Armstrong, Jones, Davis highlight UVA’s 34-17 season-opening win over Richmond

By Scott Ratcliffe

Virginia players began a new tradition with the singing of “The Good Old Song” on the field after Saturday’s 34-17 win against Richmond. (Photo by Michael Bruder)

The Virginia football team kicked off the Tony Elliott Era in victorious fashion Saturday, taking care of Richmond, 34-17, as senior quarterback Brennan Armstrong led a balanced offensive attack with contributions from up and down the roster. 

For the first time in four years, the Cavaliers (1-0) had a pair of 100-yard rushers, as Armstrong put up a team-high 105 yards on the ground and starting tailback Perris Jones added 104 (the last time it happened was against Richmond in 2018, when Jordan Ellis posted 146 yards and Bryce Perkins added 108). Both Armstrong and Jones found the end zone, along with backfield mate Mike Hollins, as the Wahoos racked up 259 yards with the run (246 through the air) en route to Elliott’s first win, one he’ll never forget.

“Very, very appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach at the University of Virginia, and I just want to thank all of those who believe in me and gave me an opportunity to be here today,” Elliott said to open his postgame remarks, after thanking AD Carla Williams, President Jim Ryan, his players, his coaching staff, and the UVA fans.

When Elliott took the Virginia job, he knew he was inheriting something special in Armstrong, who set several UVA records last season as a junior. Just as he was last season, Armstrong was solid throughout Saturday’s game, completing 21 of his 33 pass attempts, tossing a pair of touchdowns and running for another. His career-long, 64-yard scamper in the second quarter set UVA’s career total offense record.

Jones, who started for the first time Saturday, scored a touchdown on the ground and another through the air in the fourth quarter for the game’s final score with 11:51 to play. He certainly proved that he earned the starting role, and deserves to keep it for the time being.

Hollins, who many thought would inherit the first-team reps from three-year starter and transfer Wayne Taulapapa, saw 11 fewer carries than Jones Saturday, but made the most of his three-yard touchdown run that gave Virginia a 28-10 halftime advantage.

Lavel Davis Jr., who sat out the 2021 season after suffering an ACL injury, made his triumphant return in style Saturday, scoring the team’s first TD of the season on a 56-yard reception from Armstrong with 5:56 left in the opening quarter.

“Once we got the running game going, I saw a lot of man coverage and [the Richmond defensive backs] were pressing the boundary a little bit,” said Davis. “So just seeing that, just playing with our eyes up — that was the main thing our coaches were telling us, was to play with our eyes up — get eyes on the safety so you can read the coverage, so if they’re playing you in [man-to-man], all you’ve got to do is beat one man, you’ve got a touchdown, just like the play I scored on.

“Just stuff like that, that really helped us,” Davis continued, “and knowing that we’ve got Perris and Mike and then B.A., they’re all running for 100 yards, so it was really good.”

Davis led the Hoos with 89 yards on just four receptions, with Keytaon Thompson adding 55 yards on four grabs. Dontayvion Wicks had six catches for an additional 47 yards, while Billy Kemp IV chipped in with three receptions for 25 yards.

Senior linebacker Nick Jackson led the defensive effort, racking up a team-high 14 tackles (four solo), as the Wahoos recorded three tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks. Junior cornerback Fentrell Cypress came away with three crucial pass breakups throughout the contest.

Richmond got on the board first on a Savon Smith 8-yard touchdown run up the middle with 6:27 on the clock, briefly silencing the Scott Stadium crowd of 41,122, but Armstrong’s touchdown toss to Davis knotted the score at 7-7 just 31 seconds later.

For Davis, it was his sixth career touchdown catch and his 12th career reception for 20-plus yards (in just 21 career receptions up to that point).

After a UVA defensive stop, Armstrong scrambled for a first down, then passed complete to Davis for another. On a third-and-nine from the UVA 40, Armstrong delivered another first-down completion, this time to Thompson, for 14 yards to the UR 46-yard line.

