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UVa Football Notebook: Defensive line delivers another strong performance

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As the contest grew longer, Virginia’s defensive line became increasingly more impactful.

The catalyst in a second straight solid performance for the Hoos’ defense aided them in their 16-14 win over visiting Old Dominion on Saturday.

UVa’s front pressured and smothered the opposing backfield to help force Old Dominion off the field — with the exception of the Monarchs’ go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter — when ODU was continuously within a score of the Hoos throughout the second half.

“Our speed rushes were working pretty well today,” UVa defensive end Kam Butler said. “We knew going in they had some pass indicators, run-pass indicators pre-snap and those held true to the game. We just had to communicate effectively and execute.”

To end the third quarter, Butler began a barrage of sacks and takedowns of Monarchs quarterback Hayden Wolff to derail their drives. The next two ODU series were ended with sacks from UVa defensive tackle Aaron Faumui and defensive end Chico Bennett Jr. to prompt the Monarchs to punt.

For Butler, a transfer from Miami (Ohio), and Bennett, a second-year transfer from Georgia Tech, each recorded a sack for the second time in as many weeks. Butler chalked their success up to the Cavaliers being able to take advantage of the depth they have on their D-line and working in unison with the secondary, which had solid coverage in those second-and-long or third-and-long situations that sacks were tallied.

“We knew going into the game that we were going to have a stable of guys that we were going to rotate,” Butler said. “So, just for that point, we were able to stay fresh in the third quarter and the fourth quarter.”

The unit assisted UVa in limiting ODU to a 4-of-15 third-down conversion rate.

“Being in coverage,” safety Jonas Sanker, who racked up seven tackles, said of the defensive front, “it’s nice to know you’re getting pressure and the quarterback is probably forcing some throws he doesn’t need to force. Their pressure takes pressure off the defensive backs.”

Hoos shift O-line starters

The Cavaliers adjusted their starting offensive line on Saturday against the Monarchs, inserting senior Jonathan Leech into the group for the first time this season. Leech played right tackle and sophomore Logan Taylor, who manned the position for the first two weeks, slid over to left tackle bumping freshman McKale Boley to the bench.

With a new-look unit, the Cavaliers found success in its running game while tallying more yards on the ground in the first quarter (93) versus Old Dominion than they did in the entire game (42) last week at Illinois.

UVa racked up 229 rushing yards in total on Saturday.

Leech had taken first-team reps throughout preseason training camp up until suffering a hand injury that prompted Boley’s early promotion. Leech started games last year against Georgia Tech and Miami, dressed for UVa’s opener against Richmond but was only available in an emergency situation.

He made his 2022 debut last week at Illinois and earned his first start this year versus ODU.

Kemp IV, Clary miss contest

Virginia was without wide receiver Billy Kemp IV and safety Antonio Clary on Saturday. Clary was spotted going through pregame warmups, but Kemp was not.

Elliott said Clary suffered a stinger at Illinois and was ultimately ruled not healthy enough to play. Kemp, according to Elliott, was sick.

Clary entered Saturday as UVa’s second-leading tackler. Fellow safety Coen King — after missing the first two games of the year — started in Clary’s place.

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CHARLOTTESVILLE – On Virginia’s first offensive play Saturday against Old Dominion, quarterback Brennan Armstrong took a deep shot up the sideline to Dontayvion Wicks. Wicks was tightly covered but he adjusted well to an underthrown pass, getting his hands on the football as he came down to the ground on his back.

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