Virginia Beat: A Taste of the Future

Eli Harold (photo courtesy TheSabre.com)

On Saturday against NC State, UVA finally turned in the kind of dominating performance fans could’ve only dreamed of during the rest of the season.  Or in previous seasons, too, come to think of it; UVA hasn’t had such a dominant win against an ACC opponent (by 27 points, this time) since 2008, when they shut out Maryland 31-0.

The effort was led by the defense.  The offense played well, but the defense was outstanding, holding NC State scoreless until near the end of the fourth quarter.  All kinds of new and uncharted defensive frontiers were discovered, like “sacks” and “interceptions,” of which UVA piled up six and three, respectively.  Actually, the defense has played well most of the season, particularly the run defense.  On Saturday, they claimed ownership of the trenches, dominating from start to finish.

It kept alive the faintest flicker of postseason hopes in a way that couldn’t have been done if the Hoos had won the same way they had over Penn State.  The current incarnation of the UVA defense is, despite the 3-6 record, excellent.  But the really exciting thing is, the future should be even better.  Consider the playmakers on Saturday:

  • Maurice Canady, Anthony Harris, and Eli Harold all had interceptions.
  • Chris Brathwaite had two sacks and forced a fumble, which became an NC State turnover.
  • Mike Moore had a sack and singlehandedly wrecked an NC State drive with pressure on Mike Glennon.
  • UVA’s tackle leaders were Canady, Harris, and Daquan Romero, filling in for suspended starting linebacker Henry Coley.
  • Backup linebacker and special teams ace Demeitre Brim forced a fumble on an NC State punt return, which became yet another Pack turnover.
  • Brandon Phelps broke up two passes to lead the team.

All of the above players are freshmen and sophomores.  Six of UVA’s defensive starters were underclassmen.  All but three of UVA’s defensive starters will return next year, and UVA brought in five more underclassmen off the bench for extensive playing time on defense.

This is not to diminish the contributions of juniors and seniors, but the fact that such a dominating defensive performance was brought about mostly by inexperienced underclassmen is an exciting omen for the future.  And the NC State offense was coming off a 500+ yard performance against North Carolina; Glennon threw for 467 yards against the Heels and managed just 197 against UVA’s greenhorns.

UVA defensive coordinator Jim Reid has had a long and distinguished coaching career, but fortunately for UVA isn’t the kind of hotshot gun-for-hire that other schools often look to in order to fill head coaching vacancies.  He should be around for quite a while, giving UVA a good deal of consistency.  With exciting recruiting classes on the way, it’s fair to hope and expect that UVA’s defense will be top-notch for years to come.


Brendan’s bio: I’m just this guy … this ordinary Virginia graduate and fan who woke up one day realizing his opinions on everything UVA could no longer be contained in one space. Thus was born From Old Virginia, a labor of love where you can find obsessive opinionating on Virginia football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and whatever else when the mood strikes. And if that’s still not enough for you, go to the Twitster and follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for the dumb stuff that pops into my head when I’m watching the Hoos.

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