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Virginia Film Review: Fourth Quarter

NCAA Football: Virginia at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville dominated the fourth quarter with their running game. Watching this staff adjust things as the game went on was really fun for me. UVA is a great defensive team because of their scheme and coaching staff, not their talent. It’s a great sign that UofL’s staff could find holes and exploit them.

Bryan Brown deserves a ton of credit for this win. He figured out how to stop a bad offense that has been putting up points on just about everyone. Virginia knows what they do well and they have done it well in every game this year. Miami and Notre Dame got timely plays to get their wins. Bryan Brown just shut it all down by taking away just about everything. He and his players deserve some real kudos.


Louisville really got the running game going in the fourth quarter with these runs that showed outside zone but seemed to be run as inside zone. I’m not well-versed enough to articulate this correctly but you can see the line block to the right as if the play will be run outside that way. Marshon Ford comes across the play and Javian Hawkins runs off of him and the tight end on the backside. I’m not sure this is by design but as the game went on I started to see Mekhi Becton just cut the backside guy. That looks like an adjustment to get the defense to flow to the outside and clear some space for Hawkins.


I’m not sure anyone has played the option as poorly as Virginia did last week. Edge players kept crashing down to chase the running back into the hole. Cunningham had tons of space all day on the outside and they exploited it well. Also for the one millionth time, the wide receivers are killing it when it comes to blocking. This is outstanding effort from Seth Dawkins to push his man out of bounds and give Micale a path to the endzone.


I gave Khane Pass a lot of grief in the first half for his lack of effort but he really brought it on this play. This is one of the best tackles I’ve seen in a long time and it gets extra points for being a massive hit. This is the type of hit that energizes a defense and a stadium. Love to see it from Pass because this is the type of play that he brings to the table. He’s a bit of a liability in coverage but he can absolutley do damage in run support.

I also love how he made this play. UVA is in twins to the top of the screen with the tight end as the only threat to the short side of the field. You can literally see Pass identify that the tight end is blocking and he just takes off. This is the type of “football IQ” stuff that the coaches have raved about with Pass. He reads this perfectly and makes the play. Plus he breaks down before he makes this tackle. No diving or overrunning the play. Just a textbook tackle.


Pass’ big hit really did energize this defense and it responded with another big play. Virginia tries to run the option but Tabarius Peterson beats two guys to cut off the path of the play and Boosie Whitlow runs it down from the backside. Peterson makes this play but Whitlow gets the stat for his hustle. Everyone wins.

Another underrated improvement under Bryan Brown is the ability of this defense to beat blocks. Look at how many clean jerseys are around the ball when it’s stopped. Every defender on the front side of the play beats their block and Whitlow beats his on the backside. If you want to know why they couldn’t stop the run last year it’s plays like this going the other way and everyone being pushed around.


On the next play the defense keeps up the energy and gets a coverage sack on Bryce Perkins. Virginia’s offense is so bad in these situations because they always go max protect and only run a few guys on routes. That allows Bryan Brown to call a safe coverage with three guys in man coverage, one safety high, and the rest of his defense rushing or spying Perkins. The coverage is good so Perkins looks to extend the play but there’s nowhere to go with G.G. Robinson looping back around where he came from and running him down. Brown and his defense really deserved to be the focus of this game. They killed it.


Louisville uses motion on this run to slow down the flow of the defense. You can see the entire second level of UVA’s defense just freeze at the snap. They don’t move until Javian Hawkins has the ball and then it’s too late. I think the way Dwayne Ledford and Scott Satterfield adjusted things in the run game was really impressive. They started making UVA guess and that’s all they needed for Hawkins to find the space he needed.

I probably don’t say it enough but Hawkins is showing flashes of real greatness. He’s essentially in his first year in the program with how ridiculous things were last season. Yet, he’s making runs like he did against Notre Dame when he broke the ankles of an All-American safety and had the awareness to avoid two ankle tackles. Then he’s finishing runs like this one. He’s only going to get stronger and quicker. Even if he peaks a notch above where he is now, he’ll end up with his name all over the record books here.


Here’s another play where it seems like Cunningham makes the decision before the play to go to Tutu Atwell. He’s covered before the snap and he’s the only person who actually has someone run with him. Both outside corners bail at the snap Keion Wakefield and Seth Dawkins end up wide open to the bottom of the screen because no one covers the short zone.

I always hate judging these plays after a win or if they don’t end up mattering in the long run but this is almost weird. I think that Tutu is a dynamic player who makes a lot of plays for this offense but I don’t think he’s the first option when you need a third down. You have two big and athletic guys outside who have made a lot of contested catches this year. They should be the first choice when you need a big catch.