Birthday boy Luke Wentz hauled in his first career reception a few plays later, and a Richmond defender grabbed Wentz’s facemask to move the ball back into Spider territory.

Later in the drive, Jones’ 14-yard, first-down scamper kept the chains moving, before a 7-yard completion to Wicks gave the Hoos another first down inside the red zone. Jones put the Cavaliers ahead to stay as he found a hole, made a move, and dove and twisted into the end zone, giving UVA a 14-7 edge with five seconds left in the opening quarter.

Armstrong’s touchdown run, which turned out to be the sixth-longest carry by a Cavalier QB, fooled the defense on the fake inside give to Jones. Armstrong wasted no time finding a spot and hustling down the Virginia sideline for a huge boost of momentum and a 21-7 lead with 13 minutes until halftime.

Richmond (0-1) added a 45-yard Jake Larson field goal with 9:36 on the clock to cut it to 21-10, as Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter were honored to a huge ovation during the ensuing timeout.

Jones displayed his grit on UVA’s next series, refusing to give up on a play that turned into a 17-yard gain into Spider territory. Armstrong scrambled for another first down two plays later inside the Richmond 30, and a UR holding penalty kept the drive alive. With 4:10 left in the second, Hollins found paydirt on a three-yard touchdown run, and the Hoos went into the locker room with a comfortable 28-10 advantage.

Smith’s second touchdown of the day for the Spiders with 10:51 on the clock turned out to be the lone score of the quarter, trimming the Cavalier lead back to 11, 28-17.

Less than a minute later, Armstrong made one of his only mistakes on the day, as he was picked off at the UVA 32-yard line, but the Cavalier defense forced a 48-yard Larson field-goal try that sailed wide left with 9:03 left in the period.

Armstrong went over 100 yards rushing on the ensuing drive, marking just his second time passing the century mark with his legs in a Cavalier uniform (130 yards in 2020 vs. Boston College), but came up short on a third-down conversion, and UVA’s punt was downed by Wicks at the Richmond 3-yard line.

The Spiders only needed one yard in two plays to keep the ensuing possession alive, but third-year linebacker Josh Ahern clobbered Richmond running back Aaron Dykes on third down for no gain, and then got a little help from Michigan State transfer Jack Camper to stuff Dykes again on fourth with a turnover on downs with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.

Armstrong found Thompson for a 25-yard jolt inside the UR 30. Three plays later, Armstrong zipped one to Kemp for eight yards and another first down, to the Richmond 16. Jones followed that up with a nice nine-yard run inside the 10-yard line before losing a few yards on the next snap, but was ultimately rewarded on third down, as he was all alone in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown grab (on his first and longest career reception) to make it a 17-point game with 11:51 to play, for the game’s final result.

Game Stats

Scoring Summary
Richmond   7 – 3 – 7 – 0 — 17
Virginia    14 – 14 – 0 – 6 — 34

First Quarter
UR (6:27) — Savon Smith 8-yd run (Jake Larson kick). Richmond 7, Virginia 0.
UVA (5:56) — Lavel Davis Jr. 56-yd pass from Brennan Armstrong (Brendan Farrell kick). Virginia 7, Richmond 7.
UVA (0:05) — Perris Jones 15-yd run (Farrell kick). Virginia 14, Richmond 7.

Second Quarter
UVA (13:00) — Armstrong 64-yd run (Farrell kick). Virginia 21, Richmond 7.

UR (9:36) — Larson 45-yd field goal. Virginia 21, Richmond 10.
UVA (4:10) — Mike Hollins 3-yd run (Farrell kick). Virginia 28, Richmond 10.

Third Quarter
UR (10:51) — Smith 5-yd pass from Reece Udinski (Larson kick). Virginia 28, Richmond 17.

Fourth Quarter
UVA (11:51) — Jones 11-yd pass from Armstrong (Kick failed). Virginia 34,  Richmond 17.

UR — S. Smith 13-88; A. Dykes 17-76; R. Udinski 5-6. Total: 35-170; UVA — B. Armstrong 10-105; P. Jones 19-104; X. Brown 4-25; M. Hollins 8-24; J. Woolfolk 1-1. Total: 42-259.

