Inside the Numbers: How UVA football surprised Georgia Tech
Run D solid again Four weeks ago, UVA head coach Mike London made some changes on the defensive side of the ball aimed at simplifying the scheme with the goal of getting the D to get out of trying to read and react and instead play with more aggression.
The run defense in particular has been solid since, and was a key factor in Saturday’s 27-21 win over Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets came in averaging 283.4 yards per game on the ground with their triple-threat option attack, but on Saturday gained just 144 yards on the ground on 33 carries.
Quarterback Justin Thomas was able to get the Jackets back into the game in the fourth quarter through the air, throwing for 172 yards on 9-of-20 passing, but that was Paul Johnson conceding that the run game wasn’t working as much as anything.
Time of possession Virginia had a big advantage here – 36:43 to 23:17. And that’s with Georgia Tech getting back-to-back possessions late after recovering the onsides kick.
And look at the UVA rushing offense London didn’t go public with any switches to the offensive attack, but it’s obvious that the power running game that offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild had said before the season was a priority is starting to take shape.
Virginia ran for a season-high 233 yards on 42 rushes on Saturday, and over their last four the Cavs have averaged 187.8 yards per game, after averaging an ACC-low 92.2 yards per game through the first four games of 2015.
Through the first four weeks, UVA was averaging 3.0 yards per play on the ground. Over the last four, the Cavs are gaining 4.8 yards per play on the ground.
Where there’s Smoke, there’s fire Taquan Mizzell had 75 yards on 14 rushes on Saturday, after gaining 117 yards on 24 carries in last week’s 26-13 loss at UNC.
For the season, Mizzell has 446 yards rushing and 499 yards receiving on a team-high 46 catches. In addition to the 100-yard rushing game, the junior also has two 100-yard receiving games (100 yards vs. UCLA in Week 1, 123 yards vs. William and Mary in Week 3).
Blanding finally getting comfortable? Sophomore safety Quin Blanding seemed early on this season to be having trouble adjusting to his move from strong safety to free safety, but his play of late seems to suggest that he’s finally getting comfortable with his dual roles of calling the signals and flying to the ball.
Blanding had a team-high 15 tackles on Saturday, the third straight game that Blanding has led the UVA defense in tackles in a game.
Micah Kiser still has the team lead in tackles for the season with 79. Blanding is a close second with 75 tackles.
Big plays We define big plays as runs of eight yards or more and passes of 10 yards or more. Breaking down Saturday’s play-by-play, UVA had 16 big plays for 265 yards.
Georgia Tech had 16 big plays for 327 yards.
– Column by Chris Graham
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