The Hoos had an early and unusual 11am start on Saturday, and if you slept in at all, you may have missed some early fireworks as Virginia rolled past Illinois, 42-14. It was Virginia’s first program win over the Illini, and the Hoos led for the entire game in a display of utter dominance all over the field.
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong had a career day, going 27-for-36 for 405 yards. It is the third-most passing yards in a game in Virginia history, and one of four games with a QB passing the 400-yard mark.
From the opening drive onwards the Shelby, Ohio native could seemingly do no wrong with the only blemish on his stat-line coming from an interception where the Illini ripped a perfect pass out of the hands of Keytaon Thompson.
The Cavaliers amassed 538 yards on offense, with 135 coming on the ground and five rushers all amassing more than twenty yards.
Virginia’s first drive took a little over a minute to complete as Armstrong and Woods combined for 75 yards in four plays to take a 7-0 lead. Armstrong found Woods for a 31-yard pick up up the middle, taking the Hoos across midfield in a hurry.
The Virginia defense came out hot, holding Illinois to just three plays and nine yards of offense before the visitors punted. On the ensuing drive, it was more of the same. Once again, Virginia needed just four plays to find the end zone as Armstrong connected with Wicks for a 28-yard touchdown strike.
The Cavaliers went into the halftime break up by two touchdowns, but left multiple scoring opportunities on the field. Justin Duenkel missed two field goals — 46 and 31 yards — in the first half, and Virginia had one drive that should have been prolonged inside the five after the officials missed a blatant face mask.
Despite the missed opportunities, the Hoos had several bright spots in the first half. Brennan Armstrong threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, finding Wicks twice and transfer TE Woods once. His 171 first-quarter passing yards set a new personal record for yards in a quarter, breaking a mark he set against Abilene Christian last season.
Illinois got the hot start to open the second half, needing just four plays and two minutes to cut Virginia’s lead to seven. Virginia responded in kind, putting together an efficient drive that went 75 yards in nine plays, ending with a Billy Kemp touchdown reception. On the drive, offensive coordinator Robert Anae pulled out a trick play that saw Wicks — a wide receiver — find Armstrong — the quarterback — for an 18 yard pick up. On the ensuing play, Armstrong took a big hit as he released the ball and came up with a noticeable limp.
Virginia’s defense forced another three-and-out for the Illinois offense, giving the ball right back to the home team. Armstrong and the Hoos looked comfortable and in control, going 74 yards for their fifth touchdown of the game. The southpaw slinger went 6-for-7 for 64 yards in the drive, and Thompson bounced off of multiple defenders for the touchdown on an 8-yard rush.
After another fruitless endeavor by the Illinois offense, the Cavaliers looked poised to push the lead even further. Virginia got down to the Illinois 24-yard line, but Taulapapa lost the ball. The Illini recovered and were able to march down into the red zone before turning the ball over on downs. The Cavaliers once again had a very promising drive end in a turnover, this time as the Illinois defensive back ripped the ball away from Keytaon Thompson mid-air at the 1-yard line.
The Cavaliers finally got that elusive score as a bevy of Illinois personal fouls helped Virginia get down to the 5-yard line. Armstrong’s fifth TD pass of the day went to Taulapapa, giving the senior running back his first career touchdown reception.
Virginia’s defense ended the game with two straight turnovers as Louisville transfer Anthony Johnson picked off Artur Sitkowski, and West Weeks recovered a fumble.
After a few drives with Wahoo backup quarterbacks Ira Armstead and Jay Woolfolk getting opportunities to run the offense, Illinois’ offense pointlessly drove up the field against a squad of Virginia’s defensive depth pieces only to peter out in the red zone as time mercifully expired.
Next up, Virginia heads to Chapel Hill to face the No. 24 North Carolina Tar Heels in a huge Coastal game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm, and the game will be broadcast by the ACC Network.