Florida football: Know your enemy – Virginia Cavaliers

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 30: Head coach Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators take the field during a game against the Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 30: Head coach Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators take the field during a game against the Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Florida football will face Virginia in Monday’s Orange Bowl. Now is a good time to ask just who is Virginia?

We are hours away from kick-off in Miami as Florida football looks for its second consecutive New Year’s 6 bowl win when they take on the Virginia Cavaliers in the Capital One Orange Bowl.

Regular Season Recap:

  • Finished with an 8-4 record
  • Went 1-2 against ranked teams: lost 35-20 to Notre Dame, beat Virginia Tech 39-30 and lost to Clemson 62-17
  • Won the ACC Coastal Division
  • Lost to Clemson 62-17 in the ACC Championship


Bronco Mendenhall is in his fourth year as Virginia’s head coach

After a 2-10 debut season in 2016, he led UVA to its first bowl game since 2011. Dating to 2017, Virginia has now qualified for a bowl game in three consecutive years.

Under Mendenhall, Virginia is 1-1 in bowl games: UVA lost 49-7 to Navy in 2017 and beat South Carolina 28-0 in 2018.

Basic Offensive Statistical Comparison


Scoring Offense: 45th (30.8 PPG)

Pass play frequency: 17th (55.48 percent)

Passing offense: 36th (263.5 YPG)

Rush play frequency: 114th (44.52 percent)

Rushing offense: 113th (126.5 YPG)


Scoring Offense: 37th (31.3 PPG)

Pass play frequency: 12th (56.95 percent)

Passing offense: 17th (300.4 YPG)

Rush play frequency: 119th (43.05 percent)

Rushing offense:  119th (120.3 YPG)

Virginia’s Key Players On Offense

Bryce Perkins:

Virginia’s offense runs through Bryce Perkins. Even as the quarterback he is the team’s leading rusher, accruing 102 more rush attempts than UVA’s next-leading rusher.

Perkins is a dual-threat who constantly seeks to prove that he is not merely a rushing threat. Still, his ability to run has proven to be decisive.

In the Cavaliers’ three losses (at Louisville, at Miami, and at Notre Dame) before the Clemson game, Perkins ran for fewer than 30 yards and averaged fewer than two YPC. The Cavs were 0-3 when Perkins was thus limited as a runner.

So to stop Virginia, Florida football has to stop Perkins. To stop Perkins means, primarily, to confine Perkins to the pocket. The Gator pass rush will look to apply pressure against Perkins, who’s protected by an offensive line that ranks 102nd in rate of sacks allowed.

This is how not to defend Perkins.:

In the video, Virginia faces 3rd and 14. The Hokies are offering a conservative defense that is focused on guarding the sticks. Perkins is thus presented with a huge hole with blockers in front. He is a patient runner, possessing good vision and able to follow blockers. As a runner, he checks all the physical boxes: he’s well-sized, athletic, and very fast.

All this is not to say that Perkins is a bad passer. But he’s an inconsistent one. He’s absolutely comfortable standing in the pocket and delivering balls downfield. But his accuracy is spotty and he can be turnover-prone … His passing numbers (225-for-349, 64.5 percent completion percentage, 2,680 yards, 7.7 YPA, 25 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 131.5 passer rating) should be better considering the quality of his receivers.

UVA’s receiving corps is one of the best at not dropping passes, but also one of the worst in gaining yards after the catch.

Hasise Dubois, Terrell Jana, and Joe Reed are the leading Hoo receivers.

Dubois is a big-bodied possession receiver at 6-3. Perkins likes to use his height to exploit jump-ball opportunities.

Jana is more agile. He has positive vertical abilities for his size at 6-0 and he excels at creating separation off of slants and comebacks.

Reed is also the team’s return specialist and a dangerous one given his speed and general capability in open space, which is why he’s the nation’s leader in kick return average. He’s the most dynamic, athletic, and difficult to contain the bunch.

Basic Defensive Statistical Comparison


Scoring Defense: 56th (27.2 PPG)

Pass Defense: 67th (228.2 YPG)

Rush Defense: 31st (130 YPG)

Florida football:

Scoring Defense: 10th (17.3 PPG)

Pass Defense: 17th (192 YPG)

Rush Defense: 12th (107 YPG)

Virginia’s Defense

Scheme: 3-4

Strength: Rushing the passer: Virginia ranks 9th in sack rate

Key Tendency: Virginia loves to blitz. UVA will give opposing offensive lines a ton of different looks and it could send anybody, especially linebackers. UVA’s outside linebackers excel at rushing the passer. But if an opposing offense focuses on them, the room is created for UVA’s inside linebackers, who also benefit from the two-gap play of the defensive line.

Drop off: after allowing 28 points once in its first seven games, Virginia allowed 28 points or more in five of its last six games, with the one exception being Liberty by a point. In its last six games, the Hoos allowed an average of 34.3 points per game. In their last four games, they ranked 112th in opposing yards per play. The biggest problem was in defending the pass: Virginia allowed 10.2 YPA in the final six games of the season.

Injuries: The biggest reason for Virginia’s defensive regression has been the injuries in its secondary. The key loss was All-ACC cornerback Bryce Hall. In the Orange Bowl, Virginia’s secondary will continue to miss two, maybe three, additional starting defensive backs. Also, senior middle linebacker and leading sack artist Jordan Mack will not play due to injury.

Next. Orange Bowl a chance for Kyle Trask to set the stage in 2020. dark

If Florida football can keep Kyle Trask upright, then he should enjoy a monster game against UVA’s secondary by finding wide receivers isolated against inferior defensive backs who are vulnerable to giving up big plays through the air and who show problems tackling receivers after the catch.