The Virginia Cavaliers football team (2-1) fell to the #21 North Carolina Tar Heels (2-1), 59-39. This marks the end of Virginia’s four-game win streak in the South’s Oldest Rivalry. Traveling on the road in a primetime game is never easy, and the Hoos were in trouble early.
UVA was kicking themselves on both sides of the ball. The Tar Heels’ offense rolled, while the Hoos’ first two drives were stalled by false starts and a fumble from FBP Keytaon Thompson. In the first quarter, UNC ran eight plays for 239 yards. Down 24-7 with 10:47 left in the 2nd quarter, the UVA offense and defense began to click. Junior Quarterback Armstrong would connect with sophomore Wide Receiver Dontayvion Wicks on a 40-yard touchdown. On the following Tar Heels’ drive, UNC was in the red zone when sophomore defensive back Fentrell Cypress II picked off Howell’s pass to set the Cavaliers in Tar Heel territory. Armstrong would then hit graduate-transfer tight end Jelani Woods for a score. Later, a missed field goal by North Carolina kicker Grayson Atkins gave UVA enough time for senior wide receiver Billy Kemp to haul in a 21-yard touchdown to give the Hoos a 28-24 lead at the half. In the third quarter, the UNC offense would outscore UVA by 18 points, and the Cavaliers did not have enough to spark another comeback.
The passing game was once again extraordinary. Junior quarterback Brennan Armstrong broke the passing yards in a game record that was set by Kurt Benkert in 2017, where he threw for 455 yards against the UConn Huskies. Armstrong followed up last week’s 405-yard performance against Illinois by scorching the UNC secondary for 554 yards. Armstrong was protected well for the majority of the game by the experienced offensive line, and he was given an extra boost by Wicks, who finished the game with seven receptions, 183 yards, and a touchdown.
On the other hand, the rushing game was nonexistent. UVA finished the game with 22 rushes for 21 yards. Against William & Mary and Illinois, the Hoos finished with 206 and 133 yards, respectively. More bad news for the running game revolves around Wayne Taulapapa, as head coach Bronco Mendenhall stated the senior running back had suffered a concussion.
The UVA defense knew they would have their hands full when playing against Sam Howell. The Tar Heel quarterback threw for 307 yards and five touchdowns while adding 112 yards on the ground. The question for UNC was who else would step up, after losing wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome and running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter from last season. Against the Cavaliers, it was everyone.
The Tar Heel offensive line kept Howell upright a lot better than they did against the Virginia Tech Hokies, as Howell was sacked once against the Hoos, compared to six times against the Hokies. Along with this, they blocked well in the running game, as they were able to pull their blockers well and get up the field to lead block. Tennessee-transfer running back Ty Chandler had two touchdowns and a career-high 198 yards, and true freshman running back Caleb Hood added 66 yards and a score. Wide receiver Josh Downs exposed the UVA secondary, as he finished the game with eight receptions for 203 yards and 59 and 37-yard touchdowns. The UVA defense had no answer for this offense, as they compiled 699 total yards. Senior safety Joey Blount, who was seen on the sidelines in a sling, suffered a collarbone injury, but it does not seem to be broken, per head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
This game was a battle of high-powered offenses led by two premier quarterbacks in the country. For UNC, they were unstoppable on offense, as they punted the ball zero times on 12 drives. The UVA offense looks like they can hang with most teams in the country, while the defense has some work to do. The defense looked stout through the first two weeks, but they were outplayed against the Tar Heels. The Hoos will look to rebound next week, as they take on the 3-0 Wake Forest Demon Deacons on September 24th at 7 P.M. in Scott Stadium.