December 27, 2007
Holgorsen discusses Tech's plan of attack
No football team gets to the Gator Bowl without being excellent on at least one side of the ball, and for the Virginia Cavaliers, that side of the ball is defense.
The statistics are consistently good across the board and thus are not deceptive. The Cavs are #13 in the nation in scoring defense, #17 in total defense, #21 in rush defense, and #33 in pass defense. They are also #7 in sacks, and #21 in third down conversion defense. Clearly, this is a formidable unit.
One of the men tasked with trying to figure out how best to attack the Virginia defense is Texas Tech inside receivers coach, Dana Holgorsen. He has, of course, spent countless hours poring over tape of the Cavaliers, and unsurprisingly, has come away impressed. So much so that he-ominously-compares them to a Missouri defense that held the Red Raiders to ten points earlier in the season.
"[They resemble] Missouri in terms of scheme and talent. Their base is zone coverage and will mix the fronts up to try and get to the QB. They play real hard and don't make too many mistakes, real sound in their technique and scheme. Coach (Al) Groh has been a fantastic defensive coach for many years and his staff has remained the same for his six years there. Virginia has smart kids and they play hard. It will be a challenge that we are looking forward to."
As Holgorsen notes, zone defense is the Cavaliers' bread and butter. Zones can be tricky to decipher and Graham Harrell will have to be focused sharply in order to avoid costly interceptions. He will also have to beat the Virginia defense because, according to Holgorsen, they are unlikely to beat themselves.
"They are a zone team who is very sound in covering all aspects of the field. They will mix in man coverage when they blitz about half the time. They will also play a little man coverage in their base defense if they have help over the top. They do a good job mixing things but not getting out of position or caught in transition. I think they are one of the best-coached defensive football teams we have faced this year."
A constant concern for Tech's passing attack is the blitz. Few defenses have the ability or the willpower to sit back in coverage all game long against the Red Raiders. And as Holgorsen tells it, the Cavs are not a blitz-heavy team, but Tech's offense will be prepared for just about anything.
"Everyone ends up blitzing us more than they show on tape. Virginia does not blitz all that much, but we will be prepared for a lot of blitz. They like to play base defense but show a lot of looks. We will prepare as we do each week, for what they show on film and expect to see everything in their package."
One reason, undoubtedly, that the Cavaliers don't blitz a great deal is the presence of All American defensive end, Chris Long. He is one of the nation's leading sackers and is more than capable of disrupting pass protection entirely on his own. That said, do not expect Tech to do much out of the ordinary to try to thwart Long.
"[Long] is a great player who plays hard all the time with very good technique," Holgorsen states. "They move him around a lot looking for matchups that he likes. When you play against a great player you just have to step your game up. We play against great players every week and just have to evaluate how we are doing throughout the game and get the guy some help if needed. Rarely do we have to adjust our game plan because of one guy and I expect our OL to play great as they have all year."
In the final analysis, they keys to success against the Virginia defense will be sound, fundamental football, focus on the job at hand, smart play and ball security. If the Red Raiders can play in that manner, they will have success.
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