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Syracuse Football: Breaking Down Defensive Play-Calling vs. Virginia

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The defense wasn't all bad on Saturday. In fact, there were a lot of positives to take out of it. Though the play calling, and execution in the fourth quarter left a lot to be desired.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

This was a very interesting game from a defensive perspective. You can't say the defense played great, because they gave up 44 points and allowed Virginia to march down the field for two massive drives to tie the score in regulation. But you can't say it was a miserable performance either, when they held Virginia to just 14 points through three quarters and put up a defensive touchdown of their own.

In this case, there was some good, some bad, and definitely some ugly. Before we get into the play by play, let's dissect each part of that equation.

The Good

  • First three quarters - The defense played really well for the first three quarters, holding Virginia to 186 yards (4.5 yards per play), forcing two turnovers, and scoring as many points (7) as they gave up (7, not including Dungey's fumble for a touchdown). You can't ask much more from your defense than that ... other than doing it for four quarters.
  • Play action - Syracuse was actually pretty great against the play action. Virginia called 16 play action plays, and some of them were covered so well they had to either run or dump to an underneath receiver. That resulted in 8-for-14 for just 44 yards, including the forced fumble the Orange returned for a touchdown.
  • Versatility - We've criticized the defense for being somewhat vanilla, but on Saturday, Chuck Bullough showed a lot of creative looks. Instead of the traditional 4-3 and 3-3-5 fronts, he mixed in a 4-2-5 nickel and a 5-3 goal line package. He also asked Ron Thompson to play a little linebacker, both in the middle as a blitzer on third down, and on the outside as a DE/OLB hybrid.

The Bad

  • Tackling - At least three of the touchdowns on Saturday came on plays where the ball carrier was hit before the goal line and could have been tackled. Julian Whigham had one where he had the receiver in his grasp and simply let go thinking he would fall to the ground. This is, once again, a theme.
  • Screens - The Cavaliers didn't dominate Syracuse with the screens, but they did complete 11 for 87 yards, which is nothing to sneeze at. This was probably their most effective play against the Orange defense

The Ugly

  • The facemask penalty - It was just a bad play, and completely unnecessary. Even if Zaire Franklin misses the tackle completely, Virginia would have been stopped well short of the first down, as multiple Orange defenders were converging on him. We all know it hurt, and I'm sure no one feels worse about it than Franklin, so I won't dwell on it. Still, the defense had a chance to pick up its captain, and it did not. Mainly because ...
  • 4th Quarter Play Calling - In the first three quarters, SU called 16 blitzes, and held Virginia to 10 carries for 36 yards and 3-for-6 passing for 31 yards and one interception. So in the fourth quarter, they went conservative and called just seven blitzes on 28 plays allowing UVA to grind its way up and down the field piece by piece, without facing real pressure. Given the Orange couldn't make the big play to get off the field, this was ... curious. Overall, the 32.5% blitz rate was the lowest of the season for SU.
  • 4th Quarter Play Calling (part deux) - This all culminated in the final drive of regulation, when Syracuse played not to lose. The Orange gave up a first down at their own 42, but still held Virginia outside of field goal range with 1:58 to play. Bullough dialed up a 4-man rush with the linebackers sagging back in a zone to 10 yards. Virginia happily completed a crossing route to the tight end underneath, who added some yards after the catch to the SU 30. Still just outside a comfortable field goal, Bullough dialed up the exact same call, and UVA once again took what the Orange gave them en route to a 6-yard reception to the 24. It was obvious Syracuse was more concerned with not giving up a touchdown than keeping them out of field goal range. The Cavaliers didn't need to take any more chances after that.
  • Letting the clock run down - There is not one single reason to let the clock run down for the UVA field goal. Not one. There was less than 40 seconds left and Virginia had only 2 timeouts left, so even if they somehow missed the chip shot, the Orange could have run the clock out with three kneel downs. Just inexplicable why you wouldn't at least want a chance for a big kick return from Estime before letting the clock run out. Seriously, someone give me a reasonable explanation for this.

