The Virginia Cavaliers football team (2-2, 0-2) lost their second straight game, as they were defeated by the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-0, 2-0), 37-17, at Scott Stadium. Wake Forest has now won five straight against the Hoos, which dates back to 2008. The Hoos were coming off a shootout loss to the 21st-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, in which they allowed 699 total yards. They had a short week to restore confidence, but it started rough for the Cavaliers and never got better.
The Demon Deacons started with the ball, and fans could quickly tell what this game was going to become. Wake Forest’s offense revolved around the run-pass option, and they had success with this throughout the game. Sophomore Quarterback Sam Hartman looked confident in a clean pocket behind an offensive line that returns just as much starting experience as UVA’s. Junior Runningback Christian Beal-Smith was patient and productive. The balanced attack allowed the Deacons to strike first when Hartman found wide receiver Taylor Morin wide open after a blown coverage.
The Hoos’ first drive was when it went downhill. On a 3rd & 19, quarterback Brennan Armstrong connected with wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks for 20 yards to set up 1st & goal. However, the Cavalier offense was stopped and turned the ball over on downs at the goal line. This moment gave a massive boost to the Deacs’ defense. Wake Forest was again able to move the ball methodically down the field, due to good protection and kept the Hoos’ defense on their heels. They kicked a field goal to take a 10-0 lead.
UVA kicker Justin Duenkel made a field goal of his own to cut the deficit to seven. The Deacs answered back when running back Justice Ellison rushed up the middle untouched for a 63-yard gain. A holding penalty on the Hoos allowed the Wake Forest drive to continue, and Ellison capped off the drive with a score. They added another field goal before halftime to take a 20-3 lead.
The Hoos offense looked better to start the second half. Armstrong completed a 21-yard pass to wide receiver Ra’Shaun Henry. Armstrong took off for a 31-yard rush and then find tight end Jelani Woods sealing two defenders off for a 17-yard touchdown reception. Sam Hartman completed a short pass to wide receiver Jaquarii Roberson, who bolted for a 44-yard gain. Wake Forest would get creative, as they set up in the wildcat formation. Christian Beal-Smith took the snap, pitch it to Hartman on a jet sweep, and Hartman found tight end Blake Whitehart wide open after the Hoos defense became confused.
The UVA offense stayed in the game off a nine-play 92-yard drive touchdown drive. Woods caught a pass and had room to run for a 32-yard reception. Armstrong connected with Wicks for a 22-yard touchdown off a play that seemed destined to go for nothing. The snap came early, but Armstrong was able to readjust and make a tough throw to Wicks. Once more, however, Hartman and the Deacons scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.T. Perry. The Hoos were unable to muster anything in the fourth quarter, and the Deacs prevailed.
The Cavaliers compiled 506 total yards, with Armstrong throwing for 407 of them. This statistic seems misleading. The Hoos offense underwhelmed for the first time this season. The offensive line, which has been a major strength through the season, gave up six sacks and nine tackles for loss. There was no existent ground game, similar to last week. They ran for 99 yards, but 54 of them came off two Armstrong runs. Sophomore Mike Hollins started in place of injured running back Wayne Taulapapa, but only carried the ball six times. The Wake Forest defense did well to keep Armstrong second-guessing his reads through effective pressure and tight coverage of his receivers. For the positives, Wicks continues his breakout campaign, posting eight receptions, 114 yards, and a touchdown. Woods had 73 yards and a score on four receptions, and wide receiver Billy Kemp had seven receptions for 65 yards.
The defense was once again exposed. The Deacs did well keeping the defense uncomfortable through establishing the run and mixing in play-action passes that set up open passes that amounted to big yardage. The defense accounted for zero sacks and had no answer for the Wake Forest offensive line. Wake Forest decided to go with a trio of running backs (Beal-Smith, Ellison, and Christian Turner) to keep their guys fresh, and they all played a role in the team’s 207 rushing yards. Hartman picked apart the coverage and threw for a respectable 270 yards. This offense had an effective plan going into this game, and they made the Hoos defense pay.
The attendance of this game was 38,699. Many were dissatisfied with how poor the team played, which led to an empty stadium early in the fourth quarter. There was little to be excited about with what should have been a competitive conference matchup. Against the Tar Heels, the team displayed resiliency, and the offense was rolling. Against the Deacs, the offense faced some mishaps, and the defense could not get off the field. In the past two games, the Hoos defense has been on the field for 22 drives. Of those, 18 have resulted in points for the opposing offenses, one in an interception, and three in punts. Those punts all occurred in the fourth against Wake Forest, but the Deacons were trying to keep the clock running to get out with the win. In the past three games, the Hoos have been penalized 28 times for 259 yards. The team has struggled to get off the field on defense and has kicked themselves on simple mistakes. The Cavaliers are still searching for their first conference win and need one fast. They will have another short week to get ready to play the Miami Hurricanes on September 30th at 7:30 P.M. at Hard Rock Stadium.