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'Some guys want to make plays; other guys just want to make sure they don't get beat'

By Steve Yanda

In the past five quarters of play, Virginia (4-5, 1-4 ACC) has allowed a combined 74 points. Statistically-speaking, there have been only two defenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference that have played worse on a consistent basis than the Cavaliers this season: Wake Forest (2-7, 1-5) and Duke (3-6, 1-4). On Saturday, Virginia ceded 489 total yards in a 55-48 loss at Duke.

The Cavaliers' run defense (209.9 ypg allowed) has not been pretty, and its pass defense (187.3 ypg allowed) has been shaky at times -- though it also has been hampered by several key injuries -- but what Coach Mike London cares most about at the end of the day is the scoreboard. And the Virginia defense hasn't held up its end of the bargin there very often this season against 1-A opposition.

The Cavaliers rank No. 10 in the ACC in scoring defense (27.0 ppg allowed). Take away Virginia's two wins over 1-AA foes, and its scoring defense average rises to 31.9 ppg allowed. In the ACC, only -- you guessed it -- Wake Forest (38.8 ppg allowed) and Duke (38.9 ppg allowed) have been more porous this season.

"The biggest thing is to limit points," London said Sunday. "You can talk about rush defense, pass defense, this and that, but the biggest thing is to keep points off the board. That's one of the things that you always try to do. I don't know if it's a matter of when the pressure's on, having to perform during pressure times, that guys are able to do that, or not able to do that. You want to teach being aggressive, go for the ball. We had a pass interference (Saturday), ball's in the air, things like that, you want to be aggressive and teach those things.

"It's unfortunate that sometimes -- some guys want to make plays in that situation; other guys just want to make sure they don't get beat so you make a tackle, you know, the play is going to be made so you make a tackle to make sure you minimize any further damage. You want to try to keep developing a mentality defensively that when the ball is in the air or on the ground, you know, it's got to belong to us. You've got to go after it. And the parts of the Miami game, we got the five turnovers, that was a part of the ball-hawking mentality. But they came back with a couple of quick strikes.

"So I just think that the development of this team defensively, just the overall mind-set, these guys have been around losing for a while, and changing the mind-set of being able to win and be a winner and what it takes is we're going to have to play a game -- as bad as it is to say -- we're going to have to play a game like this again where all of the sudden we're going to have to come back and win a game by making a defensive stand or scoring in the last minute or the last second ... When you get to a point where you develop that mentality of being able to play from behind, or keeping someone from scoring, those are the games that are signature games."

By Steve Yanda  | November 8, 2010; 11:53 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Next: Virginia's game Nov. 20 at Boston College to kickoff at noon

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