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Virginia football cruises to 38-18 win over UConn

Both the offense and defense were clicking as the Hoos dominated the Huskies.

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Virginia
Benkert was accurate and efficient in the win.
Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia football team improved their record to 2-1 with a dominant victory over UConn, 38-18. The Hoos were clicking on both sides of the ball, a major improvement after the struggles last week against Indiana. Kurt Benkert finished with 455 yards, going 30-for-40 with three touchdowns and one interception. Olamide Zaccheaus had an incredible day with 47 yards rushing and 122 through the air with one receiving touchdown. He also added 56 return yards.

Zacchaeus wasn’t the only offensive player hitting the record books in today’s victory as Benkert set a new school record for yards passing.

Benkert started the game 7-for-7 and went 11-for-12 for 61 yards in their 18 play, 88-yard first drive. The Virginia quarterback found six different receivers en route to a three yard touchdown from Daniel Hamm.

The 18 play drive was the longest scoring drive in number of plays in school history, and Hamm also earned himself a spot in the record books:

Virginia let the Huskies threaten in their ensuing possession following a lengthy kick return and a penalty that gave UConn outstanding field position at UVA’s 25, but red shirt first year Brenton Nelson picked off Shirreffs on the goal line. The pick was Nelson’s first career interception. The Hoos were unable to take advantage of the turnover, having to punt after a three-and-out.

UConn threatened again, using big runs from Shirreffs to get down to the two yard line, but a well-placed hit from Bryce Hall resulted in a fumble. Fourth year Micah Kiser recovered the ball, and Virginia marched down the field before stalling and kicking a 28-yard field goal.

Andrew Brown was ejected from the game with six minutes left in the first half after a bad decision which led to him making contact with Shirreffs head after he initiated a slide. Brown, since his suspension was in the first half, will be eligible for the whole game next week against Boise State.

The Huskies were unable to advantage of Brown’s terrible choice, turning the ball over on downs on the Virginia 33-yard line. Virginia, however, took advantage almost immediately with Benkert finding Doni Dowling for a 42-yard touchdown pass and a 17-0 lead.

Another fourth down stop by the Cavalier defense gave Virginia the ball back before halftime and Benkert and the boys converted a six-play, 53-yard drive for a 24-0 lead. Jordan Ellis got the touchdown as he barreled into the end zone from seven yards out.

Virginia out-gained UConn in the first half 313-145, and limited the Huskies to just 47 yards (4-for-9) in the air and 98 yards on the ground. Eighty-nine of those rushing yards came from Shirreffs in the first half. Offensively, Benkert went 18-for-23 in the first 30 minutes with 204 yards and one touchdown pass. Both Jordan Ellis (53 yards) and Daniel Hamm (9 yards) had rushing touchdowns in the first half, and Olamide Zaccheaus had 43 yards on the ground and 78 through the air. Dowling led Virginia in the first half with 75 yards receiving and a touchdown.

The Hoos gave up their first turnover of the season on the opening drive of the second half as Benkert threw a pick in the end zone. Virginia’s defense held strong again, forcing the Huskies into their third turnover on downs at the Virginia 11 yard line. Just as in the first half, Virginia used their defensive momentum to drive the offense, resulting in a 30-yard touchdown pass to Zaccheaus with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter. The nine play, 89-yard touchdown drive was Virginia’s third scoring drive over 85 yards.

The Huskies finally got on the board in the ensuing drive, using a trick play that left Hergy Mayala open for a 60-yard touchdown strike by Shirreffs. UConn went for and failed to convert the two-point conversion, giving Virginia a 31-6 lead late in the third quarter.

Virginia turned it over on downs, and Sherriffs and the Huskies worked their way down the field, resulting in another Mayala touchdown. The Huskies failed to convert again on the two-point attempt as Jordan Mack broke through the line and sacked Sherriffs.

Benkert wasted no time, finding Levrone for another big play as he hauled in the 73-yard touchdown pass, giving Virginia the 38-12 lead with six minutes left in the game.

The Huskies found their way into the end zone one final time on a 30 yard touchdown run by Kevin Mensah.

Defensively, the Hoos were outstanding all day, led by Kiser with 15 tackles, including two sacks and a new school record:

Quin Blanding added nine tackles, and Nelson finished with eight tackles to go with his interception.

Three Virginia receivers finished over 100 yards for the first time in program history with Dowling (136), Levrone (127), and Zaccheaus (122) all breaking the century mark in the contest. Some former UVA receivers took notice...

As a whole, the Wahoo offense racked up 626 yards. Ellis led the rushing game with 95 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown.

Next up, Virginia hits the road for their final non-conference game as the Hoos head to Boise State. The game will be Friday (September 22) night and will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 8pm.

Correction: An earlier edition of this article incorrectly stated that this was the second time in program history that three Cavaliers had over 100 receiving yards in the same game.