Inside the Numbers: How badly is the UVA D getting beaten up?

bronco mendenhall
Bronco Mendenhall. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

The Virginia defense averaged more than 20 QB pressures per game in 2019 and 2020. It’s getting nowhere near that amount of pressure on QBs through four games in 2021.

From numbers crunched by Pro Football Focus, the D is averaging 12.8 pressures and 1.8 sacks per game in 2021, down from 20.1 pressures and 3.4 sacks per game in 2020, and 20.5 pressures and 3.6 sacks per game in 2019.

So, about half the sacks, about 60 percent of the pressure.

That’s one measure of how badly the D is getting beaten up front.

Here’s another: the unit is giving up 201.3 rushing yards per game, and a ghastly 5.2 yards per rush, in 2021.

The 2019 and 2020 Ds were much better against the run: the 2019 group giving up 138.1 yards per game and 3.9 yards per attempt, the 2020 numbers being 138.5 yards per game and 3.7 yards per tote.

Analysis: if you’re getting beaten that badly up front, it’s hard to get things fixed behind it.

And things need to get fixed behind it.

One other set of numbers: pass defense efficiency.

The Virginia secondary ranks 13th in the 14-team ACC with a 148.8 passer rating against in 2021.

Last year’s group, which was bad, ranked 15th among the 15 teams in the conference last year with a 154.6 passer rating against.

The 2019 group was 10th with a 136.4 passer rating against.

The good old days were 2018, when the secondary ranked second in the conference with a 107.6 passer rating against.

Back to 2021: the D is getting no pressure on the QB, can’t stop the run, is among the worst in stopping the pass.

When it’s all working, as it was in 2018, it can flow together quite nicely – stopping the run leading to second-and-long, pressure on QBs leading to third-and-toughs and third-down stops.

When it’s not working, the opponents don’t punt until the outcome is decided.

Story by Chris Graham

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