👋 Found HIM!
Malik's 2nd TD of the season!
— Virginia Football (@UVAFootball) September 23, 2023
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — For the first time this season, the University of Virginia outscored its opponent in the fourth quarter. That was small consolation for the Cavaliers, who remain winless after suffering a heart-wrenching loss to NC State in their ACC opener Friday night at Scott Stadium.
Virginia scored a touchdown with 36 seconds left and then, despite a penalty on offensive guard Ty Furnish for unsportsmanlike conduct after the TD, tied the game at 21-21 when quarterback Anthony Colandrea passed 18 yards to wide receiver Malachi Fields for the two-point conversion.
“Typically, you don’t overcome a situation like that,” UVA head coach Tony Elliott said. “It was just a heck of a play by two guys playing backyard football.”
At the end of the play, however, Colandrea was penalized 15 yards for removing his helmet. Matt Ganyard had to kick off from UVA’s 20, and the Wolfpack’s Julian Gray returned it 35 yards to the Virginia 48. From there, quarterback Brennan Armstrong, in his return to the stadium where he had so many memorable moments as a Cavalier, moved NC State to the 30.
With three seconds left Brayden Narveson attempted a 48-yard field goal that linebacker James Jackson blocked, but the Wahoos’ celebration was short-lived. Jackson was penalized 15 yards for jumping over NC State’s long-snapper, a call that Elliott said was justified.
Given a second chance, Narveson drilled a 33-yarder to lift the Wolfpack to a 24-21 victory.
“Self-inflicted wounds that we’ve got to clean up,” UVA offensive coordinator Des Kitchings said.
“In the final moments of the game, that’s when we got to be at our sharpest,” Elliott said, “and we just didn’t have the discipline down the stretch to win the football game.”
Coming off a loss to Maryland in which they unraveled late in the game the Hoos (0-4, 0-1) didn’t fold Friday night. State (3-1, 1-0) took a 21-13 lead into the fourth quarter, but Virginia’s defense, playing without several starters, including Kam Butler, Josh Ahern and Lex Long, forced three punts in the final 11 minutes.
Colandrea had thrown two interceptions early in the quarter, but he showed terrific poise on the Cavaliers’ final possession, which began at their 34-yard line. He started the drive with an 11-yard run and then completed 5 of 6 passes, the last of which went to wideout Malik Washington for a 3-yard touchdown.
For the game, Virginia totaled 384 yards, to 319 for the Wolfpack. Colandrea completed 18 of 30 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 13 times for a team-high 43 yards.
“That dude Number 10, he’s a hell of a ball player,” Kitchings said, “and he’s a true freshman doing that.”
Washington, a transfer from Northwestern, finished with more than 100 yards receiving for the third straight game. Against NC State, he caught 10 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a playmaker and he’s a guy that believes in what we’re doing,” Kitchings said. “He’s reaping the benefits of his commitment to what we’re doing.”
Fields had a strong game too for Virginia, catching three passes for 60 yards and outjumping a Pack defender for the game-tying two-point conversion in the final minute.
Armstrong, who was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Cavaliers, is in his first season at NC State, where he’s been reunited with offensive coordinator Robert Anae. Armstrong carried 15 times for a game-high 64 yards Friday night. Virginia sacked No. 5 twice, and he wasn’t especially efficient passing—15 for 30 for 180 yards and two TDs, with an interception—but Armstrong completed big throws at crucial times.
Late in the second quarter, on third-and-14 from the State 42, Armstrong teamed with wideout KC Conception on a 30-yard pass play, extending a drive that ended with Delbert Mimms III’s touchdown run.
Late in the third quarter, after Will Bettridge’s 36-yard field goal cut State’s lead to 14-13, Armstrong and Conception combined on another touchdown pass, this one covering 48 yards.
“It’s a little bit different coming into the stadium as an as an opposing guy, but he handled it well,” Elliott said of Armstrong.
With Ahern unavailable, true freshman Kam Robinson started at linebacker and led the Cavaliers with 11 tackles. Jackson added seven stops, and safety Micah Gaffney came up with the defense’s first takeaway of the season, a leaping interception of a second-quarter pass by Armstrong.
𝗜𝗡𝗧𝗘𝗥𝗖𝗘𝗣𝗧𝗘𝗗!!! Micah Gaffney halts a Wolfpack drive in our territory! First career pick for Micah!!!
