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What To Watch For: Virginia Cavaliers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 Duke at Virginia Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


Bryan Brown called his best game of the year last week against Clemson. He was able to confuse Trevor Lawrence with his coverage calls and Louisville got two interceptions off of those calls. Louisville also had a lot of success against Clemson overall outside of their big gains. Obviously, they didn’t play a great game and Clemson’s running game had a lot of success. But, I think it’s important to look at the full game and see how they did against one of the best teams in the country. Louisville only allowed 11.5 yards per completion and that includes a 61-yard catch and run on a missed tackle and the prayer that Lawrence threw up to Justyn Ross.

Virginia doesn’t have the running game that Clemson does. What they do have is one of the worst rushing offenses in the country. That should lead to more second and third downs where they will be facing long yardage. Brown should look to disguise his coverages as he did last week. Bryce Perkins tends to stare down receivers and he holds the ball too long. He’s a great scrambler but making him work for completions could lead to some bad decisions as well as some sacks from the pass rush. Louisville might need some help from their defense in this game, containing Perkins goes a long way.


Louisville faced a much better defense than what they had seen this year when they faced Clemson and they were dominated. To me, you’re not going to learn too much from a game like that when nothing goes right. It’s a “burn the tape” game for the offense and you go back to how you were playing before it. UVA’s defense is nowhere near as good as Clemson’s but they are a vast improvement over BC and Wake Forest.

The big question is how they handle playing an explosive offense like Louisville? While Virginia has done very well to not allow explosive plays, they also haven’t played an explosive offense yet. Virginia’s defense is all about stopping the run and then getting after the quarterback when you’re in long yardage situations. Louisville will be the best rushing offense that they will have faced by a wide margin. That running game has allowed Louisville to take a lot of shots down the field off of play action. If UVA can slow down the rushing attack it will really test how good this offense really is.


Louisville started this season with a terrible issue of not being able to get an interception. After getting their first against Boston College, they’ve been on a tear. UofL has five picks over the last three games and two fumble recoveries. Going against three of the top offenses in the conference is easier when you can get a few takeaways. It is a major positive when you’re facing a bad offense. Bryce Perkins has thrown seven picks this year and he doesn’t value the football enough. Setting up short field for the offense or scoring on defense would be huge for Louisville.

The same could be said for Virginia. Their offense isn’t very good and they rely on help from the other phases of the game. While they haven’t forced a lot of turnovers, they have been set up well by their special teams as well as their defense just being stout in general. Louisville has had issues with turnovers this year with 12 in 7 games. The turnovers haven’t all been costly but we saw what can happen when you’re in a close game and you turn it over. FSU sparked their comeback with a pick near the end zone and Clemson got an interception early in the game last week that stopped the best drive Louisville had. They will need to avoid giving the ball away against a team that needs all the help it can get.


Hassan Hall is ranked third in the country in kickoff return average. One of the two players ahead of him is Joe Reed. Reed has averaged at least 25 yards per return since he was a freshman. The lowest he’s been ranked in the last three years is 12th where he ended up last season. He has five (5) touchdown returns in his career. There is absolutely no reason for Louisville to kick the ball to him on Saturday.

I think you could make a fair argument that it would make more sense to kick the ball out of bounds than kick it to Reed. He already has two touchdown returns this year and he’s averaging 39 yards per return. Louisville is 109th in kick return defense and that’s without a touchdown return to stretch that out. Giving Virginia’s bad offense the ball on the 35 is likely much better than giving Joe Reed a chance to take one to the house.


Virginia has technically lost both of their starting corners this year. Bryce Hall went down with a gruesome ankle injury a couple of weeks ago while Darius Bratton tore his ACL before the season started. The replacement corners are solid players but as of now they’re starting a safety at the boundary corner spot. Virginia leaves these guys out on an island a good amount because they bring a ton of pressure. When they do, Louisville should look to exploit these matchups.

As explosive as Louisville has been they’ve also been able to hit some nice throws to the outside on short routes. Dez Fitzpatrick has shown that he can take those short catches and make a play after the catch. Being able to do that against Virginia would both help the offense move the ball as well as force them to adjust. They use their linebackers in coverage a lot and they use them all the way outside the hashes at times. Forcing them to do that would keep them from blitzing and might give them some pause against the run.


Louisville hasn’t run a lot of screen plays this year but they should probably be a feature during practice this week. Virginia is going to blitz a ton because that’s what they do and Louisville has given up a good amount of sacks this year. Louisville should look to counter those blitzes with some screen plays. Getting guys behind that rush somehow and into space could lead to some very big gains.

I would love to see them incorporate Marshon Ford in the screen game. Whether it be as the receiver or as an outside blocker. UVA likes to get really tight with their alignment when the offense is tight. If Louisville could get Ford outside to block a defensive back they might get a numbers advantage. Miami ran a really nice tight end screen against the Hoos that I could see as a possible option for Louisville. Anything they can do to counter the pressure UVA will bring would be great and they have the athletes to create the big plays.