Virginia Football

Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins looks to pass against Pittsburgh on Saturday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Virginia

» Control the line of scrimmage: Virginia’s biggest question marks since Bronco Mendenhall took over in 2016 have been the offensive and defensive lines. But against William & Mary, that’s where the Cavaliers may have their greatest advantage, and they have to make it count. On defense, they have to shut down the run and pressure the Tribe's young quarterback. On offense, they have to open holes for whoever carries the ball and keep quarterback Bryce Perkins upright.

» Finish with touchdowns: Last weekend, the Cavaliers finished three of their five red zone opportunities with touchdowns, but Mendenhall is open about being a perfectionist. Against the Tribe, Virginia needs to finish every drive with a touchdown, especially early so the coaches can get the starters out of harm’s way as soon as possible.

» Get more players involved: Perkins did a good job last week spreading passes among seven receivers. That trend should continue, but this also seems like the perfect time for him to lean on his running backs a little more. Wayne Taulapapa and PK Kier need to carry the load early and Lamont Atkins needs some touches. Friday also seems like the perfect time for freshman running back Mike Hollins’ debut.


William & Mary

» Keep Mathis comfortable: This means more than chipping with tight ends and keeping backs in to pass protect, although neither is a bad idea. Especially early in the game, it means calling simple plays that allow freshman quarterback Hollis Mathis to react instead of think. It means getting him out of the pocket on obvious passing downs to give him the option to operate with his arm and legs, and it means calling some early quarterback runs in an effort to make the defense respect it.

» Take some chances on defense: As with most underdogs, William & Mary’s best chance at winning is to create mistakes and turnovers and to capitalize on them. They aren’t going to do that sitting back in their base defense and waiting for it to happen. The play callers are going to have to mix coverages and blitzes, and they’re going to have to trust their secondary in one-on-one situations in order to pressure Perkins into a mistake.

» Hang around: Coming off a conference win and heading into its home opener against its former coach, Virginia is going to be pumped up early. Don’t be surprised to see the Cavaliers take some shots early on and hit some chunk plays. If the Tribe can withstand the early barrage and force a couple of UVa’s first-half drives to end with field goal attempts, who knows what can happen in the second half.

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Ron Counts covers University of Virginia athletics for The Daily Progress.​ Contact him at rcounts@dailyprogress.com, (434) 978-7245, or on Twitter @Ron_CDPsports.

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