There is a sleeping giant residing in Charlottesville, Virginia. It did some damage last season for the Virginia Cavaliers’ football team, but so far this year it has not quite awakened. The defense for Duke football is going to face an offense this week long on potential, but very short on results after four games.
Tossing and turning
The sleeping giant that is Virginia’s offense has been snoozing, but it is not having sweet dreams-it’s been more like a nightmare. They’re averaging just eighteen points per game, have turned it over ten times, and quarterback Brennan Armstrong has been sacked a dozen times. This from an offense that put up an average of thirty-four points and over five hundred yards in offense last year. In addition, Armstrong was sacked just nineteen times all season.
Why the nap this season?
I think there are two reasons the Virginia offense has struggled. First, Armstrong is still adjusting to the new scheme. His completion percentage from last year has dropped thirteen points and now hovers just above fifty percent. Offensive coordinator Des Kitchings talked about Armstrong’s struggles, “Brennan will tell you, so the times when he’s on time, and throwing the ball on time, it’s pretty, it’s been completed. Some times where he may take a three step drop, but it’s a one step drop, so he’s late, and it gets rushed to throw, or he may be on time and he’s dropped, but now it’s a little bit of pressure in his face, and he’s got to throw it.”
The biggest reason is the offensive line, which is made up of five guys who have never started for Virginia. The only one with any starting experience at the collegiate level is left guard John Paul Flores, a Dartmouth transfer. Armstrong has been chased, beaten up, and just plain harassed in their four games. There are seventeen quarterback hurries to go along with those twelve sacks given up. Your offense is going to be out of rhythm constantly with those kind of numbers. Changes have been made and Kitchings likes what he saw in the second half last week, “We were able to run the ball at a pretty good clip. We’ve got to sure up some things in pass protection – give Brennan the pocket, give him some time to distribute a football, so that’s hopefully the next step that happens.”
In his weekly press conference, Mike Elko pointed out, “I think from a skill standpoint it is still the same kids. That group that was terrifying the ACC last year, scoring all those points is the same group of skill kids. Not many of them have left. We certainly have a lot of respect for what they are capable of being.”
Wallace Wade slumber party
Saturday night, the Duke defense needs to hand them a blanket and pillow, and extend the season-long nap of the Virginia offense. Do not let this be the game where the sleeping giant awakens. The Blue Devils must tackle and communicate far better than against Kansas-lack of communicating was a big issue and caused a myriad of problems The defensive line, especially the tackles, need to be as disruptive as they were in the first three games and not let Armstrong get comfortable, “We have to disrupt him. We have to do a much better job up front disrupting the quarterback. We need to make sure we get into throw windows and pressure him. We can’t let him get comfortable back there. We have to be able to change the looks up a little bit as well so that he is not getting the same picture he wants to see every play,” Elko said.
Fans usually get bored with a snooze fest, but that is exactly what Blue Devils fans want whenever Virginia has the ball Saturday night at Wallace Wade Stadium.