First Quarter

DRIVE 1
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
13:48 1st and 10 UVA 48 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Right 4 yard gain Cordy, Bennett Tackle
13:16 2nd and 6 SU 48 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Left 2 yard gain Holding Penalty, 10 yards from spot
12:49 2nd and 14 UVA 44 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA Pass Right 4 yard gain Franklin Tackle
12:12 3rd and 10 UVA 48 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB LOLB and MLB Zone Blitz (rush 4) RDE in coverage RB Screen Pass Right 3 yard gain Whitner Tackle
DRIVE 2
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
7:05 1st and 10 UVA 12 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Left 2 yard loss Thompson, Simmons Tackle
6:26 2nd and 12 UVA 10 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB Blitz (rush 5) Designed PA pass, QB Run Left 1 yard gain Defense covered well, Hodge forced OB
5:50 3rd and 11 UVA 11 1 RB, 4 WR 3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB MLB Blitz (rush 4) Designed pass, QB Run Left 7 yard gain Thompson lined up as MLB and blitzed from 3-3-5, chased QB OB short of first down

Virginia  Play Calls: 3 runs, 4 passes

Defensive personnel: 5 base defense, 2 subpackages

Blitzes: 3/7 (42.9%)

This was a pretty strong quarter for the Syracuse defense. Two drives; two three-and-outs; two impressive performances. In the second drive, Ron Thompson showed off the versatility that might make him a hot commodity for NFL scouts, as he recorded a tackle for loss, dropped into coverage on a zone blitz, and even lined up at middle linebacker in the 3-3-5 subpackage (that's him on the 15 yard line below), and forced the quarterback out of bounds short of the first down. He's the best player on the team on either side of the ball right now.

Second Quarter

DRIVE 3
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
15:00 1st and 10 UVA 5 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Middle 2 yard gain Hodge Tackle
14:29 2nd and 8 UVA 7 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB and MLB Blitz (rush 6) Run Middle 2 yard gain Clark Tackle
13:50 3rd and 6 UVA 9 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Right Incomplete Hudson in good coverage with Cordy help over top
DRIVE 4
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
11:33 1st and 10 UVA 31 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA Pass Middle 20 yard gain Play action sucked up all LBs, left big passing lane to diving WR
11:01 1st and 10 SU 49 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB ROLB Blitz (rush 5) Run Middle 3 yard loss Bennett Tackle, came untouched on blitz
10:33 2nd and 13 UVA 48 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Designed PA Screen Pass (backwards so counts as run) Right Fumble, SU TD Wigham and Simmons tackle wide, Simmons forces fumble, Cordy return for 44 yard TD
DRIVE 5
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
10:20 1st and 10 UVA 25 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Left Incomplete Dowels pass breakup
10:13 2nd and 10 UVA 25 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 2 LB, 5 DB N/A Run Middle 7 yard gain Thompson lined up as hybrid DE/OLB, Bennett Tackle
9:33 3rd and 3 UVA 32 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA RB Bubble Screen Pass Left 6 yard gain Bennett, Cordy Tackle
8:52 1st and 10 UVA 38 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB ROLB and RCB Blitz (rush 6) PA Pass Right Incomplete Dowels in good coverage
8:46 2nd and 10 UVA 38 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB Blitz (rush 5) PA WR Screen Pass Right 9 yard gain Whigham, Bennett Tackle
8:06 3rd and 1 UVA 47 2 RB, 1 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB Blitz (rush 5) Run Middle 5 yard gain Bennett, Simmons Tackle
7:34 1st and 10 SU 48 2 RB, 1 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Middle 10 yard gain Simmons Hurry, Franklin, Winfield, Hodge missed tackles, Raymon Tackle
6:55 1st and 10 SU 38 2 RB, 1 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB MLB and Safety Zone Blitz (rush 5) LDE in coverage Run Right 18 yard gain End around to opposite side of blitz, Bennett Tackle
6:32 1st and 10 SU 20 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Left 5 yard gain Slayton, Cordy Tackle
5:52 2nd and 5 SU 15 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Middle 4 yard gain Scissum, Slayton Tackle
5:13 3rd and 1 SU 11 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB MLB and ROLB Blitz (rush 6) Run Left 11 yard TD Scissum, Taylor and Morgan missed tackles on toss
DRIVE 6
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
0:56 1st and 10 UVA 20 1 RB, 4 WR 3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB MLB Blitz (rush 4) RB Screen Pass Right 19 yard gain Thompson as MLB again, Screen perfect call as all either blitzed or dropped back, Winfield Tackle
0:47 1st and 10 UVA 39 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Middle Incomplete Overthrew open receiver
0:43 2nd and 10 UVA 39 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB RCB and ROLB Zone Blitz (rush 4) LDE in coverage Pass Left Incomplete Thompson at LOLB, Hudson almost intercepted on sideline
0:38 3rd and 10 UVA 39 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB MLB Blitz (rush 4) Pass Left Interception Slayton batted ball at line, Sheppard interception

