By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE –– On a sparkling Saturday at Scott Stadium, UVA thumped Illinois 42-14 before an appreciative crowd of 36,036.

The Cavaliers’ offense was the story of this non-conference game. Led by quarterback Brennan Armstrong, Virginia (2-0) totaled 556 yards. Armstrong completed 27 of 36 passes for 405 yards and five touchdowns, with one interception.

The completions, passing yards and touchdown passes were career highs for Armstrong, who’s in his second season as UVA’s starter.

Virginia is 2-0 for the second time in its six seasons under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The first was in 2019, when the Wahoos went on to win the ACC’s Coastal Division.

This was only the third meeting between UVA and Illinois and the first since the 1999 Bowl. The Fighting Illini, who are in their first season under Bret Bielema, fell to 1-2.

The game, which aired on ACC Network, started at 11 a.m., but the early kickoff didn’t faze the Cavaliers. Armstrong passed for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter as UVA bolted to a 14-0 lead. By halftime, he’d thrown for 251 yards and three TDs, and the Wahoos led 21-7.

Tight end Jelani Woods, a graduate transfer who missed most of UVA’s season-opening win over William & Mary with cramps, made his presence known immediately Saturday. On the first play from scrimmage, the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Woods caught a pass from Armstrong for a 31-yard gain. Woods capped the drive with a 32-yard touchdown reception.

Woods finished with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. Another standout in the passing game was wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks, who had two first-half touchdown receptions. For the game, Wicks caught three passes for 69 yards and two TDs, and he passed to Armstrong for an 18-yard completion on a trick play.

The game was played on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it was Heroes Day at Scott Stadium. Among the highlights were the pregame flyover by two F-22s, each flown by a UVA alumnus, and the University Singers’ stirring rendition of the national anthem.

The ball went to the Illini to start the second half, and they sliced through UVA’s defense. Illinois needed only five plays to move 75 yards, the final 21 coming on Chase Brown’s touchdown run.

That made it 21-14, with Virginia answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with Armstrong’s 2-yard pass to wideout Billy Kemp. Keytaon Thompson’s 8-yard touchdown pushed the Cavaliers’ lead to 35-14 late in the third. Armstrong’s fifth TD pass, a 3-yarder to running back Wayne Taulapapa, made it 42-14 with 6:02 left.

Outside linebacker Noah Taylor recorded two sacks to lead UVA’s defense.

For the Illini, who belong to the Big Ten, this was their first game against an ACC team since they played North Carolina in 2015.

Team Notes

  • Virginia has won five of its last seven matchups against Big Ten foes.
  • Since 2019, UVA is 14-1 at Scott Stadium and have won 10-straight games at home against non-conference opponents.
  • Virginia is 2-0 for the second time under Bronco Mendenhall (2019) and sixth time since 2000.
  • Virginia has held its first two opponents of the season to 14 points, the fewest since shutting out both of its first two opponents in 1952.

Player Notes

  • Brennan Armstrong became the third Cavalier quarterback to throw for 400 yards in a game. His 405 yards passing are the fourth most in a single game in program history.
  • Armstrong threw five touchdown passes, a career-high and the most by a UVA quarterback since Kurt Benkert against Central Michigan in 2016. Armstrong has thrown multiple touchdown passes in three-straight games dating back to last season.
  • Armstrong completed a career-high 27 passes. He was 7-for-13 with 171 yards (career-best) and two touchdowns in the first quarter. He completed seven of his first eight passes and completed six-straight passes starting with the Jelani Woods touchdown.
  • Tight end Jelani Woods recorded a career-high 122 yards receiving, the most by a Cavalier tight end since Tom Santi (128 yards) in the 2005 Music City Bowl against Minnesota. Woods’ previous career high of 54 yards receiving was established against Iowa State on Oct. 24, 2020 while at Oklahoma State.
  • Woods’ touchdown in the first quarter was the fifth of his career.
  • Billy Kemp IV caught six passes bringing his career total up to 112, the 19th most in school history, two behind Herman Moore (1988-90) and Wali Lundy (2002-05).
  • Kemp IV has caught a pass in 17-straight games dating back to the 2019 season.
  • Brennan Armstrong caught his first pass of his career on the first career completion thrown by WR Dontayvion Wicks for 18 yards in the third quarter.