Virginia is in their first year with a new head coach and new offensive staff and it is showing in the win-loss column. Bronco Mendenhall came to Virginia from BYU where he never had much of an issue with generating offense. The Cavs run a multiple offense that is mostly built on spread tendencies but they haven't been able to get much of anything going so far this year. BYU was known for having a strong running game and an efficient passing attack but UVA has been very pass heavy this season. Louisville has been very good on the defensive side of the ball over the last two games but if there is an area where they've been vulnerable it's in the passing game.
Virginia entered the season with a three-way race for the starting quarterback position but they settled on Kurt Benkert as the starter. Benkert transferred from ECU where defensive line coach Ruffin McNeil was the head coach last year. Benkert has a big arm and he's been pretty solid with his decision making this year. I can't say that it's Benkert or the offensive game plan, but Virginia's offense has been unbelievably boring. Benkert is only averaging 5.8 yards per attempt and most passes only travel a few yards down the field. Benkert was benched in favor of Connor Brewer late last week but he's been named the starter for Saturday. Brewer is averaging negative yards per attempt so I guess it makes sense that he won't be taking over the job. Virginia will have to push the ball down the field and utilize their quarterback's arm strength if they want to pull the upset.
The running back position is the strength of the UVA offense and Taquan Mizzell is the best talent of the group. "Smoke" as he is known, is a super quick back who has pretty good speed in the open field and outstanding hands out of the backfield. Mizzell had 129 total yards in last year's game but he didn't have nearly enough carries. He's still not receiving enough carries in the new offensive system, but for some reason I think that the offense will tweak things this week. UVA is in danger of having a two win season and something has to give. Albert Reid shares carries with Mizzell in a "thunder and lightning" style backfield. Reid will get the bulk of the carries if UVA decides to spread the field with Mizzell in the slot which they've done a good amount this year.
Virginia has played a lot of receivers this year and it seems like they're still looking for the right mix of guys. Keeon Johnson has been targeted nearly double the amount of times as the next receiver but he only leads the team in receptions by 3. Johnson is also averaging under 10 yards per catch, which I'm not sure I've seen from a leading receiver in my time writing these posts. UVA's big play threat at receiver is Olamide Zaccheaus who is putting up just over 14 ypc as well as being a guy that the offense will use on some designed running plays. Doni Dowling is also a guy that can be utilized on some plays down the field. Dowling is a big kid at 215 pounds so I wouldn't be surprised to see him used in the red zone and on sideline routes. I personally think that the Cavs have pretty solid receivers, but they don't utilize them very well.
The offensive line has been very good opening holes for the Cavs running game and I honestly have no clue why their offense is so unbalanced. Virginia has been playing from behind a lot this year, but they start games flinging the ball around when two of their three best players on the offense are running backs. They've been successful, too. Mizzell is averaging 5.6 ypc and Reid is at 4.7. Hell, Virginia has allowed 20 sacks this year while they've only allowed 16 tackles for loss that weren't sacks. It's pretty obvious that this team should get behind their veteran line and pound the football. Louisville will have a field day if they continue to be pass happy this weekend.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Kurt Benkert, RB Smoke Mizzell, RB Albert Reid, WR Olamide Zaccheaus, RT Eric Smith