This is how you do third and short. UVA bunches up with their tight end split out. They put Joe Reed in the backfield and just run a natural pick/screen play. The throw is behind the line of scrimmage so the receivers can block if they chose to. They’re also creating a “wash” for Dorian Etheridge to have to run through. They don’t even need it as he takes the bait of the eye candy and pauses with the tight end. That leaves Reed wide open in the flat with a blocker in front. I would’ve loved to have seen this when UofL had bad field position.

Even though this is a great play, Louisville should identify Reed in the backfield and expect that he will get the ball. He’s the focal point of the offense and the guy they typically go to when they need a play. Him being back there should raise some alarms.


Louisville had been running the ball really well in the fourth quarter and they finally had a chance to run play action off of their zone runs. Watch both of Virginia’s safeties fly up the field and give Cunningham single coverage to work with. He does everything right here but he throws this short. He and Conley both have had some issues short arming throws down the field this year. I have a bit of a theory that Satterfield has been drilling it in their heads to not overthrow guys.

Either way, this is what this offense can be when it’s firing. Pounding people with the run until you have to react to it and then they hit you with deep shots and man beaters. It will only get better as the quarterback play progresses and the offensive line gets more comfortable.


Here’s another wrinkle that they went with late in the game. Motion into a balanced formation and then run that outside zone look to the left. Only, Ford goes right and ends up giving them more blockers to the backside of the play. Again, you can see the UVA linebackers and safeties flow to the offensive lines movement and Hawkins just heads straight ahead. Virginia had only allowed around 650 rushing yards coming into this game. Louisville put over 200 on them in one game. Louisville’s offensive staff out-coached a team built on it’s defense. Obviously a great sign.


Here’s Mekhi Becton cutting (or attempting to cut) his man on the backside. Why does that matter? Hawkins gets hit in the backfield but the guy that Becton is responsible for can’t get their quick enough to make the play for a loss. Instead, Hawkins gains his footing and darts ahead for a first down. This play doesn’t happen in the first half. The backside pursuit was great for UVA and guys made a bunch of tackles chasing the play. Louisville did a good job stopping that.


Louisville just started pounding UVA with this same run play because they couldn’t stop it. But they get a guy right in the hole on this run and Hawkins just turns into a cheat code. It’s not fair to be able to just bounce to the side like this and take off. He’s an ankle tackle away from scoring on this run.


Louisville ends it perfectly with the same running play executed perfectly. Everyone does their job here with Becton making a perfect cut block to get his guy on the ground. Marshon Ford takes out two guys through the hole by pushing his guy into a safety. Ean Pfeifer pushes his guy past the first down line. Javian Hawkins does the rest. Really great to see these guys finish this way. They broke this UVA defense and no one wanted to make a play.


I hope that this game is remembered by the defense putting together their best game so far. If they keep playing like they did last week, we’ll look back on this as the game that got it all started. They did just about everything well and held UVA under their averages in a handful of statistical categories.

This play was one of my favorite plays of the game. Virginia is still only running three receivers out so Bryan Brown keeps calling the same coverage with three guys in man and one safety high. Only his pass rush can really get after it knowing UVA will be passing down two touchdowns. Monty Montgomery doesn’t give up on his pass rush and he gets an effort sack here. I also love C.J. Avery being a leader here and pulling him away before he gets a dumb penalty. Little things matter.


I actually missed this play live somehow. It completely caught me off guard when I watched the replay. This is coaching showing up on the field. Chandler Jones doesn’t have a way to get to the football here. When you don’t have a path to the ball you’re taught to play the receivers hands. If that’s running down the sideline and the ball is going to get there before you, you rake down at the receivers arms.

On this play, Jones is behind the receiver and he’s shielded from the ball completley. It’s great to see how comfortable and calm he is when he reaches around the receiver to punch the ball out through the receivers arms. He’s playing the hands here because he can’t get to the ball before the catch. Jones is one pass break up away from having double the amount of any player in 2018. He’s already a third of the way to the team total from last year.


Bryan Brown switches things up here and runs a play that we saw against Clemson. UVA only ran three guys down the field again so he just double covers the two outside guys. The inside receiver gets single coverage but Bryce Perkins looks to the outside like he usually does. Once he tries to extend the play, Monty Montgomery green dogs from his spy assignment and gets his second sack of the drive. Montgomery’s closing speed is absurd by the way. He’s not one of these freaky long athletes that covers space with long strides. He covers about six yards here in a flash and he’s 5-11.


This season has been fun with some really cool plays to close things out. Seeing Devante Peete (Wearing his makeshift #4 jersey because he wears the same number as Chandler Jones) and Seth Dawkins back deep to knock this pass down. Two seniors playing on the opposite side of the ball to seal a victory.