UR — J. Williams 9-67; J. Herres 3-29; S. Smith 4-26; L. Henley 5-24; A. Dykes 1-9; N. DeGennaro 1-5. Total: 23-160; UVA — L. Davis Jr. 4-89; K. Thompson 4-55; D. Wicks 6-47; B. Kemp IV 3-25; P. Jones 2-14; G. Misch 1-11; L. Wentz 1-5. Total: 21-246.

UR — R. Udinski 22-34-1-0, 160. Total: 22-34-1-0; UVA — B. Armstrong 21-33-2-1. Total: 21-33-2-1.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA is 85-39-9 all-time in season openers and has won six-straight for the first time since winning six-consecutive openers from 1927-32.
  • Virginia is 11-1 in the month of September at Scott Stadium since 2017.
  • UVA owns a 30-3-2 all-time record against Richmond and has won 11 of last 12 dating back to 1947.
  • Tony Elliott made his head coaching debut and became the second UVA coach since 1965 win in his debut.
  • Virginia had two 100-yard rushers – Brennan Armstrong (105 yards) and Perris Jones (104 yards) for the first time since Jordan Ellis (146) and Bryce Perkins (108) in 2018 against Boston College.
  • UVA ran the ball 42 times and totaled 259 yards rushing, the most since accumulating 262 yards on 42 attempts against Boston College on Dec. 5, 2020.
  • Virginia wore orange pants and orange jerseys for the first time since 2010 against North Carolina.

Player Notes

  • Brennan Armstrong broke UVA’s career total offense record with a 64-yard touchdown run. He surpassed Shawn Moore (7,987) and Bryce Perkins (7,910) on UVA’s all-time list. It was the longest rush of his career and the 6th-longest ever by a UVA quarterback. His previous career long was 60 yards against Boston College in 2020.
  • Armstrong rushed for 105 yards, his second 100-yard rushing effort of his career. He ran for 130 yards against Boston College on Dec. 5, 2020.
  • Armstrong’s 64-yard rushing touchdown was his 15th rushing score of his career, tying him with fellow southpaw Jameel Sewell for the fifth most ever by a UVA quarterback.
  • McKale Boley and D’Brickashaw Ferguson are the only two true freshmen in UVA history to start at offensive tackle in the season opener. Only six true freshmen in program history have started a game at offensive tackle – Ferguson (2002 – all 14 games), Brad Butler (2002-1 game), Morgan Moses (2010 – 6 games), Eric Smith (2013 – 8 games), Chris Glaser (2017 – 2 games) and Boley (2022).
  • Perris Jones is the first UVA running back with a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in the same game since Wayne Taulapapa at Miami on Sept. 30, 2021. He totaled 104 yards on the ground, the first UVA running back to rush for 100 yards since Jordan Ellis against Boston College in 2018.
  • Lavel Davis’ first catch since Dec. 12, 2020 (Virginia Tech) went for a 56-yard touchdown, his 12thcareer reception of 20 or more yards.
  • Billy Kemp IV extended his consecutive games with a reception streak to 28 games with a 10-yard catch in the second quarter. Going into to week one, his streak was the sixth-longest among active players in the country.
  • Darrius Bratton combined with Aaron Faumui to record his first career sack.
  • First career reception for Luke Wentz in the first quarter, a five-yard reception on UVA’s second drive.
  • Keytoan Thompson has caught a pass in 15-straight games dating back to the 2020 season.
  • After serving his suspension in the first half from a targeting penalty from last season, linebacker Josh Ahern finished with five tackles and recorded first career sack.
  • Nick Jackson finished with 14 tackles, two shy of matching his career-high. It marked the third-straight game of 10 or more tackles. He has recorded 15 double-digit tackle efforts in his career.
  • First career starts: RB Perris Jones, McKale Boley, Logan Taylor, Ty Furnish, Derek Devine, Jonas Sanker, James Jackson.


The Cavaliers travel to Champaign next Saturday to face Illinois (4 p.m. ET, ESPNU).