Virginia  Play Calls: 9 runs, 12 passes

Defensive personnel: 18 base defense, 3 subpackages

Blitzes: 10/21 (47.6%)

Mostly another strong defensive performance in the second period. Yes, the Orange gave up a long touchdown drive (an 11-play drive that would be a harbinger of things to come), but on the other three drives they generated a 3-and-out and two turnovers, both resulting in touchdowns for the road team Thompson continued his versatile play, lining up at both middle and outside linebacker, as well as his traditional defensive end position. The big concern revolved around two big plays allowed by missed tackles on the touchdown drive. This would rear its ugly head again later in the game.

Third Quarter

DRIVE 7
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
14:51 1st and 10 UVA 28 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB and MLB Blitz (rush 6) Run Right 1 yard gain Simmons Tackle
14:14 2nd and 9 UVA 29 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Designed Pass, QB Run Right 4 yard gain Good coverage, flushed from pocket
13:30 3rd and 5 UVA 33 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Left 8 yard gain Wrapped up at line, Whigham let go of tackle, Franklin, Cordy Tackle
12:47 1st and 10 UVA 41 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Right 9 yard gain End around right, Hudson missed tackle, Scissum, Cordy Tackle
12:07 2nd and 1 UVA 50 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB MLB Blitz (rush 5) Run Right 6 yard gain Slayton, Hodge Tackle
11:37 1st and 10 SU 44 2 RB, 3 WR 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Middle 2 yard gain Franklin, Clark Tackle
10:59 2nd and 8 SU 42 2 RB, 3 WR 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA RB Screen Right 5 yard gain Clark, Winfield Tackle
10:17 3rd and 3 SU 37 2 RB, 1 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB and LCB Blitz (rush 6) Pass Sack 12 yard loss Winfield sack on well timed CB blitz, forced fumble UVA recovered
DRIVE 8
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
2:26 1st and 10 UVA 25 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Middle 1 yard gain Thompson, Hodge Tackle
1:52 2nd and 9 UVA 26 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Left 7 yard gain Morgan Tackle
1:11 3rd and 2 UVA 33 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A RB Screen Pass Right 2 yard gain Simmons, Hodge Tackle
0:42 1st and 10 UVA 35 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA Pass Left No gain Linebackers bit on fake but recovered, Bennett Tackle
0:03 2nd and 10 UVA 35 2 RB, 3 WR 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A RB Screen Pass Left 19 yard gain Morgan Tackle

Virginia  Play Calls: 6 runs, 7 passes

Defensive personnel: 13 base defense, 0 subpackages

Blitzes: 3/13 (23.1%)

Two more long drives for Virginia, but no points to show for it. The first lasted eight plays, with none going for more than 10 yards, but also showing how the Cavaliers could move the ball. A perfectly-timed corner blitz on third down led to a sack that put a stop to the momentum. The second was the first five plays of an eventual 15-play touchdown drive, showing how Virginia started to expose the Orange as the defense sat back without calling many blitzes. Through three quarters though, the SU defense bent often, but didn't break much, and did its part for the 24-14 lead heading into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

