Cavaliers’ sloppy start leads to 38-21 loss to NC State

By Scott Ratcliffe

Virginia came out flat and sloppy against a hungry NC State team Saturday at Scott Stadium, quickly falling behind and never catching up in a 38-21 loss to drop to 1-2 on the season.

The Cavaliers lost starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong in the second quarter after he took a shot to the helmet and did not return. Senior reserve Lindell Stone led the offense from then on, finishing the game 30 of 53 for 240 yards and three touchdown passes in the losing effort.

UVA’s Billy Kemp IV had another solid performance and was one of the few bright spots on the day for the Cavalier offense, racking up 82 yards on 10 catches and his first touchdown catch of the 2020 season. Senior Terrell Jana led the Hoos with 111 receiving yards on 9 grabs.

NC State (3-1, 3-1 ACC) benefitted from numerous UVA miscues, as sophomore quarterback Devin Leary threw a couple of touchdowns in the first quarter and the Wahoos faced an uphill climb from the start.

Leary appeared to connect with Porter Rooks on a 34-yard touchdown pass on the game’s third possession, as Rooks juggled the ball as he fell to the ground in the end zone. After review, it was determined that the ground assisted with Rooks’ catch, the call was overturned, and State’s Christopher Dunn came on for a field-goal try but caught the crossbar, and the Hoos dodged a bullet.

Armstrong threw an ugly interception to State’s Shyheim Battle on the Cavaliers’ ensuing possession, however, giving the ball right back to the Wolfpack at midfield. A few plays later, Leary hooked up with Rooks inside the red zone, which led to a 5-yard toss to Trent Pennix for the game’s first touchdown with 6:01 left in the opening quarter.

Armstrong was then sacked on third down for a quick three-and-out, and it didn’t take long for the Pack to extend their lead.

With 1:32 left in the first, Leary found tight end Cary Angeline on a 32-yard flea-flicker for six, and UVA found itself in an early 14-0 hole. The Wahoos have now been outscored 34-0 in the first quarter through three games.

Armstrong finally started to move the offense on the next drive, hitting Lavel Davis Jr. for 14 yards and then Jana for 26 more into NC State territory. Thanks to a couple of Wolfpack penalties, the Hoos had a first-and-goal opportunity at the Wolfpack 5-yard line, but a Wayne Taulapapa touchdown run was reviewed and reversed, and then Armstrong was stonewalled on consecutive QB sneaks at the 1 to turn the ball over on downs early in the second quarter.

When the Hoos got the ball back, Armstrong was picked off again and the Wolfpack were threatening again in UVA territory. The Wahoo defense stepped up for one of their lone bright spots of the half and got a crucial stop on third down inside the 20, limiting State to three points on a 36-yard Dunn field goal, making it 17-0 with 5:49 until the break.

Armstrong got his bell rung by junior free safety Tanner Ingle along the State sideline on Virginia’s next possession with 5:36 on the clock and exited to the medical tent, and eventually the locker room. Ingle was ejected for targeting, as Stone stepped in but couldn’t get much going, and the Cavaliers punted it away.

State sophomore Zonovan “Bam” Knight added to the tally with a 35-yard touchdown run with 2:03 left to extend the lead to 24-0.

The Hoos finally got on the board with 15 ticks left in the second quarter, as Stone led a 9-play, 75-yard march that resulted in a 2-yard toss to a wide open Kemp in the end zone, and Virginia trailed 24-7 at the half.

The Hoos got the ball to start the second half, but the momentum was wasted with a quick three-and-out, and then to add insult to injury, Nash Griffin’s punt was blocked deep inside Cavalier territory.

De’Vante Cross came to the rescue, picking off a Leary pass in the end zone that was intended for Emeka Emezie a few plays later, and the deficit stayed at 17 points with 12:32 showing in the third quarter.

Shane Simpson got the Hoos across the 50 midway through the period on a solid run, then had another big gain down to the State 32-yard line before coughing up the ball for the Cavaliers’ third giveaway of the contest.

Virginia was set up to punt on their next possession and caught the Wolfpack off guard, as Griffin completed a jump-pass to Nick Jackson for a big gain of 26 yards to the State 29. After a big completion to Kemp down to the 1-yard line, Stone located Tony Poljan alone in the back of the end zone to trim the Wolfpack lead to 10, 24-14, with 2:08 left in the third.

