In the 127th edition of the “South’s Oldest Rivalry,” Virginia (3-5, 1-4 ACC) hosted border nemesis North Carolina (7-1, 4-0 ACC), hoping to make amends for their heartbreaking overtime loss to Miami last week.
A valiant effort fell short as the Hoos nearly upset 17th-ranked UNC, yet inevitably lost 31-28. Despite a remarkable improvement from the offense, they weren’t able to match the Tar Heels’ passing attack led by prodigal freshman Drake Maye, who combined for 293 passing yards and 74 yards on the ground. He found his favorite target, Josh Downs, 15 times for 166 yards. The ever-impressive Wahoo defense didn’t make it easy, landing four sacks on Maye throughout the game, limiting UNC to 31 points, significantly below their impressive average of 41.75 points per game.
Speaking of offense, who knew we actually have one? Anything can happen in the South’s Oldest Rivalry, and today certainly proved it as the Cavaliers put on a show today that is nothing short of miraculous given their struggles. UVA managed to take the opening drive 65 yards to the house, capped off with a four-yard rush from quarterback Brennan Armstrong. Carolina’s ensuing possession was cut short with a clutch sack from linebacker Nick Jackson at the Virginia 17-yard line, resulting in a 35-yard field goal from Noah Burnette. The Cavs continued to roll through the Tar Heel defense on their next drive before Armstrong had a pass tipped, resulting in a costly interception.
Both teams traded punts on their next drives before Maye and the Tar Heel offense eventually came alive, driving down the field to make the score 10-7. Virginia responded with a touchdown drive of their own, in which tight end Sackett Wood Jr. almost broke the plane on an 11-yard catch and run, though he was eventually ruled out of bounds at the UNC 3-yard line. Running back Xavier Brown avenged his efforts by scoring on a 3-yard rush, giving the Hoos a 14-10 lead going into halftime.
The second half opened up with three straight scoring possessions before the Cavalier offense was eventually forced to punt, allowing UNC to get the ball back and run out to a 31-21 lead. With five minutes left in the game, the Tar Heels had the ball inside Virginia territory, looking to ice the game with another score. The Cavalier defense kept hopes alive with a crucial fourth-down stop, gifting possession to the offense with four minutes remaining.
Crucially, however, Virginia had already burned their three timeouts, meaning they would have to score quickly being down two possessions. Armstrong managed to connect on a 40-yard pass to wide receiver Dernick Starling, eventually using his own legs on an eight-yard touchdown run, putting the Hoos within three points.
Unfortunately, Maye and the Tar Heels were able to run the clock dry, courtesy of Virginia’s aforementioned lack of timeouts, bringing an end to a hard-fought rivalry game; it was a tough loss for the Hoos who played their best football all season.
Virginia continues their hosting duties as Pittsburg (5-4, 2-3 ACC) will visit Scott Stadium next Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network on November 12th at 12:00 pm.