Virginia defensive front aims to be more 'rush-lane conscious' against Florida State
Virginia's coaches were pleased that their defense was able to register three sacks and seven tackles for a loss last weekend against Virginia Military Institute, but they're well aware that stiffer competition awaits them the rest of the season.
Coach Mike London said Monday that it's not just sacks and tackles for a loss that factor into a defensive lineman's evaluation. Disrupting the line of scrimmage, batting down pass attempts and -- perhaps most importantly -- hurrying the quarterback in passing situations also hold value.
On Saturday, Virginia's defense will face a mostly veteran Florida State offensive line. Heading into the season, the Seminoles' line was viewed as one of the team's soundest positions and greatest strengths. But -- in part because of injuries -- it hasn't turned out that way, and Virginia will look to exploit Florida State's protection struggles as the Cavaliers look for ways to slow down the Seminoles' offense.
Virginia defensive line coach Jeff Hanson echoed London's sentiments Tuesday that there is a correlation between the effectiveness of the secondary and the effectiveness of the pass rush. The success of one is tied directly to the success of the other. Hanson said if the secondary can force the opposing quarterback to hold the ball for at least three seconds, he expects the play to result in a sack.
"The one thing that we need to do this week is we need to be a little bit more rush-lane conscious," Hanson said. "We got out of our rush lanes a couple times on Saturday and missed sacks and didn't wrap up. We probably had our hands on the quarterbacks four or five other times; we'd just fallen off the sack.
"When you get a chance to sack somebody, you've got wrap 'em up, and that's something that we have to do this weekend. And we also have to do a great job with our rush lanes and not be mechanical about it, give 'em an opportunity to do their own thing as far as pass rushing, but also be very conscious of [Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder] does run the football very well."
Ponder ranks No. 2 on his team in rushing attempts -- how many of them were intended rushing attempts is a separate matter -- and is tied for the team lead with two rushing touchdowns.
When asked Monday what stood out to him about Ponder, London spoke of the quarterback's accuracy (61 percent completion percentage) and efficiency rating (134.5). Ponder ranks No. 5 in the ACC in completion percentage and No. 8 in the conference in efficiency rating.
"And," London added, "he's very, very athletic in terms of escaping a rush. I think in terms of attempts, he's the second guy on their team with rushing attempts. Now, I don't know how many of those are his quarterback runs or some QB scrambles, but I'll tell you what, he's fast. When he gets out to the second level he does a great job because he's hard to bring down."
The Cavaliers rank No. 8 in the ACC in sacks (7.0) and will face a Florida State offense Saturday that is tied for allowing the second-most sacks (10.0) in the conference.
"Sometimes you don't get the two sacks or you see a sack and a half or whatever," London said. "But we also like to look at pressures or hurries where you make the quarterback move his feet and not let him stand back there all day and throw. And you also like to measure or count QB hits. And I think the last couple games we've had an opportunity to get hits on the quarterback.
"Eventually it takes its toll, also. You can have a productive game by not having the big number of sacks but having those pressures, hurries or hits on the quarterback. And if you have that from up front, then the coverage aspect makes it a lot easier. I think they both go hand in hand. The coverage is tied into the rush, and then the rush, if it's a lack of rush, is tied into the coverage because those guys can't cover back there all day."
| September 29, 2010; 7:45 AM ET
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