We tackled the offense yesterday, so lets get right into the preview for the Virginia Cavaliers defense.
The Virginia defense has been pretty good this season. Through 3 games, the Hoos are giving up 33 points and just 390 yards per game, good for 57th and 35th in the nation respectively. They have been far better against the run than the pass, allowing just 124 yards on the ground per game—if you don’t like to do math, I’ll tell you that comes out to 266 yards allowed through the air. While they do give up more yards in the passing game, the Cavs are 4th in the nation with 2 interceptions per game; that number might be slightly skewed, however, by their 5 interception game in the opener against Duke.
In the run game, Virginia is led by linebackers Nick Jackson and Zane Zandier, who have combined for 60 tackles and 4 tackles for loss this season. As previously stated, the Cavaliers have been very good against the run this year. Against Duke, UVA gave up just 56 yards on 38 rushing attempts for a 1.5 yard average. That seems kind of good. They also managed to “hold” Travis Etienne to just 73 yards on 14 carries—which is still 5.2 yards per carry, but lower than his career average of almost 8 yards per carry. Last week, the Cavs held a Wolfpack team that ran for 270 yards against Wake Forest to 179 yards on 42 carries (4.2 ypc). That means the Deacs may have to rely on the pass more in this one.
Speaking of, the Cavaliers have been pretty solid against the pass this year too. It’s hard to tell if that’s due to good defense or just the inept passing abilities of Duke and NC State. Duke quarterback Chase Brice completed just 16 of his 36 passes with 4 interceptions against UVA, while NC State quarterback Devin Leary completed a whopping 11 of his 25 passes last week. The only other game Virginia has played was against Clemson, and Trevor Lawrence completed 25 of his 38 attempts for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns. So basically, the Cavaliers have faced 2 teams that can hardly complete a pass, and 1 team with a future #1 overall draft pick that steamrolls everyone they play. That makes it kind of hard to determine how well they actually cover the pass. I guess we will find out on Saturday.
While their ability to defend the pass is up in the air, I am confident that by holding Clemson to 137 yards rushing and NC State to 179 yards rushing, that the Virginia defense is very capable of stopping the run. I have feeling the difference in this game could come down to the arm of Sam Hartman.