance to reevaluate look at it and then decide where in that lies going into weeks two and further on,” Mendenhall said. “Brennan’s aggressive and he’s comfortable going fast and making decisions quickly. That doesn’t mean that’s all we’ll do, it doesn’t mean it’s primarily what we’ll do, but we thought it would give him his best chance in his first college start.”

Note that Mendenhall relayed these thoughts to reporters on Monday.

Today, Anae seemed to indicate that the tempo thing wasn’t a one-off just for Duke.

“Hang on to your hats, boys. Hopefully we go faster, and you just sit there and go, Wow, man, what’s going on down there?” Anae said.

Story by Chris Graham

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