Wahoos' secondary passes first test without Hall

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- De'Vante Cross broke up a pair of passes in his first start at cornerback in two seasons. Replacing Cross at free safety, Chris Moore led the Virginia defense with 12 tackles.

According to UVA co-defensive coordinator Kelly Poppinga, those two fourth-year juniors helped the Cavaliers' defense make a "seamless" transition last weekend against Duke, in the team's first game without All-American cornerback Bryce Hall.

"Not to make it sound like we didn't miss Bryce Hall, because obviously we want our best players out on the field. But I don't think we missed a beat with having De'Vante at corner," Poppinga said Wednesday morning following the Cavaliers' practice. "I think we played just as well, if not as good as we've played all season with him out there. And that's nothing bad against Bryce. I think it's more credit to De'Vante, to step in to do what he did. And credit to Chris Moore to step in, to do what he did at safety."

The Wahoos lost Hall for the season when he injured his left ankle while playing on the punt return team in the first half of UVA's 17-9 loss at Miami two Fridays ago. When Hall went down, Cross shifted to cornerback from free safety, where he had started the first six games of the year.

Hall's streak of 39 consecutive starts ended with last Saturday's 48-14 win against the Blue Devils at Scott Stadium. Cross had played some corner as a redshirt freshman in 2017, but Saturday was his first start at the position.

Cross said he felt much more prepared to fill that spot against Duke than he did the previous week at Miami, when he was forced to move after Hall went down.

"Especially with a week of practice, you get way more comfortable," Cross said. "Like in that Miami game, just being out there. Being able to look at that film and then get a whole week of practice, it really helped become more comfortable and be able to put myself in position to make more plays."

Cross was playing wide receiver before he was hastily moved to cornerback midway through the 2017 season to replace an injured Juan Thornhill. Prior to the move, he hadn't played defensive back since high school.

Two years later, Cross is in his second full season in the UVA secondary. Moore missed all of last year with an injury, but made 55 tackles and one interception in 23 games, including six starts, during his first two college seasons.

On Monday, head coach Bronco Mendenhall said the transition to life without Hall in the secondary was made smoother by being able to plug older, more experienced players into the holes his injury created.

"Now that we are gaining some maturity in the program and some depth, to have experienced players, when one goes down and you can move two, and get a similar result, it gives you a chance to keep competing for your division," Mendenhall said. "Which, we have as good a chance as anyone."

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