Scattershooting: A deeper look at Armstrong’s weekend, basketball recruiting & golden nuggets…

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Scattershooting around UVA and the ACC, while taking a closer look at Brennan Armstrong’s record-breaking performance …

Virginia’s quarterback didn’t have his best day as a Wahoo, but it was good enough for him to leapfrog Bryce Perkins and Shawn Moore to become UVA’s all-time total offense leader. Armstrong completed 21 of 33 pass attempts for 246 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and one sack. He also added 105 yards rushing and a TD.

While the southpaw threw for 246 yards, if you compare that total to all 11 games last season, it would have been his lowest yardage in all 12 games. His grade via Pro Football Focus, which grades every player in the country on a weekly basis, was a mere 69.5, which obviously was lowered by the interceptions, fewer yards and completion percentage.

Still, Armstrong looked solid, broke records and walked away a winner in UVA’s opener.

Here’s a breakdown of Armstrong’s passing statistics:

Passes to his left (20-plus yards): 0-2, 0 yards; Passes to the middle of the field (20-plus yards) 1-2, 56 yards, 1 TD, 0 int; Passes to the right of the field (20-plus yards) 0-0.

Passes to his left (10-19 yards): 2-3, 25 yards; Passes to middle (10-19 yards) 2-3, 39 yards; Passes to right (10-19 yards) 2-2, 23 yards, 1 TD.

Passes to his left (0-9 yards): 7-11, 57 yards, 1 int; Passes to the middle (0-9 yards) 3-4, 30 yards; Passes to his right (0-9 yards) 0-2.

Overall passes to his left: 9-16, 77 yards, 0 TD, 1 int; Overall passes to the middle, 6-9, 125 yards, 1 TD; Overall passes to his right, 2-4, 23 yards, 1 TD.

Dontayvion Wicks was Armstrong’s favorite target against the Spiders, as Wicks was targeted 12 times. He caught a team-high six passes for 47 yards and had 11 yards after catch.

Meanwhile, Lavel Davis Jr. and Keytaon Thompson were both targeted six times, with Davis catching four passes for 89 yards (39 after catch), Thompson with four catches for 55 yards (23 after catch). Billy Kemp IV had three targets, three catches, 25 yards (21 after catch).

Meanwhile, a couple of points on the UVA offense. We heard a lot of talk about balance, and that’s what we got. Virginia ran 75 plays — 42 running plays, 33 passes. Yardage: 259 rushing, 246 passing. It likely won’t stay that way throughout the season, but interesting start.

Oh, and we heard about Armstrong taking snaps from under center, but that didn’t really happen much. He took 8 snaps under center (all in the first half), and 67 from the shotgun.

It took Armstrong 29 games to become UVA’s all-time total offense leader compared to 27 for Perkins and 38 for Shawn Moore.

Elliott explains end of 1H

Virginia had cruised to a 28-10 lead late in the first half of Saturday’s game against Richmond, and had just stopped the Spiders on a fourth-and-two at the Cavaliers’ 34 with 1:22 to play.

Much to the dismay of some Wahoos fans, UVA called three consecutive running plays for a first down at the 49. It wasn’t until then that the Cavaliers put the ball in the air, an incomplete pass to Davis with only eight seconds left in the half.

Why so passive? Why not go for the jugular and try to put the game on ice at halftime?

Tony Elliott, in his first game as a head coach, took the conservative route and offered up this explanation.

“I told (offensive coordinator) Des [Kitchings], ‘Let’s run the ball.’ If we hit a big play, then we took the shot play, I think that was the one that ricocheted off the back of the helmet (Davis), and I was at a point of let’s just get into the half because I was starting to see some things from the team that I needed to correct, so that’s really what that was.

“Not necessarily anything other than kind of the ebb and flow of the game right there, and I just felt like we needed to run it and if we hit a big play, we were going to be aggressive, but I didn’t want to take a chance with what we had been doing offensively and put those guys in a situation going into the half not being successful. So that was on me.”

Hoops recruiting update

Remember George Washington? No, not that one, the basketball one, GW3, who was on UVA’s list of prospects, but who committed to Ohio State.

Well, on Monday, George Washington III decommitted from Ohio State after visiting Columbus over the weekend.

Ranked No. 55 nationally by ESPN, Washington is already getting contacted by other schools, hoping to attract the 4-star. Virginia was one of the first to reach out, along with Texas, Louisville, Missouri, Auburn, Oklahoma, Seton Hall and Dayton.

Washington visited UVA last fall, so stay tuned.

The shooting guard was ranked the No. 2 player in the state of Ohio and had helped the Buckeyes land the No. 5 overall rank in recruiting for the Class of 2023. Washington announced his decommitment on his social media account.

Meanwhile, Virginia’s lone commitment for ‘23, big man Blake Buchanan, was in Charlottesville over the weekend for his official visit after having chosen the Cavaliers over Gonzaga this summer.

Also, Nyk Lewis, a point guard prospect from Gonzaga Prep in Maryland, was on an unofficial visit to UVA over the weekend along with Isaiah Abraham, the ‘24 Paul VI wing, who holds a UVA offer.

Buchanan, by the way, jumped from No. 92 to No. 67 in the 247Sports top 100 rankings and is now a 4-star. He jumped to No. 65 in ESPN’s rankings.

Short yardage …

  • Unrelated, but look at Nick Saban’s coaching staff at Alabama in 2015: Lane Kiffin, Kirby Smart, Mel Tucker, Billy Napier and Mario Cristobal. Geesh.
  • Virginia football has opened as a 4-point underdog at Illinois. The Illini have beaten a bad Wyoming team and allowed Indiana to drive 75 yards at the end of the game to win, 23-20. Illinois is now quarterbacked by Tommy DiVito, who had been Syracuse’s starter for the past couple of seasons.
  • Former UVA pitcher Griff McGarry has been called up to AAA ball by the Phillies and is now a member of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
  • Virginia lacrosse pulled off a huge recruiting coup on Monday when the nation’s No. 1 recruit for the 2023 class, McCabe Millon, decommitted from Duke and flipped to UVA.
  • Richmond actually moved up, and deservedly so, in the FCS Top 25 rankings from No. 24 to No. 18.
  • Syracuse, UVA’s third opponent (Fri., Sept. 23 on the road) announced that it lost two starters for the season in its opening win over Louisville. Gone are fullback Chris Elmore and linebacker Stephon Thompson, both with lower-body injuries.
  • After giving up 40 points in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s shootout win at Appalachian State, UNC coach Mack Brown said of his defensive staff: “They’re embarrassed.” And on his defensive coordinator: “I’ve got tremendous confidence in Gene Chizik.”
  • Yes, I did start my 42nd consecutive year in the Scott Stadium press box on Saturday, 42nd year of covering UVA football.
  • I think if UVA is going to win at Illinois on Saturday, then Keytaon Thompson is going to need more touches. I get it that he’s a wide receiver now, but he was only targeted six times and had only four touches. There’s no one else as lethal in the ACC as Thompson, and for him not to have at least double-digit touches is a mistake, even if they have to hand it off to him.
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