DRIVE 8 (cont.)
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
15:00 1st and 10 SU 46 2 RB, 1 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB RCB and ROLB Blitz (rush 6) Designed PA Pass (flea flicker) QB run Left No gain Defense really didn't bite on flea flicker, left nothing to throw to
14:20 2nd and 10 SU 46 2 RB, 1 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA Pass Right Incomplete Hudson pass breakup
14:15 3rd and 10 SU 46 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB ROLB and LCB Zone Blitz (rush 4) RDE in coverage Pass Middle 22 yard gain Receiver in hole in zone coverage between Hudson and Franklin, Hudson, Bennett Tackle
13:47 1st and 10 SU 24 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Middle 9 yard gain Fake end around, up middle, Cordy, Hodge Tackle
13:17 2nd and 1 SU 15 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Right 1 yard gain Thompson Tackle
12:50 1st and 10 SU 14 2 RB, 1 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB Blitz (rush 5) Run Middle 3 yard gain Hodge Tackle
12:07 2nd and 7 SU 11 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Right 8 yard gain Winfield Tackle, SU personal foul penalty
11:40 1st and goal SU 1 2 RB, 3 TE 5 DL, 3 LB, 3 DB N/A Run Left No gain Franklin Tackle
11:06 2nd and goal SU 1 2 RB, 3 TE 5 DL, 3 LB, 3 DB N/A Run Middle 1 yard loss Arciniega, Thompson Tackle
10:38 3rd and goal SU 2 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Right 2 yard TD TE hitch at goal line, hit but held on
DRIVE 9
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
6:52 1st and 10 UVA 4 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB ROLB Blitz (rush 5) Run Middle 1 yard gain Simmons, Raymon Tackle
6:15 2nd and 9 UVA 5 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB Zone Blitz (rush 4) RDE in coverage Pass Left 9 yard gain Slant against zone in gap
1st and 10 UVA 14 Delay of game
5:20 1st and 15 UVA 9 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA Pass Left Incomplete Morgan pass breakup
5:12 2nd and 15 UVA 9 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA Pass Middle Incomplete Overthrew all receivers, in good coverage
5:07 3rd and 15 UVA 9 1 RB, 4 WR 3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB N/A Pass Middle 6 yard gain Stopped 9 yards short and easily tackled by multiple players, Facemask penalty on Franklin
4:36 1st and 10 UVA 30 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Left 3 yard gain End around sniffed out, Bennett, Scissum Tackle
3:58 2nd and 7 UVA 33 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA Pass Left Incomplete Scissum in coverage, overthrown
3:52 3rd and 7 UVA 33 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Middle 7 yard gain Taylor made hit 2 yards short, receiver fell forward for first down
3:24 1st and 10 UVA 40 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Designed pass, QB run Left 6 yard gain Good coverage, no one open, had to run
2:46 2nd and 4 UVA 46 2 RB, 3 WR 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A WR Screen Pass Left 1 yard gain Winfield Tackle
2:08 3rd and 3 UVA 47 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Left Incomplete Underthrown in dirt, Thompson pressure
2:04 4th and 3 UVA 47 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB MLB Blitz (rush 4) RB Screen Pass Left 11 yard gain Thompson blitz from MLB, Screen pass exposed rush, good blocking downfield, Taylor Tackle
1:58 1st and 10 SU 42 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 2 LB, 5 DB N/A Pass Left 12 yard gain TE crossing open underneath coverage, LBs sagging back 10 yards Bennett Tackle
1:31 1st and 10 SU 30 1 RB, 4 WR 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Left 6 yard gain LBs playing back 10 yards again, easy pass underneath
1:26 2nd and 4 SU 24 2 RB, 3 WR 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A RB Screen Pass Left 12 yard gain Faked bubble screen right, dumped left with blockers, Winfield, Scissum Tackle
0:53 1st and 10 SU 12 2 RB, 3 WR 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A PA Pass Middle Incomplete Pass sailed high
0:49 2nd and 10 SU 12 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Sack 1 yard loss Good coverage, Samuels chased QB OB for sack
0:42 3rd and 11 SU 13 4 WR, 1 TE 3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB ROLB Blitz (rush 4) Pass Middle 5 yard gain Dowels Tackle on slant over middle

Virginia Play Calls: 8 runs, 20 pass

Defensive personnel: 21 base defense, 7 subpackages

Blitzes: 7/28 (25%)

The defense didn't do anything particularly wrong, despite giving up the lead in the fourth quarter. They didn't get burned by play action. Screens were effective at the end, but it's not like UVA went up and down the field with nothing but screens. Ultimately, the defense lost the lead because of two things:

1. They simply couldn't make a big play. Even though they didn't give up any big plays or get gashed along the way, they didn't make a big sack or create a turnover. The Cavaliers scored 10 points by grinding it out.

