UVA Football: Red-zone troubles have Mendenhall’s attention

uva footballUVA got the ball inside the Miami 30 six times on its 10 possessions Friday night, and came away with a grand total of nine points.

You want to know how a team that held the opponent to 17 points and 265 total yards can lose, that’s how.

“Our execution ultimately offensively inside the 30 became the real story of the game,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday at his weekly presser.

The 30 isn’t technically the red zone, or as Mendenhall calls it, from his days at BYU, the “blue zone,” but the 30 is the edge of field-goal range, and where you’re thinking touchdown.

Mendenhall, fastidious with his attention to numbers, says he expects touchdowns at least 50 percent of the time his offense gets the ball in the red zone.

Through six games, the ‘Hoos have actually beaten that barrier, scoring TDs on 15 of their 27 red-zone possessions, doing the math, 55.5 percent.

That might be a low floor, though, when you look at other success rates.

For instance, Notre Dame, #1 nationally in red-zone scoring conversions, has scored TDs on 19 of its 22 red-zone trips (86.4 percent).

LSU has scored TDs on 29 of its 34 red-zone possessions (85.3 percent).

Looking at those schools’ overall productivity in the red zone, then, you get Notre Dame scoring 6.45 points per red-zone possession, LSU scoring 6.42, and Virginia scoring … 4.78.

One issue here may be changing the metric – 50 percent isn’t even close to what one should be striving for.

Set a higher bar, then, you next have to figure out how to reach that higher bar.

A big issue has been Virginia’s utter inability to get a ground game going. The Cavaliers rank 14th, dead last, in the ACC in rushing (102.0 yards per game), down from last year’s middling (10th in the ACC) 173.2 yards per game.

“Our ineffectiveness or inconsistency in running the ball has had some effect,” Mendenhall said.

Another factor: well, let’s let Mendenhall explain it.

He was finishing his thought on the run-game issue.

“And then concepts that will create a little more space and the ball being delivered where it’s supposed to be and on time with more precision and execution.”

Former UVA quarterback Kurt Benkert noted something similar in a series of tweets posted after the Miami game.

“After going back through the UVA game, it dawned on me that red zone struggles have been a thing since I was there,” Benkert wrote on Twitter.

“Most of our scoring came from 1 on 1 matchups, not by scheme. We also scored more often from taking shots before we got to the (red zone), so the problems were covered up.”

Mendenhall addressed the apparent schematic issue on Monday.

“I think certainly we can consider personnel and who we play and where we play them, maybe more specific an emphasis level in that critical area, and then how we use them,” Mendenhall said.

Story by Chris Graham


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