The first thing Ball State football coach Pete Lembo did to begin preparing for his team's visit to Virginia this weekend was to check out the Cavaliers' team statistics.
"I quickly glance over the stats, and I had to do a double-take," Lembo recalled earlier this week. "Because when I looked at the total defense statistic, the first digit was a two."
Through four games this season, the UVa defense is giving up just 299.2 yards per game, which ranks 16th in the country and sixth in the ACC. Take away Oregon's 557-yard performance at Scott Stadium last month in a 59-10 win, and that number shrinks to 213.3 yards per game.
Since that loss to the Ducks, the Cavaliers have held VMI to 79 total yards, and Pittsburgh to 199 total yards. That marks the first time since 1972 that Virginia has held back-to-back offenses under 200 total yards.
"In college football nowadays, it is very, very rare to see a team whose total defense is giving up less than 300 yards a game," said Lembo, whose team is putting up 472.4 yards per game this season. "It's almost unheard of anymore, with today's spread offenses, explosive offenses."
Lembo is 19-11 as head coach of the Cardinals, including a 4-1 record this season. But he says the Cavaliers have the best defensive line Ball State has faced in his three seasons as coach.
The Cavaliers have started the same foursome -- ends Eli Harold and Jake Snyder, and tackles Brent Urban and David Dean -- in all four games this season. They've combined for 5.5 sacks, and 16 tackles for a loss.
"They're fun to watch," Lembo said. "They're really well coached. They're really talented physically, but they're really, really detailed. You don't see wasted movement. You don't see bad footwork."
Lembo especially pointed to Urban, who had four tackles for a loss in last weekend's loss at Pitt, and leads the country in pass breakups per game among defensive linemen.
"The 3-technique, the tackle. Urban," Lembo said. "Six-seven, 295. I can't wait to see this guy in person. He's going to, I'm sure he's going to look like a tremendous pro prospect. And he plays like it."
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