2. Syracuse played to not lose at the end. The Orange rushed more than four players on just 1-of-18 plays on the final drive, letting Virginia pick up small chunks of yardage in exchange for not giving up a go-ahead touchdown. For a team that blitzes more than half the time normally, this was an agonizingly conservative drive to watch.

Overtime

DRIVE 10
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
1st and 10 SU 40 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Right 4 yard gain Arciniega, Whigham Tackle
2nd and 6 SU 36 1 RB, 4 WR 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Pass Right Incomplete Dropped pass, wide open for first
3rd and 6 SU 36 2 RB, 3 WR 4 DL, 2 LB, 5 DB N/A Pass Right 36 yard TD QB Scrambled away from Simmons, completed pass right over Whigham's head in end zone
DRIVE 11
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
1st and 10 SU 25 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Right 7 yard gain End around right, Winfield Tackle
2nd and 3 SU 18 1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Right 5 yard gain Franklin, Clark Tackle
1st and 10 SU 13 1 RB, 1 WR, 3 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB Blitz (rush 5) Run Right 13 yard TD Scissum missed tackle
DRIVE 12
Time Down Ball O Personnel D Personnel Blitz Run/Pass Direction Result Note
1st and 10 SU 25 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB N/A Run Right 12 yard gain End around right, Bennett Tackle
1st and 10 SU 13 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LOLB Blitz (rush 5) Run Middle 8 yard gain Slayton, Arciniega Tackle
2nd and 2 SU 5 2 RB, 1 WR, 2 TE 4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB LCB, LOLB, MLB, ROLB Blitz (rush 7) Run Middle 3 yard gain Bennett Tackle
1st and goal SU 2 2 RB, 3 TE 5 DL, 3 LB, 3 DB N/A Run Right 1 yard loss Vigille, Scissum Tackle
2nd and goal SU 3 2 RB, 3 TE 5 DL, 3 LB, 3 DB N/A Run Left 3 yard TD Scissum hit at line, but powered in

Virginia Play Calls: 9 runs, 2 pass

Defensive personnel: 8 base defense, 3 subpackages

Blitzes: 3/11 (27.3%)

Realistically, Syracuse had one chance to stop the Cavaliers in overtime, and that was on the first drive. After that, the back-to-back 15 and 18-play drives, combined with giving up a demoralizing long touchdown in overtime, seemed to take all the energy out of the team. After starting on the 40-yard line for the first possession in OT (thanks to a targeting penalty on the SU touchdown), the Orange forced a key third down and six and went into the nickel defense. The four-man rush generated pressure and forced the quarterback to scramble, where he found his wide receiver open with Julian Whigham chasing from behind (seen that before?). The next two drives differed from the regulation drives, where UVA moved down the field easily in big chunks, indicating the SU defense was completely gassed. Makes you wonder why the coaches didn't go for two when they scored the second touchdown, knowing there was little left in the defense's tank.

  • Total Yards (per play): 393 (4.9)
  • Total Rushing Yards (per carry): 159 (3.6)
  • Total Passing Yards (per attempt): 24-for-37 for 234 yards (6.3)
  • Play Action Calls Against - 16 (61 on season)
  • Play Action Results - 8-for-14, 44 yards, 0 TD, 1 fumble recovery for touchdown
  • Play Action Results (Season) - 33-of-51 (64.7%), 463 yards, 3 TDs, 2 Pass Interference, 4 sacks, 1 fumble recovery for touchdown
  • Plays in base defense (4-3): 65 of 80 (81.3%)
  • Plays in subpackages: 15 of 80 (18.7%)
  • Blitzes: 26 of 80 (32.5%) - Season Low