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Behind Enemy Lines: Virginia Cavaliers

With the football season less than two weeks from opening, today we take an early look at each of the Tigers' 11 opponents for the 2020 season with their Week 3 opponent, the Virginia Cavaliers.

Head Coach: Since arriving at Virginia for the 2016 season, head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s impact on the Cavalier program has been immense. From a two-win season, to the ACC’s Coastal Division Championship and a New Year’s Six bowl invitation, Virginia football’s ascent has both remarkable and historic. 

Mendenhall came to Charlottesville after a highly successful 11-year career at BYU with a vision and a plan of execution for the daunting renovation project he faced. He has masterfully crafted principles and culture, and instilled pride and purpose, leading to a standard of unbroken growth in just four seasons.

In 2019, UVA placed 10 players on the ACC All-Academic team, the most in the program’s history. Linebacker Jordan Mack was named the ACC’s Jim Tatum Award winner as the league’s top football scholarathlete and was a finalist for the William B. Campbell Trophy, known in the sport as the “academic Heisman.” 

Cavaliers on offense: Robert Anae enters his fifth season at Virginia and 14th as an offensive coordinator under UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall, which includes nine years at BYU.

The 2019 season was special one in Charlottesville as the Cavaliers won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division for the first time and made their first appearance in the ACC Championship game. UVA appeared in its first New Year’s Six bowl game, the Orange Bowl, and finished ranked No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff poll and No. 25 in the final USA Today coaches poll. It is UVA’s first string of three-straight bowl appearances since UVA went to four bowl games between 2002 and 2005. 

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Anae’s offense broke five team records in 2019, which includes most first downs (296), first downs passing (180), completions (337), passing yards (3,748) and points scored (449). UVA also tied the 1990 team for most touchdowns (56), while Anae’s offense in 2019 averaged 33.2 points per game, which is No. 2 all-time to UVA’s 1990 team. UVA amassed over 5,000 yards of total offense in both 2018 and 2019 under Anae, which marks only the second time in program history UVA has done that in back-to-back seasons. Prior to Anae’s arrival UVA only surpassed 5,000 yards of total offense four times.

Cavaliers on defense: Nick Howell is in his fifth season at Virginia on Bronco Mendenhall’s staff and is the defensive coordinator/secondary coach. 

The 2019 season was special one in Charlottesville as the Cavaliers won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division for the first time and made their first appearance in the ACC Championship game. UVA appeared in its first New Year’s Six bowl game, the Orange Bowl, and finished ranked No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff poll and No. 25 in the final USA Today coaches poll. It is UVA’s first string of three-straight bowl appearances since UVA went to four bowl games between 2002 and 2005. 

Despite losing multiple starters on the defensive side of the ball for the season, UVA broke the program record for sacks in a season in 2019. The Chris Long-led defense in 2007 set the standard with 43, and the 2019 edition concluded the year with 46, which ranked No. 6 in the nation. Inside linebacker Jordan Mack led all ACC linebackers with 7.5 sacks. In all, 27 of UVA’s 46 sacks were recorded by linebackers. Howell’s defense accomplished this all despite having lost five starters and various role players to season-ending injuries by the time UVA kicked off in the Orange Bowl.

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