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Film Preview: Miami at Virginia

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The Hurricanes travel to Charlottesville to face the Cavaliers

Savannah State v Miami Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes head to Charlottesville, VA to face the Virginia Cavaliers on October 13th at 7pm on ESPN2/U. Miami enters the ball game with a 5-1 record and the ‘Canes are ranked 16th by the S&P+. The Hoos have a record of 3-2 and are ranked 43rd by the S&P+.

Bronco Mendenhall has slowly gotten improvement at UVA and could save himself a trip to the hot seat if he can pull a Pat Narduzzi and upset the Hurricanes. Coach Richt needs to prove he’s that much better than Al Golden and beat up on the less talented Cavaliers. The entire Hurricanes coaching staff has to re-focus the players and themselves after a comeback victory over rival Florida State.

Here are two offensive plays and a defensive look from UVA to study before the game.

UVA play-action pass

When I see UVA run this play-action pass I get a little worried. The Miami safeties aren’t that good right now and will be susceptible to the play-action. The ‘Canes cornerbacks often look lost in coverage and I could see a hard, late switch like this being a wide open look for the Cavaliers.

Miami will have to seriously rep and work on recognizing the time for a “banjo” or switch call with the cornerback and nickel back to the two receiver side.

Once the nickel rolls over the outside route the cornerback is left to cover the skinny post. When the corner is beat there’s no other help because the safety ran up so quickly against the play-action that he’s too shallow to help out.

What’s even more alarming is how both receivers essentially are open on this play, the post receiver doesn’t run it that hard and lures the far safety to help as well. This leaves the inside receiver running over the seam in a 1on1.

UVA Split Zone

Split Zone is one of my favorite plays, so much that I convinced our head coach to install it even in our gap scheme where I’m coaching this season. It’s a simple play, the offensive line blocks to the direction of the play call- here to the right. The FB or HB blocks across the play, and kicks out the back side defensive end. This creates a giant cutback lane for the running back.

The NC State defensive end is so aggressive to come up field he practically blocks himself. The fullback has little kicking out to do on him, and the running back sees the giant gap. With the line blocking zone to the right the defensive line and linebackers are all blocked. The flat defender is running with the bubble to the top of the screen. This makes the back side defensive end, the one who is getting kicked out, the only defender that can make the play, if the back cuts back.

As you can see, the back puts his foot hard into the ground and cuts back. His original aiming point is the play side guard’s inside leg, once he’s stalemated, the back puts that foot down and cuts back under the kick out block.

It’s a great play to take advantage of aggressive defensive ends and linebackers and works well against blitzing. Thus, I’m concerned it could break a few big runs against Miami and Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman.

UVA Defense- RPO Looks

I have no idea why NC State didn’t check out of a run, although it worked with great success it’s usually a bad idea to run into a 7 man box. The Wolfpack ran into a seven man box, even with the cushion coverage to the top of the screen on the two receivers. Hopefully if Miami sees this look they use the speed of Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley and run Run-Pass Options.

We’ve discussed RPO’s on SOTU a bunch of times here, here, and here. They’re necessary to have in the arsenal and I would believe with what I’ve seen from N’Kosi Perry he has a better feel for the read than Malik Rosier. This will open Mark Richt up to running more RPO’s and letting Perry go to work on defenses.

No, Miami can’t solely rely on defenses not to adjust but once they do adjust it should put 6 in the box for easy running lanes for guys like Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas. The point of RPO’s isn’t to keep throwing the ball, it’s to make the defense adjust and go back to your running game with less defenders at the point of attack.


The UVA Cavaliers are improving under Bronco Mendenhall, as to be expected. Mendenhall is a great coach that won 99 games at BYU while never posting a losing record. UVA has been a challenged for Coach Mendenhall but the Hoos are improving on the field and that’s important.

Should UVA beat Miami in 2018? Absolutely not. The talent disparity is a grand canyon as UVA has pulled in some putrid recruiting classes under Mendenhall- and that could be his downfall in the end. However, if coaching is talent acquisition, development and deployment I trust Mendenhall’s staff to create a winner if he’s given the time.