— Virginia Football (@UVAFootball) September 23, 2023
“Overall, the kids played really hard,” Elliott said, “and as frustrated and disappointed as I am, that’s a football team in there that has not lost belief. They keep showing up every single day. They’re battling adversity, and they’re learning how to win. So now we got it to the fourth quarter. Now we’re in there at the end of the game. We got to learn from this, because you’ve got to win close games. That’s ACC football. You’ve got to win close games in the in the fourth quarter. And if I know anything about that bunch in there, they’re resilient and they’ll keep scrapping, they’ll keep fighting.”
Elliott stressed, though, that it’s not enough to compete for 59-plus minutes. “We’ve got to go 60. We’ve got to finish it. We can’t lose our composure. We gotta believe that we’re supposed to be right there, and then when we get there, we got to act like we like we’ve been there.”
That didn’t happen Friday night. “We lost our cool, we got caught up in some personal battles,” Elliott said, “and unfortunately, as I told [the team], that earned us the wrong side of the game.”
Virginia Team Notes
- The meeting between Virginia and NC State was the first since 2020. NC State has won five of the last six meetings against UVA, including three-straight at Scott Stadium.
- The night game at Scott Stadium was the first for UVA since playing Notre Dame in 2021.
- Dating back to last season, UVA has lost seven-straight games and is 0-4 for the first time since 1982, Hall of Fame coach George Welsh’s first year with the program. UVA has lost four-straight games for the first time since 2020.
- Virginia converted its first two-point conversion since 2021 (at Miami) to tie the game with 36 seconds left in regulation.
- UVA finished with a season-high 113 yards rushing, the most in a game since North Carolina last season (186 yards).
- Brennan Armstrong’s 48-yard touchdown pass by to Kevin Concepion is the second-longest play from scrimmage surrendered by UVA this season (64-yard TD pass at Maryland on 9/15).
- The three-point loss marks the seventh time UVA has been part of a game decided by a touchdown or less in the first 14 of Tony Elliott’s tenure. UVA is 2-5 in one-score affairs since the beginning of the 2022 season.
- Wide receiver Malik Washington finished with a career-highs in receptions (10), receiving yards (170) and touchdowns (2). Washington is one of 12 receivers in UVA history to record 170 yards or more in a game.
- With 119 receiving yards vs. JMU, 141 at Maryland and 170 against NC State, Washington became the third Cavalier ever to record three-straight 100-yard receiving games in a season. Dontayvion Wicks did it in 2021 and Germane Crowell had three-straight 100-yard games in 1997. Washington did not have a 100-yard effort in his first 41 games of his collegiate career, including all 40 at Northwestern.
- Washington has now caught a pass in 29-straight games.
- Washington is the first Cavalier receiver with 10 receptions in a game since Keytaon Thompson and Dontayvion Wicks at Pitt in 2021.
- True freshman Kam Robinson led the Cavalier defense tackles with 11, including eight solo efforts. He had one QB hurry and combined on a tackle for loss.
- Micah Gaffney recorded his first career interception, picking off former teammate Brennan Armstrong in the second quarter It was the first Cavalier interception of the season. Gaffney finished with a career-high three tackles, including a tackle for loss.
- Despite playing just the first half, defensive end Kam Butler recorded a sack in his fourth-straight game. He finished with four tackles (three solo) before leaving with an injury.
- Quarterback Anthony Colandrea accounted for 314 yards of total offense, including a career-high 43 yards on the ground. He orchestrated the game-tying drive beginning at the 3:29 mark in the fourth quarter, 11 plays for 66 yards that ended with a three-yard scoring strike to Malik Washington. He went 5-for-6 with 50 yards passing and added 10 yards rushing yards on UVA’s final drive.
UP NEXT: UVA, which played two of its first three games away from Scott Stadium, is on the road again. In a 2 p.m. game to air on the CW Network, Virginia (0-4, 0-1) meets ACC foe Boston College next Saturday in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
BC (1-2, 0-1) plays Saturday afternoon at Louisville (3-0, 1-0).
The Cavaliers are 1-6 all-time against the Eagles. Virginia prevailed 43-32 in the teams’ most recent meeting, Dec. 5, 2020, at Scott Stadium.