On Friday night the Virginia Cavaliers fell to the NC State Wolfpack 24-21. The score was indicative of a back-and-forth battle between Freshman Virginia quarterback Anthony Colandrea and former UVA QB Brendan Armstrong.
NC State would be the first one to get on the board. Armstrong found KC Concepcion for a 12-yard touchdown. UVA would battle back on the next drive, marching down the field for seven points. Malik Washington the transfer from Northwestern. once again stood out, catching a big pass from Colandrea that got the Wahoos into the red zone and then capping off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass. NC State would get the ball back with a few minutes to spare before the half. Those few minutes proved to be enough for the Wolfpack to get down the field and snag the 14-7 lead going into halftime. Delbert Mimms would be the one to punch in the score from the 1-yard line.
The second half brought more of the same controlled football seen in the first. UVA began to battle back for the lead starting with a 21-yard field goal from Will Bettridge midway through the third quarter, with another coming at the end of the quarter from 36 yards. NC State was holding that narrow 14-13 lead before they broke down the UVA defense as the third quarter was expiring. Armstrong and KC Concepcion connected 48 yards downfield for the TD, making the score score 21-13. Throughout most of the 4th quarter, the defenses of both teams held strong, but UVA would make a final drive downfield to tie up the game. Malik Washington once again proved his worth by catching a touchdown pass from Colandrea. The Cavaliers shot themselves in the foot with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that would cause the 2-point conversion to come from the 20-yard line, but heroics from Colandrea and Malachi Fields would complete the unlikely conversion and tie up the game with a mere 36 seconds left on the clock. The Wolfpack in response marched down the field helped out by a great kick return into field goal range. With 0:03 on the clock Brayden Narveson lined up for 3 points and his kick would be blocked, but a flag down for leaping would give Narveson a second shot from 15 yards closer, he would nail that and give the wolfpack the win.
The Cavaliers showed up to play an almost complete game, better than their three previous performances. Anthony Colandrea was very strong, passing for 271 yards and touchdowns. Colandrea would also rush for 43 yards proving that he is comfortable stepping out of the pocket. Brendan Armstrong reminded Charlottesville how he set the UVA passing record by throwing for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The main sticking point for UVA as it has been all season is clutch defense and play calling. The Wahoo defense has to be able to stick up in important situations for the Cavaliers to be successful. Too many times did the Wahoos give up longer third-down conversions and lose chances to get themselves off the field. Playcalling is probably the larger issue at hand. While the box score credits UVA with averaging about 5.5 yards per play the play calling was not right in critical situations. A punting decision on 4th and inches, and too many run plays on third downs that needed to be converted all handicapped the offense. Virginia’s run game has been poor all season and will continue to be subpar due to the lackluster line. Yet Dez Kitchings continues to run the ball too often. A talented core of backs led by Perris Jones could do a lot more damage with play-action checkdowns and short passes in the flat.
UVA looks ahead to face a strong Boston College team that stood well against number 3 FSU two weeks ago, on Saturday in Boston. The Cavaliers need to let the offense do what they do best by prioritizing finding receivers like Malik Washington and Malachi Fields. The defense has to play a complete game on Saturday if Virginia wants a shot at winning. It is also possible that Tony Muskett could make a return this weekend, but his injury status remains fairly unclear.