After two bye weeks with a Friday night game against Campbell smashed in between, it feels like it has been a month since the Deacs last played a conference game. That will change on Saturday, as Wake is finally getting back into ACC action with a home game against the Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavs are 1-2 on the season and are coming off a 17 point home loss to NC State. Let’s take a quick look at the UVA offense to prepare for this week’s matchup.
The UVA offense has been pretty average so far this season. The Hoos are averaging 27.3 points and 424 yards per game, putting them at 57th and 33rd in the nation in those categories respectively (out of the 76 teams that have played). The thing that jumps out immediately about the UVA offense is that they pass the ball—a lot. In fact, the only team averaging more passes than Virginia’s 51.3 attempts per game is Mississippi State under air raid connoisseur Mike Leach. Adding to that, UVA is one of only two teams in the ACC averaging more passes per game than runs, the other being Boston College. Even after starter Brennan Armstrong went down with a concussion last week (currently listed as day to day), the Hoos kept right on slinging it, as backup Lindell Stone finished the game with 54 passing attempts. That means there is a really good chance we will see a plethora of passes on Saturday.
Despite being 2nd in the nation in passing attempts, Virginia is just 20th in passing yards at 285 yards per game and 70th in yards per attempt at 5.6. Part of that may be due to the quarterback play; starter Brennan Armstrong is completing just 55% of his passes, while backup Lindell Stone is just a hair better at 56%. Combined, the two are completing 56% of their passes, which is 64th out of the 76 teams in FBS this season—not exactly a good sign for a team throwing it over 50 times a game. They are also averaging 2.3 interceptions per game, which is once again 2nd in the nation, behind only Mississippi State.
The other reason for the passing yards disparity—relative to the number of attempts—is that most of the passes in their air raid style offense just don’t go very far. Virginia uses an abundance of hitches, slants, and shallow cross style routes that are easy to read and develop quickly. They also use plenty of pre-snap motion, often moving the running back out wide to spread the defense and try to get Wayne Taulapapa the ball in the flat. In those instances, being able to make 1 on 1 tackles will be crucial for the Wake Forest defense. In the play below, you can see how the motion causes the defense to spread out, allowing Terrell Jana to take literally 2 steps forward and just turn around for a 10 yard gain.
The running game, on the other hand, has pretty much been a non-factor for the Cavaliers so far this season. Through 3 games, they have run the ball 104 times for 407 yards and 3 touchdowns. 188 of those yards and all 3 of those touchdowns came week 1 against Duke. Against the Wolfpack last weekend, UVA managed just 82 yards rushing and 2.8 yards per carry against a three man front. After that performance, it would not shock me to see Bronco Mendenhall put a bigger emphasis on the ground game this week, especially since the Deacs have struggled against the run this season.
Overall, though, the Deacs should expect a lot of dink and dunk style pass plays on Saturday.