Welp, the Virginia Cavaliers dropped their third straight game, this time to the Louisville Cardinals to the tune of a 34-17 score. With the loss, we’ve got five takeaways.
First quarter success is washed away
For the first 15 minutes of this game it looked like the ‘Hoos were gonna run away to their first ACC win of the season. Brennan Armstrong’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Dontayvion Wicks, Anthony Johnson’s one-handed interception, and Will Bettridge’s 47-yard field goal were all signs of a fun game to come as the UVA defense beat up on a Louisville offense quarterbacked by middling backup Brock Domann.
Yet, that 10-0 lead would soon be washed away by a 13-0 run from the Cardinals as a pair of turnovers from Brennan Armstrong and a number of drops from Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson stunted the UVA offense while a 44-yard touchdown run from Domann where the entirety of the Virginia defense was fooled by the draw quickly turned the game on its head.
It’s frankly sort of shocking how the final three quarters of this contest went after the first. It seemed like Virginia was back on track and was set to nab a much needed win at home. But, alas, here we are.
Brennan Armstrong continues to be hot and (very) cold
What has happened to Brennan Armstrong this season has been really shocking considering what he did last year. This isn’t a new development, but with each and every additional mistake he makes his struggles are becoming less a couple of bad games within a new system and with a new OL and more signs of major regression from a quarterback who keeps pushing too much and is getting burned.
His fumble and pair of interceptions against Louisville brought his season total for turnovers up to ten with six interceptions and four fumbles. That’s 1.7 turnovers per game for a fifth year quarterback.
Granted, Armstrong did still throw for 313 yards on 24-34 passing and added an 11-yard rushing touchdown which gave his team some life in the third quarter. But his ball security issues are significantly hurting this team and limiting the Wahoo offense that doesn’t have any margin for error.
Of course, it wasn’t just Armstrong. His receivers dropped a number of perfect throws from him on big plays. And there wasn’t much else going for this offense outside of the throws he was making.
UVA running game does nothing
Speaking of, on 25 total “carries,” the Virginia rushing attack totaled a mere six yards. SIX! UVA’s running backs Perris Jones, Xavier Brown, and Mike Hollins had just 13 yards on 11 carries while Brennan Armstrong finished with negative seven yards as he was sacked six times by the Cardinal defensive front. So much for “establishing the run.”
This looked to be a product of a variety of problems. UVA’s offensive line wasn’t creating space off the line of scrimmage, the backs weren’t hitting holes well and continued to get tripped up even when gaps were open, and Brennan Armstrong held the ball for far, far too long in the pocket.
While throwing the ball was always going to be how the UVA offense succeeded against Louisville (especially once the Cardinals built up a lead in the fourth quarter), not getting anything on the ground doomed the ‘Hoos especially with Armstrong making too many mistakes through the air.
Wahoos let a backup QB beat them
Malik Cunningham missing this game looked like exactly the spark that UVA needed to get back to .500. Nevertheless, the ‘Hoos still found a way to let Brock Domann beat them. Finishing with 17-30 for 275 yards and a touchdown through the air and with 68 yards and a touchdown on the ground, he somehow outplayed Brennan Armstrong despite throwing a pair of picks himself.
The thing is, while UVA’s rushing defense was by no means good against Louisville, it wasn’t as disastrous as it’s been at times this season. Take out the 44-yard run which was more a result of skilled misdirection by the Cardinals, and Louisville averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.
But, somehow, some way, Domann led his team to a win while a preseason Heisman candidate in Armstrong didn’t. And that speaks to just how disappointing this loss is and how frustrating this team continues to be.
UVA enters its by week looking sorely beaten
I truly don’t know if anybody had Virginia pegged for 2-4 through six games of this 2022 season. Heck, going 4-2 or even 5-1 seemed more likely than dropping all four games against power five competition. Yes, Duke, Syracuse, and Illinois are better than expected. But to be 0-3 in the ACC and only have two fairly gross wins against in-state opponents heading into the bye week is a major disappointment for a team that looked to have the potential to be at or near the top of the ACC Coastal.
Reaching bowl eligibility seems practically impossible at the moment. Even with a few teams like Pitt and Miami having hiccups and struggles of their own early in the season, not being able to get a win at home against Louisville with its backup quarterback means that Virginia probably won’t be favored in any of its remaining contests this season.