Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Indiana's quest for a bowl bid reaches a crucial juncture Saturday against Virginia, and one statistic in the game strongly favors Bill Lynch's team.
Virginia's offense appears to be showing signs of life after a miserable start, but the Cavaliers still rank dead last nationally in sacks allowed (4.25 per game). Opponents have sacked Cavaliers quarterbacks 16 times in the last three games. TCU recorded a whopping eight sacks against Virginia in a Sept. 12 victory.
The trend is bound to bring smiles to the faces of Indiana senior defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton.
Indiana's strength on defense remains a formidable pass rush led by Kirlew, who ranks second in the Big Ten in tackles for loss (9.5) and ties for second in sacks (3.5). Middleton is tied for fifth in the league with three sacks.
Needless to say, the Hoosiers will be leaning on the tandem in Charlottesville.
"That's the key thing in our defense," Lynch said. "We've got to be able to control the early downs and get them in third-and-long. That's when our pass-rushers really have the most success, when we do a great job against the run."
Lynch has seen Virginia adjust its protections since the first few weeks of the season, and Cavaliers quarterback Jameel Sewell is mobile enough to make plays when defenses sell out on blitzes. Sewell has rushed for three touchdowns and has more than twice as many rush attempts as any other Virginia player.
He's the third straight mobile quarterback Indiana will face, after Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Michigan's Tate Forcier. The Hoosiers recorded two sacks against Michigan and three against Ohio State, but both Pryor and Forcier made plays with their feet.
Kirlew and Middleton will need to be cognizant of Sewell's mobility as they look to bring him down.
"In each pass rush, you've got somebody responsible for contain and somebody responsible for up inside," Lynch said. "If they're on a stunt, they've got to know what their responsibility is. You can't get selfish and just do your own thing and try to get to the quarterback.
"You've got to have discipline about your rush."