Passing fancy: Virginia gaining ground through air

Virginia will find out this weekend where its passing offense

really stands – if it really is among the best in the Atlantic

Coast Conference.

The Cavaliers (2-1) open ACC play against Florida State (3-1) on

Saturday. The Seminoles lead the nation with 19 sacks (for minus

124 yards) and have allowed a total of 197 passing yards in

victories against Brigham Young and Wake Forest in their last two

games.

The Cavaliers feel they have some recent things to build off,

too.

Before losing 17-14 at Southern Cal, the Cavaliers’ offensive

linemen heard all about how the Trojans’ defense was stacked with

future NFL players and might be too difficult to slow down.

It proved not to be so. USC managed only two sacks against Marc

Verica, and Virginia was in the game until the end, a surprisingly

strong showing on USC’s home field.

”You’ve just got to go into the mindset that we’ve put several

linemen in the NFL from here on the offensive line,” Bradley said.

”We all weren’t recruited for no reason.”

Virginia threw for 341 yards and five touchdowns last weekend in

a 48-7 victory against VMI. It was the Cavaliers’ highest yardage

total through the air in five seasons, and pushed the team’s

passing average to 271 yards per game, fourth in the

conference.

But Bradley and the offense know that dominating a VMI defense

whose heaviest player weighed 265 pounds and handling the

sack-happy Seminoles are two very different animals.

The strategy, though, is the same.

”Everything’s got to be more on point with the offense as a

whole,” he said. ”You’ve just got to take in the first three

games and understand every little thing you did wrong.”

Despite the contrast in talent level, the Seminoles will find a

confident offense.

”I think we showed that if you want to put eight men in the box

and shut down the run game, trying to stop us from running the

ball, we can attack you with all our weapons on the edge,” he

said, speaking of VMI’s attention to stopping the run and forcing

the pass.

”It just shows you can’t stop everything we’re trying to do

here.”

Verica, viewed by some as a wild card in the offense because of

his tendency to have streaks of bad throws and decisions, has been

very crisp with five TDs and one interception.

He’s also done exactly what the coaching staff has asked.

”I think it’s a product of the offense, of the system and the

scheme that’s put in, not asking a guy to do too much,” coach Mike

London said. ”When Marc makes a throw based on the coverage, based

on the receivers running the correct route, we can be fairly

productive.”

And this week, those receivers are eager to test themselves

again.

”We’ll get to see where we are right now,” said Kris Burd, who

has a touchdown catch in each game this season. ”We had some

success against Richmond and VMI, and we took it right down to the

wire against USC, so this is going to be a good game to see where

we stand.”