Since every Virginia fan understands the symbolic importance of the Virginia Cavaliers facing off against the Richmond Spiders under a new head coach (heck, my mom asked me about the game last night,) I thought the game merited the Bill Simmons treatment. As those of us of a certain generation remember, Simmons frequently wrote diaries for the most momentous of games. They were a fabulous read, so here’s my tribute to the Dawn of the Tony Elliott Era.
15:00 Virginia is home to Richmond on a beautiful, warm day in Charlottesville, hosting a smaller in-state rival. They day before, Virginia Tech had traveled to another, smaller, in-state university, and lost. The weekend doesn’t get much better than that.
Oh, wait, it does. Apparently the Tech coaching staff got stuck in an elevator at half time. The second half was delayed over 15 minutes rescuing the coaches and getting to the box. The game was the first of a 10-year home-and-home series between the schools. You’d think the result was a fluke, except Old Dominion’s only other win against a Power Five school was against the Hokies.
15:00 Virginia kicks off and Richmond can only get to the 18 yard-line. The next three plays don’t go much better and Richmond is forced to punt. Elliott said he was going to bring order to the defensive line. Mission accomplished.
13:30 Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong comes out firing hitting Dontayvion Wicks for two completions. Wicks was the man last year averaging over 21 yards per catch so it’s good to see him firing early.
11:50 Some guy named Perris Jones runs into the line for a yard. Maybe. The announcers say he’s a senior. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard of him.
11:07 Virginia punts the ball away.
9:14 Richmond has gone to hurry up mode and Virginia isn’t adjusting. This is going to be a common theme for the game. Three straight completions from quarterback Reece Udinski and he’s looking very much like a fifth year senior who threw for over 7000 yards early in his career.
7:54 Udinski is up to five completions in a row and Richmond is on Virginia’s 40 yard line.
7:45 The Virginia defense is looking gassed. Aaron Dykes waltzes through a huge hole for 20 yards. Savon Smith hits the line, pops wide and goes for nine yards.
6:27 It’s too easy. Smith squirts right down the middle and scores. 7 – 0 to Richmond and they capped off an 11-play, 80-yard drive.
6:21 Virginia responds with a false start on their first play. Sheesh.
6:14 Richmond gives it right back with a face-mask call on Wicks after a 9-yard gain.
5:56 TOUCHDOWN! Armstrong goes left to Lavel Davis who shrugs off a poor tackle and makes a great cut en route to a 56-yard touchdown. Two plays, 76 yards and Virginia has answered. Davis missed all of last year, but he was tantalizing as a freshman, averaging over 25 yards per catch.
5:56 Smith runs through a hole that I could have run through for 17 yards. Ball on the Richmond 43.
5:12 Virginia stuffs Smith at the line. Since Smith has gained 38 yards on just four carries, this feels like a win.
4:40 Udinski goes deep for his favorite target Jakob Herres, who partnered with Udinski for three years at VMI. He’s blanketed and Richmond has to punt. I’m so glad to not have to see Devante Cross out there anymore…
3:48 After a Richmond punt and on second down, Armstrong channels his inner Bryce Perkins and evades a certain sack for 9 yards and a first down.
2:07 Armstrong completes tosses for first downs to first, Lavel Davis, and then to Keytaon Thompson. We’ve got a basketball lineup at wideout. Davis is 6’ 7” and Thompson is 6’ 5”. I wonder how much practice time we’ve spent throwing the fade in the red zone.
1:49 Virginia has traded 15-yard personal foul penalties on successive plays. Perris Jones makes like Savon Smith and scampers 14 yards to the Richmond 27.
0:37 Jones, who is listed at 5’ 8” and 180 pounds, stands up 600 pounds of Richmond Spiders for a 5-yard gain.
0.05 TOUCHDOWN! Jones is turning this drive into his own personal show as he rushes right up the gut for a 15-yard touchdown. This kid has been on the roster for five years and had 3 carries for 12 yards. Well, with his fourth carry in this game, he scored and he’s sitting on 35 yards. If we needed evidence that there’s a new sheriff in town, it’s a former walk-on giving Virginia the lead.
14:18 Two scores will do that for a defense’s confidence. Virginia holds Richmond to a quick three and out. Billy Kemp, who is to me, the most boring punt returner imaginable because he fair-catches everything, shows why maybe that’s a good strategy. He opts to run back the punt and loses 8 yards.
14:10 Jones isn’t sitting on his laurels and he runs 9 yards on first down.
14:10 The game announcers flash a graphic showing Armstrong just yards away from passing Bryce Perkins for Virginia’s all-time total yardage record.
13:50 Jones gets two yards when he’s gang-tackled. Jones stands up the entire line. You can tell that the Spider defense wants to throw him to the ground, but they cannot. The former walk-on is too strong. Where has the kid been the past three years?
13:00 TOUCHDOWN! In the play of the game, Armstrong stuffs the ball in Jone’s gut, takes it back out — this is old school stuff, like John Unitas old school — jukes a defender and takes it 64 yards for score. Virginia up 21 – 7.
13:00 After the replays the camera shows Armstrong on the sideline, sans helmet. He’s wearing earrings. So, maybe not so old school.
13:00 And with that run, Brennan Armstrong becomes the Virginia all-time leader in total yardage. It doesn’t get any better than that. Well, yeah, it does. Brendan Farrell’s extra point hits the up right and still goes in. This is Virginia football and all, but I’m feeling pretty confident.
