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WTWF: Virginia Cavaliers

Offense is the focus in this week's What To Watch For.

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Personally, before this season started I hoped that Bobby Petrino would chose Will Gardner as his starter. I felt he played well last year and he looked fully healthy during spring practice. Really, I just wanted a complete offense that showed that it worked well last season. Lamar Jackson and his abilities best fit the system Petrino wants to run and one would assume that the players he's recruited fit that offense. We've come to learn that the offensive linemen and Jeremy Smith at running back fit his old system much better.

Kyle Bolin has shown this year that he can be the guy to run this offense and run it well. Gardner was my personal choice, but Bolin fits what I wanted to see out of the offense. Last week the offense was balanced. It was deliberate. It was multiple. All the things an offense has to do to keep a defensive coordinator on his heels. Bolin allows this offense to maintain rhythm and momentum and I think that those two things alone will help them see a second straight week with a good offensive performance.

Virginia hasn't defended the pass well at all this season. Their pass rush is really reliant on Micah Kiser and Mike Moore rushing from their linebacker spots. Their cornerbacks haven't been able to cover top level receivers, or anyone really. Those two things should lead to Kyle Bolin having time to throw the ball like he did last week. Jamari Staples should also be able to continue the tear he's been on lately. If the running game can take advantage of the 4.53 yards per carry UVA has given up this year UofL's offense should be fine.


Trevon Young has been on fire for the last handful of games as a pass rusher and it has helped other players get pressure as teams are focusing on Young. DeVante Fields and Trumaine Washington have been rushing off the opposite edge and blitzing regularly and they've had a lot of success doing so. That has allowed Keith Kelsey and James Burgess to help in pass coverage as opposed to blitzing. That has also left Louisville susceptible to potential screen plays.

UVA runs screen plays so often that I wouldn't be surprised if they've run more this year than the rest of the ACC combined. Taquan Mizzell has been targeted 78 times coming into this weekend and if you add in his backups the Cavs have targeted running backs 101 times on the season. Those aren't all screen plays but a very large chunk of them are and i's honestly one of the more interesting things I've watched this year. Screen plays are meant to be a surprise or misdirection type of play but UVA has just incorporated them into their normal offensive play calling. The Cavs rarely break big plays because of it but they do force teams to respect it. That, in turn, leads to guys like Trevon Young either rushing upfield like normal and leaving the play open, or slowing down their rush and not getting to the quarterback.

Virginia has only given up 17 sacks on the year and a big part of that is because it is hard to rush from the outside when you're always worried the running back will slip behind you for a big gain. It also pulls linebackers up because they don't drop as quickly into their zones. Louisville cannot fall into the traps of this offense.


Louisville's defense has been great at picking off passes over the last two years and Matt Johns has been very giving in that department. Johns leads the nation in interceptions with 14. He has a bad tendency to throw the ball down the field blindly and hurriedly. Virginia runs a lot of slow developing play action passes and I've watched Johns turn and fling the ball in the general direction of his receiver multiple times. It's something that we've seen Lamar Jackson do a few times this year but you wouldn't expect that from a Junior that's thrown the ball 291 times this year alone.

Louisville runs a defense that preys on careless quarterback play with safeties sitting in zones at different levels and cornerbacks in physical man coverage. Shaq Wiggins has shown a handful of times this year exactly how Todd Grantham wants his corners to play and he's picked of a couple of contested passes. Chucky Williams and Josh Harvey-Clemons have both picked off "gimmie" passes that have floated into the secondary. The pressure up front creates those plays and Louisville has capitalized.

One of the major issues Johns has is that he feels pressure that isn't actually there. He doesn't trust the play and his line to execute which leads to bad footwork and bad passes. Louisville hasn't had success with flipping turnovers into points over the last two years, but if the offense looks anything like it did last week Johns' carelessness could be a big factor.