TOUCHDOWN HOOS!!! Jack Griese scores on 4th & 1, his first career TD!
— Virginia Football (@UVAFootball) November 10, 2023
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The sight of tailback Perris Jones lying motionless on the field at L&N Stadium was a frightening one for his University of Virginia football teammates, but they tried their best to complete a stunning upset after he was taken to a nearby hospital Thursday night.
Against No. 11 Louisville, the Cavaliers trailed 14-0 at halftime but gained 194 yards and scored three touchdowns in the third quarter. The Cardinals kicked a field goal to cut their deficit to 21-17 early in the fourth quarter, but Virginia pushed its lead back to seven on Will Bettridge’s 38-yard field goal with 7:54 remaining.
The Wahoos knocked off then-No. 10 North Carolina last month in Chapel Hill, N.C., and another memorable road win was within their reach Thursday night. But they couldn’t hold off Louisville, which scored two touchdowns in the final 6:20—the first on a 52-yard pass and the second on a 73-yard run—to escape with a 31-24 victory in front of 44,628 fans and an ESPN audience.
‘We talk about finishing, being situationally aware and being great communicators,” UVA defensive coordinator John Rudzinski said. “Those are three life skills that our guys are going to take with them for the rest of their life, and tonight, we didn’t finish.”
As frustrating as the outcome was for the Cavaliers (2-8 overall, 1-5 ACC), their spirits lifted when they learned before leaving the stadium that Jones had regained movement in all of his extremities.
A sixth-year senior who’s one of the team’s most respected players, Jones was been injured in the final minute of third quarter. After catching a pass from quarterback Anthony Colandrea in the right flat, Jones was laid out by safety Cam’Ron Kelly, who transferred to Louisville this year after going through spring practice at UVA. Kelly’s hit knocked the ball loose, but Virginia wide receiver Malik Washington alertly scooped it up and sprinted 42 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
The game was stopped for about 10 minutes while medical personnel attended to Jones, and his teammates and coaches gathered around him before he was taken by ambulance to the University of Louisville Medical Center.
“It’s a very, very difficult reality of the sport that we play,” UVA head coach Tony Elliott said, “[that] every play can end that way. And you don’t wish that for anybody.”
In late September, Elliott noted, a Boston College wide receiver had suffered a similar injury in a collision with UVA cornerback Malcolm Greene, who was concussed on the play.
“Nobody wants to see it, and it’s tough to get back motivated,” Elliott said. “But I believe [UVA’s players] responded. We just didn’t make a couple of plays there at the end that we needed to make.”
The Cardinals (9-1, 6-1) came in having allowed only three points in their previous two games—wins over Duke and Virginia Tech—and the Hoos struggled to move the ball in the first half. Their defense was playing well, but a special-teams breakdown late in the second quarter proved costly for the Cavaliers.
Backed up in the end zone, UVA’s Daniel Sparks had his punt blocked, and Louisville came down with the ball for a touchdown that put the Cards up 14-0.
Elliott challenged his players in the locker room at halftime.
“Coach Elliott got after us, rightfully so,” defensive end Chico Bennett Jr. said. “He was just saying that we know what we came here for, and at that moment not everybody was all in like we should have been. So it was a good wake-up call and a good reminder for the [team]: Hey, let’s keep going. There were some guys who were doing what we’re supposed to do, and other guys who had one foot in and one foot out.”
That changed in the third quarter. On the opening possession of the second half, Colandrea threw a red-zone interception, but the Cavaliers kept battling, and their next drive ended with walk-on tailback Jack Griese’s one-yard touchdown run.
Griese is part of the lineup UVA uses on quarterback sneaks, but offensive coordinator Des Kitchings fooled the Cardinals. After taking a snap under center, walk-on quarterback Grady Brosterhous did not plunge ahead as usual, but instead handed the ball off to Griese, who raced to the right corner of the end doze for UVA’s breakthrough TD.
“I was very surprised at the call,” Griese said, “and I was very excited.”
Moments later, after Matt Ganyard’s kickoff sailed into the end zone for a touchback, the Hoos gained more momentum. UVA linebacker Kam Robinson, a true freshman, picked off quarterback Jack Plummer’s first-down pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, and Bettridge’s PAT made it 14-14.
— Virginia Football (@UVAFootball) November 10, 2023
Robinson became the first Cavalier defender to score a touchdown since D’Sean Perry, who returned an interception 84 yards against Abilene Christian in 2020.
Louisville went three-and-out on its next possession, and UVA took its first lead on Washington’s fumble recovery. Such heroics have become almost routine for No. 4, a graduate transfer from Northwestern who’s in his first season at UVA.
Washington finished with nine receptions for 155 yards Saturday, his fifth straight game with at least 100 yards receiving.
