CHARLOTTESVILLE — When last heard from prior to an open date, Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall was bemoaning the status of the Cavaliers’ running game.
That was after UVa had netted a total of 4 rushing yards in a 35-20 loss at Notre Dame .
Those statistics were somewhat misleading because much of the lost yardage came on pass plays, when quarterback Bryce Perkins was sacked eight times.
Whichever way you looked at those numbers, it was an indictment of the offensive line, although Notre Dame certainly deserved credit for a harrowing pass rush.
“Our offensive line is really the position group right now that’s controlling the speed in which we can progress,” said Mendenhall on Monday, ahead of an 8 p.m. Friday game at Miami.
“Because of its direct effect on the run game and the pass game, there’s really no offensive play where that can be worked around. It has to go through the offensive line.”
In 2018, the Cavaliers’ rushing attack ranked 10th in the ACC with 173.2 yards per game on the ground.
Almost at the midpoint of this season, Virginia is rushing for 107.6 yards per game, which ranks last in the conference and is nearly 10 yards per game fewer than No. 13 Pittsburgh, which has run for 116.5 yards per game.
“I would say in general, rather than just this week, it is a continuation of work that’s happened since I got here,” said Mendenhall, whose offensive line returned a trio of starters from 2018 — Ryan Nelson, Chris Glaser and Dillon Reinkensmeyer.
“The sack total [at] Notre Dame was something of an outlier. While the [protection] hadn’t been up to my expectations previously, that game was obviously a higher yield against us than what I had hoped for.”
Friday night’s opponent, Miami, is holding opponents to 78.4 yards per game on the ground, although the Hurricanes surrendered 153 in its loss to Virginia Tech last Saturday.
“There’s no comfort zone for our line,” Mendenhall said. “There’s continual expectation, asking and directing and prompting and driving. They want to get better. They need to get better, and they’re working hard to get better. That’s just where we are.”
Can’t shake injuries
Mendenhall announced that veteran linebacker Rob Snyder, who missed the entire season 2017 season with an upper-extremity injury, will miss the remainder of the 2019 season with a lower-leg injury .
Also out for the year is offensive lineman Tyler Fannin (turf toe), a starter in UVa’s Sept. 21 win over Old Dominion. Fannin was redshirted as a freshman in 2017 and suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp last year.
Bronco likes Mike
After rushing for 78 yards and two touchdowns against William and Mary in Week 2, true freshman running back Mike Hollins has played in every game but has not added any carries, possibly as a result of the games being close.
“I really like Mike,” Mendenhall said. “I like him not only this year but I certainly like him in the future. It’s a delicate balance because I love developing people. When you give a first-year too much too soon, sometimes their careers don’t last as long.
“We’ve almost intentionally been holding back before we let Mike go. I’ve opted for the side of conservative, but what I think you’ll see is his role expand from this game on. We have been really intentional about trying to hold off.”