Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall made no secret of his intentions Saturday as he began to set the agenda leading into an open date.
The Cavaliers (4-1) won’t return to action until Oct. 11, when they visit Miami (2-2) for a Friday night affair.
“We have to generate a run game at a much more consistent level,” Mendenhall said Saturday after the Cavaliers’ 35-20 loss at Notre Dame.
Virginia, which dropped to No. 23 in the AP Top 25 poll and 22nd in the coaches’ poll, finished with 4 yards of rushing offense and is now averaging 107.6 yards per game, which ranks 115th out of 130 FBS teams.
The numbers are somewhat misleading because UVa quarterback Bryce Perkins, who had been leading the Cavaliers in rushing, was sacked eight times and incurred 59 yards in losses.
“You can win against some teams [by playing] like this,” Mendenhall said of the imbalance. “You won’t be able to win against teams [who are looking] to take over our league or to compete at a higher level, which is where we want to go from last year’s 8-5 team.”
Needless to say, Mendenhall fears the possibility of injury to Perkins, who had a serious neck injury that prevented him from playing for Arizona State, his original college choice.
Mendenhall was asked if he is worried about the chances of Perkins getting injured.
“Sure, sure,” he said. “Absolutely! Not only the number of times [he’s hit,] but how clean some of those shots are coming.”
One of the factors is the inability of the offensive line to protect Perkins on a more consistent basis.
Only two offensive linemen, sophomore left guard Ryan Nelson and junior right tackle Dillon Reinkensmeyer return from last year’s first five. Junior right guard Chris Glaser was a part-time starter.
“I wasn’t aware of the guys coming off the edges,” said Perkins, who otherwise threw two touchdown passes and finished 34 of 43 for 334 yards when he wasn’t being bombarded.
“Maybe I need to deepen my drop up, call the pressure [protection] more and other things to eliminate those clean shots.”
By no means was he pointing fingers.
“I threw two picks,” Perkins said. “The pocket was clean enough. Everybody [in the locker room] knows what they’ve got to work on and focus on themselves.”
Even with the sack numbers, Virginia’s offense was nearly equal to the Irish, which outgained the Cavs 343-338, unusually low totals for both teams.
“The defense did a great job of getting us great field position,” Perkins added. “The offense just not being able to help them out … it sucks because we know they executed on their part and we didn’t on ours.”
Perkins evoked laughter when asked if he was hurting after all of the takedowns.
“No, man, I’ve been eating my greens,” he said. “My body’s good. Shoot! I’m glad with that after all the shots I took.”