'Hoos working diligently to improve offensive line

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Coordinator Robert Anae believes last week's bye came at a great time for the Virginia football team's offense.

"Obviously anytime you're on the road and a really good opponent, you find out about yourself. So we did," Anae told reporters after UVA's practice Wednesday morning. "We found out we're not as sound up front as we'd like to be."

The stats have been lingering over the Wahoos for almost two weeks now. Notre Dame sacked UVA quarterback Bryce Perkins eight times in that games, and forced UVA to turn the ball over five times. Virginia finished with four yards rushing against the Fighting Irish -- with Perkins getting the Cavaliers out of negative numbers with a six-yard gain on the team's final possession.

More than half of the team's 15 sacks allowed for the season came in that loss at Notre Dame. Yards lost on those sacks count toward UVA's rushing totals -- which is a significant contributor to the team's 107.6 rushing yards-per-game average, which ranks last in the ACC and 116th of 130 FBS teams.

The Wahoos have had the last two weeks to reassess their offensive line play. Sophomore tackle Ryan Swoboda says the team has focused on basics in practice.

"Nothing crazy," Swoboda said. "It's just getting back to trusting ourselves, trusting our footwork. Throwing our hands. All that stuff."

"Communication. Technique," Anae said. "Because there's no way around it, you have to play the game. And everybody is involved in contributing. And when one guy doesn't contribute at a high enough level, then you get exposed."

"Everybody is working deliberately," said Swoboda. "I think at practice, we know when we're going into team periods, we've got to strain, we've got to go even harder. And I think we're holding each other accountable, which I think is the biggest change right now."

A dozen linemen have seen time for the Wahoos this season, though the team did lose backup center Tyler Fannin for the season with a foot ligament injury. Seven linemen played at Notre Dame -- with Bobby Haskins starting at left tackle, Ryan Nelson at left guard, Olusegun Oluwatimi at center, Chris Glaser at right guard and Dillon Reinkensmeyer at right tackle. Those five also started in those spots against William and Mary. The Wahoos have had at least one starter in a different spot in each of their other three games.

At his press conference on Monday, UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall said the 4-1 Cavaliers' continued improvement as a program will require stronger play from the offensive line.

"There is no comfort zone for our offensive line," Mendenhall said. "There's continual expectation asking and directing and prompting, and driving. And they want to get better. They need to get better. And they're working hard to get better."



 
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