CHARLOTTESVILLE – The Virginia Cavaliers football team trounced the Illinois Fighting Illini 42-14 this past Saturday, September 12 at Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers kept the momentum from last week’s 43-0 win over William & Mary and controlled the game throughout on both sides of the ball. The offense finished with 556 total yards, while the defense held the Fighting Illini to 337 total yards. This win marks the Cavaliers’ 10th straight win against non-conference foes at Scott Stadium.
From the get-go, the Hoos held the reins in this one. On their opening drive, the Cavs marched down the field in four plays for 75 yards and a touchdown. The score came from quarterback Brennan Armstrong finding Oklahoma State-transfer tight end Jelani Woods across the middle of the field. The duo would finish with two completions for 63 yards and a touchdown on this drive alone, and Woods would ultimately end with five catches, 122 yards, and the one score.
For the rest of the game, Armstrong would expose the middle of the field that was left open from Illinois’s man coverage defense. He was able to include nine different receivers in the passing attack, while also getting involved in the receiving game himself after wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks completed a tough pass on a double reverse. Armstrong would finish the game with career highs in passing yards (405) and touchdowns (five); his passing yards in this game only fall short of Kurt Benkert’s records of 455 passing yards against UConn in 2017 and 421 passing yards against Central Michigan in 2016.
Wicks added 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and FBP Keytaon Thompson added an impressive rushing touchdown where he broke a tackle and bounced away from the Illini defense for six. The offensive line was key in this game, as they dominated the Illinois defensive front, allowing Armstrong to stay upright and deliver one big throw after another in what was one of the best passing performances in team history.
The defense was once again stout in the second game, continually pressuring Illinois’s quarterback Artur Sitkowski and mixing up how they would attack him, sometimes bringing a 3-man blitz, and other times bringing a 5-man blitz. They overwhelmed the Illini’s offense, as evident by the team’s three sacks, six tackles for loss, and seven pass breakups. Louisville transfer defensive back Anthony Johnson intercepted his first pass for the Cavaliers, and senior defensive back Nick Grant forced a fumble that was recovered by freshman linebacker West Weeks. The defense gave up a touchdown early in the 2nd half to make the score 21-14, but they were able to withstand Illinois’s offense for the rest of the game, which allowed for the Cavalier offense to score 21 unanswered points.
Woods, who exited last week’s game early due to cramps, flashed his potential as the next UVA tight end threat. After last year’s success from Tony Poljan, head coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff may have found another transfer gem. The Hoos (2-0) will look to keep the train moving when they open conference play against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Memorial Stadium on 9/18 at 7:30 P.M.