Virginia vs. Indiana — a breakdown

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Senior outside linebacker and captain Chris Peace led all linebackers in the ACC last year in sacks (seven and a half) and started all thirteen games.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

After a decisive win against FCS opponent Richmond, Virginia turns the page and prepares to face Big Ten competition on the road. The Cavaliers take on Indiana in what will be the first real test of the season. The CD staff takes a look at some players and keys to the game that could make Virginia 2-0 for the first time since 2012.

Players to watch

Virginia linebacker Chris Peace

Senior outside linebacker and captain Chris Peace is the leader of the Virginia defense. Peace led all linebackers in the ACC last year in sacks (seven and a half) and started all thirteen games. He heads a strong linebacker core also including returning senior Malcolm Cook and junior Jordan Mack. Peace came up with two tackles against Richmond, including one for a loss, but will be even more important against Indiana. Virginia faces its first offensive challenge in dual-threat sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who torched the Cavaliers last year. Peace needs to apply pressure on Ramsey and contain Indiana’s potentially explosive run game for Virginia to succeed. Virginia needs to come out and set the tone on defense early, and Peace can get this done with a big sack right out of the gate.

Virginia running back Jordan Ellis

Senior running back Jordan Ellis started off his last year with the Cavaliers in a strong fashion after he amassed a career-high 146 rushing yards against Richmond. Coming off of that performance, and given the fact that Indiana’s defense is very young and inexperienced, Ellis could really make a difference in the Cavalier’s second game of the season. He should have a lot of opportunities to pick up some yards and get in the end-zone. Additionally, this will be a chance for Ellis — and the rest of Virginia’s offense — to show that their running game can still be as impressive as it was last week against a team from a Power Five conference. 

Keys to the game

Get the passing game going early

Saturday night’s game showed how explosive Virginia’s running game can be. But against a team with the offensive prowess of Indiana, the run game will not be enough. In order to maintain a hold in the game, the Cavaliers need to get the passing game going early and get junior transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins comfortable. While the running game allowed Virginia to climb back into the Richmond game after Perkins’ pick six, it might be more difficult against a Hoosiers team to rely on it. If the Cavaliers’ offense starts Perkins off with screen passes, relying on the speed of junior wide receiver Joe Reed and senior wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, it should ease him into the game to establish the kind of rhythm Virginia will need Saturday night to beat a Big Ten team on the road.

Put on the pressure defensively 

In Indiana’s first weekend of action, the inexperience and youth of the Hoosiers’ defense showed. They struggled to put any substantial pressure on FIU’s quarterback, which is something that the Cavaliers should be able to exploit. However, Indiana’s offense offered a little more promise against FIU, which makes them more of a threat for Virginia. Both redshirt sophomore Peyton Ramsey and freshman Michael Penix were used in the QB slot, and the two combined for a 75 percent pass completion rate using ten different receivers. The Cavaliers will have to be ready to face both the poised, consistency of Ramsey — who completed 16 of 20 passes in last year’s contest against Virginia and the arm strength of Penix. Virginia’s defense looked pretty solid against Richmond – holding the Spiders to 34 yards of total rushing and forcing two interceptions – but Indiana’s offense will require a lot more pressure from the Cavaliers. 

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