“He’s relentless with the ball in his hands,” Elliott said. “He doesn’t believe the first man can tackle him. He’s a savvy guy. He’s a veteran guy who’s played a lot of football, so he knows how to run his routes, he understands coverages, he can find the voided areas. So I’m just proud of him and the contribution that he’s made to this football team this season.”
On a night when Virginia’s running backs had little room to operate, Colandrea, Washington and wideout Malachi Fields led a productive passing game. Colandrea completed 20 of 31 attempts for 314 yards, and Fields caught four passes for 85 yards. Colandrea, a true freshman who started for the injured Tony Muskett, also hurt the Cards with his feet, rushing 14 times for 89 yards.
“That kid’s electric, man,” Washington said, “and he continues to make plays, continues to make some plays that are unscheduled, continue to make some plays that he needs to make, and so he’s just doing things right. We’re gonna continue to follow behind his footsteps, continue to watch how he goes, and just be there for support and be there to make plays for him.”
Elliott said Colandrea “showed some signs of maturity from the previous week in not putting the ball at as much risk, and I felt like he understood that when we’re playing against a good defensive front that can create pressure that we’re not gonna be able to sit back there all day. He was very decisive when he pulled the ball down, and he continues to show that he’s a competitor.”
With a win over Miami next weekend, Louisville can book a date with No. 4 Florida State in the ACC championship game. A North Carolina loss to Duke on Saturday would also send the Cards through to the championship game.
Virginia, which lost starting cornerback Coen King to an apparent dislocated elbow in the fourth quarter, was left to rue another close defeat. Of the Cavaliers’ losses this season, five were by a combined 17 points.
“I think it’s just doing the little things,” Washington said. “Nobody needs to make this extraordinary play. We’re not looking for anybody to be Superman. We’re just looking for everybody to just do their job. And so once we get all 11 guys playing on one heartbeat, on one sound, and everybody doing their job, we’ll come out victorious, because we’re good enough. We have the talent. We have the coaching staff, we have all the pieces that make a puzzle. We’ve just got to put it together.”
The Hoos nearly did so Thursday night.
“Hats off to all these kids, because nobody gave us a shot tonight,” Kitchings said. “There’s a lot of belief in that locker room, a lot of belief in this coaching staff, and we’ll just try to finish this out at home.”
UP NEXT: The Cavaliers have two regular-season games left, both at Scott Stadium. UVA hosts Duke next Saturday (Nov. 18) and then closes the season against Virginia Tech on Nov. 25. The Hoos’ game with the Blue Devils will air at 3 p.m. on The CW.
Virginia is 40-33 all-time against Duke, which last year ended a seven-game losing streak in a series that started in 1890.
Duke (6-3, 3-2) plays at No. 24 North Carolina (7-2, 3-2) on Saturday night. The Hokies are 4-5 overall and 3-2 in ACC play.
Virginia Team Notes
- Louisville owns a 7-5 advantage in the all-time series.
- UVA is 1-5 all time against Louisville in games at L&N Stadium.
- Virginia dropped to 1-5 this season in games decided by one score.
- Virginia compiled 434 yards of total offense against Louisville which came into the contest as the No. 12 defense in FBS and No. 2 in the ACC. UVA’s 314 yards passing were the most Louisville has surrendered this season (Georgia Tech – 313).
- Wide receiver Malik Washington caught nine passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, his fifth-straight 100-yard receiving performance, the longest active streak of anyone in FBS. He is the first receiver to go over 100 yards receiving against Louisville this season.
- For the season, Washington has 88 receptions for 1,199 yards and has caught seven touchdowns. He is five yards shy of breaking the UVA single-season receiving yards record (Dontayvion Wicks – 1,203 in 2021) and six receptions away from eclipsing the program’s single-season receptions record (Olamide Zaccheaus – 93 rec. in 2018).
- Washington has caught a pass in 35-straight games dating back to his time at Northwestern.
- Washington became the 14th active receiver in FBS to go over 200 career receptions. He came into the contest with 199 career catches.
- Kam Robinson intercepted his second pass of the season and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14. It was the first interception return for a touchdown since D’Sean Perry returned an interception 84 yards for a score against Abilene Christian in 2020. Robinson finished with four tackles including his first career sack.
- Quarterback Anthony Colandrea was 20-for-31 with 314 yards passing and one touchdown. He also accounted for a season-high 89 rushing yards on 14 attempts. His 403 yards of total offense are season high and the most by a UVA player since Brennan Armstrong’s 460 total yards against Pitt in 2021.
- Colandrea completed his first nine passes and recorded his second 300-yard passing game of the season (377 vs. James Madison).
- Malachi Fields caught four passes for 85 yards, his second-highest receiving yardage total of his career. He has amassed 60 or more yards receiving in nine of UVA’s 10 games this season.
- Jonas Sanker led Virginia in tackles (11) for the third-straight game and sixth time overall this season. He leads the team with 90 total tackles including 61 solo efforts.
- Paul Akere was credited with his first sack of the season and 11th of his career (five have come at UVA).