What Virginia Tech football fans need to know about UVA

uva footballSomebody has to ask the question: how does UVA have a winning record with that defense?

Boston College’s backup QB, Dennis Grosel, threw for 520 yards, tying a school record held by (checks notes) Doug Freakin’ Flutie, and UVA won by double digits.

The pass defense is 15th in the ACC (314.7 yards per game). Opposing QBs have a 153.9 passer rating.

That QB would rank third in the ACC, if the aggregate of those 10 guys could be made into one.

Think about that: the average QB performance against UVA this year would be the third-best quarterback in the league.

And they’re 5-4.

How?

Great question.

Let’s stay on defense. The pass D is awful. The run D: pretty stout.

Virginia ranks fourth in the ACC against the run (125.9 yards per game, 3.5 yards per rush), which can make teams one-dimensional.

As bad as the secondary has been, the front seven has been as good.

UVA gets pressure on the QB – averaging 21.4 pressures per game.

The unit should be bolstered by the return of edge linebacker Noah Taylor (PFF season grade: 72.5), who does a little bit of everything – 15 pressures, four sacks, 5.0 tackles per game, one INT (an 85-yard picksix) and two pass breakups.

The best player is probably middle linebacker Nick Jackson (PFF season grade: 72.2), who leads the team with 10.7 tackles per game, with 23 pressures and four sacks.

The other middle ‘backer, Zane Zandier (PFF season grade: 70.5), ain’t bad – 8.2 tackles per game, 28 pressures, two sacks.

The return of safety Joey Blount (PFF season grade: 70.5), who has only played four games this season, but is back and healthy, could make a difference in the secondary for the ‘Hoos.

But, let’s face it, this team’s fortunes rest on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Brennan Armstrong (PFF season grade: 91.4).

UVA is 5-2 in games that Armstrong has finished in 2020.

The offense was supposed to look different with Bryce Perkins (3,530 yards passing, 769 yards rushing, 134.2 passer rating, 33 total TDs in 14 games in 2019) lost to graduation, but …

Armstrong has emerged – throwing for 1,858 yards and 16 TDs and a 145.4 passer rating, running for 533 yards and five TDs on the ground.

OC Robert Anae has been creative this season getting talented backup Keytaon Thompson (PFF season grade: 66.2) on the field after Thompson suffered a shoulder injury in training camp.

Anae has used Thompson in a variety of settings – wildcat, under center for sneaks, slot, flanker, tight end – and to good effect (232 yards rushing, 87 yards receiving, five total TDs).

The tailbacks are … productive, if underused. Wayne Taulapapa (PFF season grade: 71.5) averages 4.5 yards per carry, and Shane Simpson (PFF season grade: 66.1) averages 4.9, though combined the two have run the ball 10 fewer times than Armstrong and Thompson have this season.

Wideout Billy Kemp IV (PFF season grade: 73.3) is this season’s Joe Reed, a speed guy used primarily in the short passing game (58 catches, 571 yards, 9.8 yards per catch).

Anae has a deep threat in 6’7” freshman Lavel Davis Jr. (PFF season grade: 66.5), who is averaging 25.9 yards per catch, with five TDs among his 17 catches, including a 90-yarder in the win over Abilene Christian last month.

Also watch out for 6’7”, 260-pound tight end Tony Poljan (PFF season grade: 69.2), a big target over the middle (10.5 yards per catch, five TDs in 2020).

The O line is experienced and has been pretty good this season – allowing an ACC-low 16 sacks.

In the kicking game, honestly, there were higher expectations for placekicker Brian Delaney (PFF season grade: 70.6), who is 34-for-35 on extra points and 10-for-12 on field goals, with just one attempt (a make) from beyond 40.

The kickoff specialist is Justin Duenkel (PFF season grade: 80.9), who averages 67.1 yards per kickoff, with an average starting field position of 25.1.

Punter Nash Griffin (PFF season grade: 73.5) averages 42.5 yards per kick with a 38.9 yard net.

Story by Chris Graham


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