The defense held and Virginia had the ball to begin the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get more than a yard and had to punt. Griffin’s kick traveled just 19 yards to the Cavalier 40, leaving the Pack with excellent field position, but Dunn missed his second field goal of the day — this one went wide left — with 11:19 to play, and the Hoos still had life.

On the very next play from scrimmage, however, Stone’s pass was deflected into the air and intercepted by 320-pound nose tackle Alim McNeill, who rumbled 18 yards to the house for the final big blow with 11:10 remaining.

With the game seemingly out of reach, Stone and the Cavalier offense kept their foot on the gas. The Woodberry Forest product led another long scoring drive, this one 89 yards on 17 plays, as Davis hauled in his third score of the season from 5 yards out to cut it back to 10, 31-21, with 6:08 left.

Virginia’s ensuing onside kick was recovered by State, and Knight put the finishing touches on the day with a short touchdown run, his second of the afternoon, around the right edge with 1:49 to go.

Knight had 101 yards on 18 carries, while Ricky Person Jr. added 48 yards on the ground. Leary went 11 for 25 for 184 yards, as Virginia outgained the Wolfpack, 405-363.

Armstrong completed 6 of his 9 passes for 57 yards and the two picks before leaving the contest. He also lost a net of 6 yards on six carries. Simpson led a subpar Wahoo rushing performance with 37 yards on 7 carries. Taulapapa totaled just 52 multi-purpose yards on the day (35 rushing, 17 receiving).

The Cavaliers got 323 yards through the air, but just 82 on the ground on 29 attempts. UVA was just 4 of 18 on third downs.

The Hoos travel to Winston-Salem for a 4-p.m. tilt with Wake Forest next Saturday.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA’s nine-game home winning streak was snapped. It was tied for the tenth-longest in the nation among active streaks and was tied for the third-longest of the UVA modern era. UVA has only lost two of its last 15 games at Scott Stadium (2018 vs. Pitt; 2020 vs. NC State).
  • For the 36th time under Bronco Mendenhall, UVA has held an opponent (363) under 400 yards of total offense. UVA is 21-15 in those games, including 16-7 since the start of 2018.
  • UVA attempted 64 passes, which ranks No. 2 all-time in program history for a game. 
  • UVA’s 24-0 deficit to start the game was the most it has trailed during the home winning streak. 
  • UVA allowed a blocked punt for the first time since 2018 (vs. VT).

Player Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • QB Lindell Stone tossed his first career passing touchdown in the closing seconds of the second quarter when he found Billy Kemp IV for the two-yard score. On the scoring drive Stone was 6-of-9 for 75 yards and the touchdown pass.
  • Stone appeared in only his fifth career game and his first appearance before the fourth quarter. Entering the game his only pass this season had gone for -7 yards and his career QB efficiency rating was 5.03. 
  • Stone finished with career highs in completions (30), attempts (53), yards (240) and touchdowns (3).
  • WR Terrell Jana finished with nine receptions, including notching his 100th career pass in the third quarter. Jana is the 23rd Cavalier all-time to record 100+ career receptions and 1000+ career receiving yards. 
  • Jana extends his streak with at least one catch to 19 games.
  • Finishing with 111 receiving yards, Jana surpassed 100 for the first time this season and third time in his career.
  • P Nash Griffin connected on a 26-yard pass play to Nick Jackson on a fake punt attempt in the third quarter. The 26-yard pass play is the third-longest completed pass by a Cavalier on special teams in program history. The reception by Jackson was the first in his career. 
  • WR Lavel Davis Jr. finished with three receptions for 51 yards. One of his three receptions went for 20+ yards. For the season, five of his nine receptions have gone for 20+ yards.
  • CB De’Vante Cross snatched his fourth career interception in the third quarter. It was the first interception yielded this season by NC State quarterback Devin Leary.
  • WR Billy Kemp IV tied his career high with 10 receptions. He also had 10 last week at No. 1 Clemson.
  • With seven receptions, TE Tony Poljan extends his streak with at least one catch to 16 games. His streak started while he was at Central Michigan.
  • Poljan’s seven receptions were a career high. 
  • S D’Angelo Amos finished with a career-high 10 tackles.

Scoring Summary

UVA Offensive Player Stats

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