Major shoutout to the writers over at Streaking the Lawn for sitting down and taking the time to talk X’s and O’s with a Friday game between UVA and Wake Forest being played check notes TODAY. Will Campbell was gracious enough to answer my questions while you’ll be able to see my answers to Zach Carey’s questions linked here. Let’s jump in.
BSD: Brennan Armstrong: PFF’s #1 graded quarterback so far this season. Can you walk us through his progression since he stepped onto campus at Virginia in 2018?
STL: I think his progression can be chalked up nearly entirely due to maturation and time spent in a system. His first two years in Charlottesville he was clearly behind Bryce Perkins, so Armstrong only saw time when Perkins got hurt. Last year was such a weird year I am not sure you can take anything from it but reps. Combine that with him seemingly fighting injuries most of the season. He did not get to play in last year’s game between these two due to a hit he took in a previous game. He’s really turned a corner this year though and it has come at a great time. As we’ll get to later, the running game is nearly non-existant and Armstrong has made the most of it. We keep waiting for him to hit a wall with a team being able to sell out against the pass, but it hasn’t happened in the first three games yet.
BSD: Running Back has seemed... well almost non-existent for this team for a bit, what’s been the main contributing factor(s) here?
STL: If you have that answer, we’re all listening. When each of Ronnie Walker, Wayne Taulapapa, and Mike Hollins joined the program we hoped they would help make the rushing attack more explosive, but that hasn’t been the case. With mobile QBs in Armstrong and Perkins the last four years, you would think it would spread the defense out allowing the RBs to hit holes for yards. Couple that with an offensive line that has been more than adequate in protecting Armstrong, and you should have a recipe for a good rushing attack. That hasn’t happened for some reason. None of the above-referenced RBs have totaled 100 yards on the season. It is truly frustrating.
BSD: UVA has seemingly switched to a 3-3-5 and loves running an “Okie” front, for our readers that may not be as football savvy can you break down how the defensive scheme works?
STL: My technical experience with football ended in 8th-grade middle school football and then when EA stopped making NCAA Football. I had to employ Paul “Tiki” Guttman from our staff to help out. Here’s what he had to say:
We do spend almost all of our time in a 3-3-5 these days. Mostly running Okie front, but not always. The LBs, even with the same personnel, will change positions from play to play. Sometimes it’s two ILBs and one OLB. Sometimes, it’s two OLBs and one ILB. And all of the LBs will be asked to do many different things. Man coverage, zone coverage, pass rush, run blitz. DBs give a lot of cushion, and there’s often space open underneath. There’s also a lot of rotation, especially on the DL where there’s depth.They end up playing a lot of Cover-2 with man underneath.
BSD: Run Defense seems to have been an issue for the last few games dating back to mid-2020, how does UVA address this?
STL: A few of the UVA football alumni have been pretty vocal about the lack of defense, particularly during and after the UNC game last week. I’ll generally defer to them and just parrot that they have said a lot of it is due to effort and playing soft. There have been a significant amount of missed tackles due to not wrapping up and reading keys that would lead to a better defensive game. The defensive effort was so poor last week against UNC it could take a revamping of the entire system.
BSD: What can UVA do and what can’t they afford on both sides of the ball come Friday?
STL: The offense obviously hasn’t been a problem for UVA this far, averaging more than 550 yards per game. A rushing attack would be nice, but it doesn’t seem necessary. The only thing that would truly be awful from an offensive standpoint is to lose Brennan Armstrong. Protecting him at all costs must be done.
On defense, after last weekend, I am not sure what they can do. Give better effort and have a better gameplan? UNC obviously has a great offense lead by Sam Howell, but the short drives that lead to touchdowns were egregious. Pointblank, the defense has to be better. All there is to it.
BSD: Besides VPI, what school just really gets under the fan base’s skin?
STL: The older a UVA fan is the more likely they are to say UNC. Between football and basketball, the two schools have been at each other for decades. Not to mention UNC stole Ronald Curry from UVA in the 90s and many will tell you that completely changed UVA’s trajectory for a decade plus.
You’ll also get a fair amount of oldish (Millenials are not olds) folks who can’t stand Maryland, but I am not sure there are people that do like Maryland.
No, the newer you are to UVA the more you just don’t like VT. They are the annoying little brothers nobody really wants.
STL: I’m a pessimist because I am convinced there is a higher power that doesn’t want me to be happy when it comes to sports. I’m also not sure the UVA defense would be able to stop Forsyth Country Day School right now. While Wake’s offense doesn’t look as potent as UNC’s, I still expect them to score, just maybe not as fast.
Ultimately, a high-scoring game with Wake winning. Something like 44-38.I just can’t trust a team with the defense that showed up against UNC.