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Hot Take: The three things wrong with Virginia’s running game

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Virginia’s running game has...left a lot to be desired. What is the problem?

NCAA Football: Indiana at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The UVA running game was anemic in a 34-17 home loss to Indiana last week. Virginia rushed the ball 25 times for only 55 yards against the Hoosiers. For the Cavaliers to be at all successful this season, they’ll need to run the football effectively. They won’t win many games if Kurt Benkert is forced to throw 60+ passes each Saturday.

So why can’t Virginia run the ball effectively? Here are three observations from the Streaking the Lawn staff:

UVA’s offensive line remains a work in progress.

The Cavalier big men are much better pass blockers than run blockers at this point. The OL isn’t getting much push off the ball, which hampers what Jordan Ellis and Daniel Hamm can do. And the Virginia coaching staff is still searching for its best linemen combination.

One player to watch is true freshman Dillon Reinkensmeyer, who entered the Indiana game at center in the third quarter. In response, Virginia moved Jake Fieler from center to guard and John Montelus from guard to…first substitute.

UVA might be tipping its runs.

The Cavaliers sub in multiple receivers on offense throughout the game. And in many instances, they’ve subbed receivers out just after one play. Some of Virginia’s receivers are better blockers than others. It’s possible that opponents are picking up on receiver packages to snuff out running plays before the ball is even hiked.

UVA’s play calling is suspect.

A number of commenters have started to question UVA’s offensive identity. Radio analyst and former Cavalier Tony Covington lamented in the Saturday postgame that he didn’t know what Virginia was trying to do on offense. Former Wahoo receiver Ahmad Hawkins expressed similar confusion in his weekly podcast.

Virginia’s running game against the Hoosiers consisted mostly of dives between the guards. Against William and Mary, the running game was mostly off-tackle. In both games, Virginia’s running “strategy” became rather predictable by the second quarter. Moreover, as Hawkins pointed out, UVA often sets up for the read option, but Benkert never runs, which undermines the element of surprise that makes the read option effective.

Bottom Line: UVA’s inability to run the football is slowly becoming THE story of the 2017 campaign. Here’s hoping the Hoos can adjust and improve. We’ll be watching closely.