Clemson scored the marquee nonconference win of Week 1 for the ACC, but it was Virginia that may have pulled the biggest surprise. The Cavaliers staged an impressive fourth-quarter comeback, led by safety Anthony Harris' late interception against BYU. New coordinator Jon Tenuta had his defense playing exceptionally well, but the test gets much bigger in Week 2 when Oregon travels to Charlottesville. We chatted with Harris about what's in store this weekend.
Last week was a big win for you guys, spearheaded by the defense. Has there been a lot of excitement about the performance this week?
Anthony Harris: Yeah, we're very excited. We would've liked to have held them a little more in a few categories, but we think we played well at some times and came up big for our offense. [And we] were able to get the ball back when we needed to and stop them on a couple key third-down plays.
Q. What has Jon Tenuta brought to the unit that has made such an instant impact?
A. Coach Tenuta is a great guy. With him, it's always just go, go, go. Play fast. You want to dictate to the offense how the tempo of the game may go, what you do up front as far as different pressures and movements. He expects nothing but the best out of you. He talks about effort a lot, talks about penetration and stuff like that. He brought this whole mental aspect of we're going to play hard, play fast and know your assignment.
Q. You had a huge game against BYU, winning Walter Camp defensive-player-of-the-week honors, but a lot of your teammates had impressive performances, too. How good do you think this defense can be?
A. Yeah, this past Saturday we had a lot of guys step up for us. Maurice Canady in the nickel did a great job playing some man and some zone coverage. [He] had a bunch of tackles (a team-high 13). The defensive line as a whole did a great job. A lot of different guys showed up around the ball, putting pressure on the quarterback. Eli Harold did a good job for us. And we think Saturday was just a glimpse of how good we really can be. We've got to iron out a few kinks, a few wrinkles, but we're just looking to move forward onto this week and continue to get better.
Q. Oregon's up-tempo style is going to be a huge challenge. Last week, they ran 71 plays in less than 20 minutes of possession time. Is there a way to slow that down?
A. You've got to make sure you take care of assignments. Be in position and make the play when you're in position to make the play. You can't allow them to get in that tempo when they get big gains and have a big play. And in order to counter-act that, you have to try to stop them by taking away [what] they're looking for, try to get them in third-and-long, second-and-long, and that limits their play selection. And it takes them a little longer to get to the ball to make sure they get the play they want.
Q. The win over BYU was big for you, but would stopping that Oregon offense establish Virginia's D as one of the top units in the ACC?
A. This is a big game for us. With Oregon coming in, they're a nationally-known team. We feel we have some good players on this team [who] can play at some of the highest levels. We're just going to work hard and continue to do what we do. [We will] focus in on them and what they do on offense and defense, and go out there and lay it all on the line.