UVa Game -- Defensive Analysis

The Hurricanes lost to Virginia today by the score of 41-40. Read on to see what CanesTime's Mike Bakas is saying about the game -- from a defensive standpoint.

* Where do I start?? It was another terrible performance, and there's no other way to put it. This unit gave up 482 yards and 41 points to an offense that came in ranked in the 90's in total offense. UM's defense started to gain some momentum over the last two weeks. They were starting to get really healthy again as a whole. They had a chance to play against a statistically poor offense today. The result? They got shredded. That's terribly disappointing, but it's become something to be expected of this unit.

* The front four, and their ability to stop the run, has completely changed after Curtis Porter returned to the lineup. He might not get a whole lot of tackles but he eats up space and makes life very difficult for the opponents and their ability to run the football. The Cavs didn't have much success, averaging less than three yards per carry. And their longest run went just 21 yards. Miami's front seven deserves a lot of credit for that, and Porter is probably the biggest reason why it's been a lot tougher to run against Miami the last few weeks. You just wonder how the UNC game may have been different had he been in the rotation.

* Anthony Chickillo continues to display a tremendous motor in the way he plays. He might not be the quickest or most explosive defensive end around but he plays the game the right way, always hustles, and is very tough. It doesn't always show in the stat sheet but it did today, with a couple sacks. Like he's been since last season, he was again a very solid defensive end today.

* I wrote on the offensive analysis piece how disappointing it was for Rashawn Scott to do something to get suspended right before this game. Well, the same obviously applies for Eddie Johnson here. With Denzel Perryman already out, Johnson was going to be counted on to be the leader of the linebacker group today, the guy who could change the game around. Instead, he decided to do something that would prevent him from playing. That's a tough break for the UM coaches.

* You can say what you want about Gionni Paul. He makes mistakes. He was right by the last second throw that somehow made it through to the UVA tight end. However, whenever he starts, he is generally around the ball a lot. He was in on 14 stops today, leading the team. He's led the team in tackles in nearly every game he's started -- and he's playing the outside. He and Gaines gave UM a solid duo but they just don't have a 5th (or 3rd) LB who is ready to be a difference maker yet. The hope was that Raphael Kirby would be that guy by now but I think his early season injury has prevented that from happening.

* The secondary got it handed to them again today. Brandon McGee is solid and shows flashes at times but after that, the production and quality play simply isn't there. Some of the younger guys will be fine in time but this unit on the field today simply isn't up to par to match up against even an offense like UVA has.

* Missing Deon Bush at safety was huge. He has turned into the team's top safety and there's a big dropoff from him to Highsmith/Rodgers -- both of whom had to be in the starting lineup today. This team has one quality safety right now and that kid getting hurt and being unable to play couldn't have come at a worse time.

* A lot of people are going to start being extra critical of defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio. It's only fair to say some of that is warranted at this point. I'm still torn between two possible viewpoints. The first one is that UM played this game without its two best linebackers and its best safety. You put those three kids into the lineup today and I think it's a different game. You put Porter in the lineup early in the season and I think teams would've had a much tougher time running on this unit. In other words, it'd be nice to think of what this defense, under D'Onofrio, will look like one day soon when it has all the top players in it and they're not playing so many young players. Think about next year -- Porter, Chick, Perryman, Johnson, Kirby, Bush, Howard, all those guys. Throw in a true freshman or two in 2013 and that group would seem to have a chance to make D'Onofrio look a lot better. On the otherhand, it's somewhat concerning that despite this unit not having the horses this year, they're still getting shredded. Does that mean UM will have to have the best players and the most experience for D'Onofrio to get the most out of them? Is he that uncreative? Again, there are two viewpoints and I'm still unclear on where I stand. Probably somewhere in the middle. Time will tell.

* Duke is all that matters right now. It'd be nice to make sure Bush and Perryman and totally healthy for that game but losing to USF would potentially really hurt UM's in-state recruiting efforts so that game becomes very important, too. Either way, this unit needs to get better, and in a hurry.

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