Healthy Armstrong looking forward to Cavaliers’ home stretch

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Brennan Armstrong (Photo: Erin Edgerton/ACC Media Services)

Brennan Armstrong believes he has things figured out, and that’s good news for Virginia football.

The Cavaliers starting quarterback got off to a slow beginning in his first year in the starting job. He was picked off six times in his first three games, suffered a concussion, but has bounced back strong heading into Saturday afternoon’s home game against a 2-5 Louisville.

Banged up on the next-to-last series in UVA’s 44-41 upset of 15th-ranked North Carolina, Armstrong enjoyed an extra week to recover due to last week’s postponement of the Louisville game to this week because of Covid virus issues with the Cardinals. He’s been back and healthy and excited about the second half of the season.

Virginia stands 2-4 and has a chance to go on a run if it can get past Louisville. The Cavaliers are a 3-½ to 4-point favorite by the oddsmakers.

Armstrong said this week that he’s feeling food, has been rehabbing his knee.

“Nothing too much is wrong with my knee,” the QB said. “Just wearing a brace now.”

Armstrong, who has totaled 1,272 yards in five games, has learned a lot now that he is in a starting role.

He was picked off six times in his first four games (at least one of those was due to a receiver running the wrong route), but has only thrown one interception since coming back from his concussion. After escaping Miami clean of interceptions, he was picked on the first play of the fourth quarter against UNC, an interception that fueled the Tar Heels comeback.

“Going back through and watching, I would force a lot of things on third-and-long,” Armstrong said. “I feel refreshed after the concussion I had (first half vs. NC State). I’m trying not to do too much and feel like we’ve played well the past two games.”

Virginia gave Miami a scare before succumbing 19-14 on the road, then won a track meet against the Tar Heels.

“That just shows what we’re capable of,” Armstrong said of the last outing (44 points). Turning the ball on offense was our biggest crutch on offense [early in the season]. If we take those away we should be good the rest of the season.”

 

Saturday, Armstrong’s offense will be facing another challenge in Louisville, which expects to be shorthanded due to several players on defense impacted by the virus. The Cardinals had put together strong back-to-back performances against Notre Dame in a 12-7 loss in South Bend, and then in a 48-16 stunner over Florida State before they were missing key personnel in a 42-35 loss at home to Virginia Tech a couple of weeks ago.

“[Louisville’s] style is a lot of movement on defense with their safeties,” Armstrong said. “They like to twist. No exotic blitzes, just a lot of movement, especially coverage-wise.”

That means the burden will fall on him in his pre-snap reads of the defense, then adjusting to what Louisville’s safeties do once the ball is snapped.

One bit of good news is that he’s expected to have 6-foot-7 wide receiver Lavelle Davis, Jr., back in the lineup after missing a couple of games due to undisclosed reasons. Davis, a true freshman, made a big splash early in the season before he was sidelined.

“When he wasn’t there, I still felt like we were fine,” Armstrong said. “Rashaun Henry stepped up big. But Lavelle is 6-7 and defenses have to game plan against what he has to offer.”

With a chance to extend the winning streak this week and next against Abilene Christian, Armstrong is viewing things positively.

“I’m real excited,” he said. “It’s an opportunity we have. It’s a matter of whether we seize it or not. I think we are going to turn a lot of heads this way the second half of the season. Morale is not down. That was a big win over UNC.”

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