New look, feel to UVA offense after success late in FSU win

uva footballVirginia took possession with 5:48 to go in the third, down 17-10 to Florida State, and the ‘Hoos offense was, in a word, stifled.

UVA had 223 yards of total offense on 45 snaps across eight possessions, averaging 4.96 yards per play, and hadn’t scored since the 8:58 mark of the second quarter.

We know what was to happen from here. The Cavaliers scored touchdowns on each of their final three possessions, drives of 75, 75 and 72 yards.

Factor out FSU penalties, and the production for the UVA offense was 192 yards on 27 plays, an average of 7.1 yards per play.

Quarterback Bryce Perkins had been 15-of-22 passing for 145 yards and two INTs on Virginia’s first eight drives.

The final three: 15-of-18, 150 yards, one touchdown.

Obvious question: what the frick?

“Our offensive staff and the adjustments we made that led to the number of consecutive completions, and the consistency that then led to 21 points in the fourth quarter was the ideal script,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said.

That’s generalities. As to specifics, what I saw was an emphasis on a sort of West Coast offense-type passing game, starting with quick passes to Terrell Jana in the slot – four on the first drive in the sequence, two more at the start of the second drive.

The short passes opened things up, in turn, for Joe Reed, who outraced the safety to the corner on a 12-yard TD pass to conclude the first drive, and Joe Reed, who sprung open downfield for a 35-yard gain to set up the TD on the third.

There was also something of an accumulation effect at play. The FSU offense was at its best running tempo, but tempo teams can tend to struggle in terms of time of possession, exposing their companion defensive units to more time on the field and more snaps.

And that was at play Saturday night. The FSU defense was on the field for 39:44 of game action, and coach Willie Taggart acknowledged afterward that fatigue was a factor in the fourth quarter.

Mendenhall saw the same thing from the opposite sideline.

“Eventually that style of play would place the burden on the defense to where they’ll end up not being able to execute either through consistency or being just tired. That had shown in the first two games and manifest again in our game, so it was 21 points based on adjustments we made executing those things,” Mendenhall said.

Might this be the new look for UVA offensively going forward?

Sounds like it.

“I saw improvement, I guess, is the bottom line,” Mendenhall said. “I also saw a clearer identity in who we are as an offense as a core, and then our branch-outs and off-shoots will come more from there. That was pretty much manifest in the second half, more in the fourth quarter.”

Story by Chris Graham


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