9:36 Richmond has a tidy 11-play drive and they convert a field goal. Udinski looks very calm in the pocket, as befits a fifth-year senior. But, in the end, Virginia holds and Richmond only gained 47 yards. I’ll trade 3 touchdowns for a field goal any day. Virginia 21 – 10.
9:01 Sandlot play of the game. Jones pops wide and gets 8 yards when he’s hit and spins around. He lands on another player, when Lavel Davis picks him up by his waist and lifts him forward and Jones gains another 9 yards. I’m going to call this the Cavalier Hook and Ladder. With an 8-yard assist to Davis.
7:34 Wicks is not as tall as Davis or Thompson, but he’s still 6’ 1”. For the second time this half, he snags a ball at his ankles. Prettiest 2-yard catch you’ll see.
4:10 TOUCHDOWN! Mike Hollins is in the game and with Virginia knocking at the door at the 3-yard line, Hollins gets the call. He loses possession just before crossing the goal line, and before anyone has the chance to react, the ball hits a referee and bounced back to Hollins. The referee was fortuitous, because otherwise Richmond would have recovered, but Hollins still had to fight for the ball. Virginia 28 – 10.
3:48 Savon Smith is here to play and he gains 24 yards on two runs. But the Virginia pass defense is in the house, and Udinski throws four straight incompletions, including one on fourth down.
1:22 Virginia has good field position when we take over, and all three timeouts left. We’re cruising, time to hammer the final nail into the coffin. And… Tony Elliott just runs the clock out. Jones pads his rushing totals a bit.
13:58 Not a great start to the 2nd half. After a nifty run by Perris was negated by a holding call, Wicks fumbles after catching Armstrong’s pass. Richmond ball on Virginia’s 34.
13:58 After watching the LandRoid mower commercial three times, I’m intrigued. Oops, it’s $1400. Maybe for my next house.
10:51 Nifty drive for Richmond and they score. 28 – 17 Virginia. Aaron Dykes is in the backfield for the Spiders and he’s finding lots of space at the line. On the 8-play drive, Richmond goes 2 – 2 on third down. Football is a simple game. Converting on third down is one of the best predictors of victory.
10:07 Oh, and not turning the ball over. That’s huge. The Spiders are getting superior pressure on the ball this half, and Armstrong, all but in the clutches of the defensive line, tosses an interception. Richmond has the ball on the Virginia 37 and I’m really questioning Elliott’s decision to run the clock out just five minutes earlier. My son has friends over. They’re getting noisy. I shoo them out.
9:03 Really great pass defense on second down, and good coverage on third down, and Richmond has to settle for a FG. Virginia dodges a bullet as Jake Larson hooks the FG left. I tell my son he can come back in.
8:59 Maybe I ushered my son back in too soon. The game graphic shows that Armstrong is on a 6-15 streak. Armstrong goes 1-2, the line gets pushed around some more, and Virginia has to punt. It’s a good one; Wicks downs it at the 2.
6:22 While looking at the Virginia roster, I discover that we have nine quarterbacks listed on the roster. Nine! What is this? An affirmative action dating site so that more guys can get girls by telling them they played QB in college? I’m pretty sure that if something happens to Armstrong, I want Thompson behind center.
4:35 Josh Ahern returns. He’d been charged with targeting the final game of last season. He missed the second half of that game, and was supposed to sit out the first half of the bowl game, which we didn’t go to. Because, reasons. So he sat out the first half of this game. Ahern makes a superb open field tackle.
4:01 Ahern follows that up with a fabulous interception. But it’s called off because Virginia has too many players on the field. Richmond is in no-huddle mode and it paid off. Of course, Smith makes Virginia pay, scooting 14 yards on the next play.
3:05 The no-huddle is killing Virginia as we’re called, again, for 12 men on the field. Equally simple football rule: when the other guys are speeding it up, you can’t sub anyone from the far side. Two Dykes runs and a Udinski completion give Richmond the ball at the Virginia 45.
1:22 Elliott is yelling at his coaches, there’s unrest on the sideline, Virginia is completely gassed…. and Richmond takes their foot off the pedal. Richmond needs just a yard and the defensive line rises to the occasion and stuffs Dykes twice.
11:51 TOUCHDOWN! Armstrong leads a surgical drive: 64 yards in 9 plays. He targets five receivers and hits four of them. Jones, Hollins and Armstrong all have good runs. On the score, Armstrong finds Jones for an 11-yard touchdown reception. To date, Jones had a grand total of 2 receptions for 3 yards. He quadrupled his yardage total on this play to bring Virginia to 34 – 17.
6:46 The game is over. The players have to still keep playing, though by now I’m texting with Zach to see if he wants me to write this diary. It’s hot, everyone is tired and Richmond has given their all. Tristan Wheeler has played one helluva game for Richmond and Jeremiah Grant has been bullying his man all game long.
4:55 Virginia gets the ball back and runs out the clock. Xavier Brown relieves Jones and gains 25 yards on four carries, and Jay Woolfolk comes in so that Armstrong can get the ovation he deserves.
0:00 Tony Elliott is brutally honest about what the Hoos need to work on with sideline reporter. He cuts the interview short, so that as he says, the team can go to the V-sabres logo and serenade the band with The Good Ol’ Song. Elliot’s going to be just fine.