Virginia D hopes to apply lessons learned from Clemson beatdown

uva footballYou can learn from getting smacked in the head, repeatedly. That’s the hope of the guys in the Virginia defense room.

“I mean, I think every learning experience, even though that was not a good experience, you know, you take the things that you learn, you can make that a positive experience,” UVA defensive coordinator Nick Howell said Friday in Fort Lauderdale.

The marks from the stitches from smacks upside the head are still fresh for the Cavaliers, who were touched up for, gulp, 619 yards and 62 points in the ACC Championship Game loss to the defending national champions.

Howell and his assistants didn’t do what a lot of us would have wanted to do: burn the game tape and start over.

The coaches broke down every play, Howell said, and went over what was done right and what was done wrong, in excruciating detail.

“What we talked about is going through each specific play with each particular player and each particular position group and just assess, did we play our best right there, and oftentimes and in most cases, we didn’t play our best,” Howell said. “So, the challenge and the focus — and we had not done that all year, and Clemson, obviously give them credit, they’re a good football team, and they’re a better team than we are right now, but you’d like that to have been a closer football game. You’d like for our kids to put it out there.

“One thing we talk about a lot is just – like when you do your very best and you lay it out there, there’s really nothing else you can do. The outcome is the outcome. We talk about surrendering the outcome and going out there and playing as hard as you possibly can, and that did not happen, so hopefully we take that away from that.”

Outside linebacker Charles Snowden conceded that the exercise in reviewing the Clemson game tape wasn’t anywhere near easy.

“Yeah, got to sit down and watch the tape, which obviously is not easy, but had to learn from it,” said Snowden, who had 67 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, nine quarterback hurries and four sacks in 2019.

“Part of it was an X’s and O’s thing, and another part of it was just pride, knowing that’s not who we are as a team, that’s not what we want to put on film, that’s not how we want to end our season. So, we know we’re a lot better than that. So, to go out and compete on stage against a really good team, again, it’s just something we’re looking forward to get that Clemson taste out of our mouth,” Snowden said.

A key to improving from Clemson to Florida in the Orange Bowl, according to defensive lineman Eli Hanback: “mindset and execution.”

“This is a big stage against a great opponent, and we played a great opponent at Clemson,” said Hanback, who had 33 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks for the UVA D in 2019. “We didn’t play our best game, and we had to play our best game against one of the best teams, defending national champions. That’s something we’ve focused on, and really just focusing on doing your 1/11th, your one job, your one assignment for whatever position you’re playing, and for us to be successful, each guy, all 11 guys have to do their job and not focusing on anything else. We think if we do that, we’ll be successful.”

After a 9-3 regular season, the Clemson game was a “reality check” for Virginia, Hanbacks said.

“I think it really just almost opened our eyes where we need to be at and how we need to play and how we need to prepare,” Hanback said. “We did not play our best game against them. Credit to them, they played amazing, obviously, played an amazing game. All best of luck to them in their next endeavors, but we knew we needed to be better. We needed to prepare for. Like I’ve been saying earlier, just do your 1/11th, that’s the way we look at it. Do your one job. Don’t worry about anything else, and the pieces will fall as they may.”

Story by Chris Graham


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