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UVA Defense Exposed by BYU in 66-49 Shootout Loss, Armstrong Exits with Rib Injury

The Cavaliers gave up 734 yards of total offense, but the uncertainty of Armstrong’s condition has Virginia’s entire season in jeopardy

When Virginia arrived in Provo, the Cavaliers were riding a four-game winning streak, they had a Heisman candidate at quarterback, and, following Pittsburgh’s loss to Miami earlier on Saturday, a newfound ability to control their own destiny in the race for the ACC Coastal title.

Virginia leaves Provo with a battered defense that gave up 734 yards of total offense in a 66-49 loss to BYU that snapped the win streak and the nation’s leading passer in Brennan Armstrong exited the game with what appeared to be broken ribs in the fourth quarter, leaving UVA’s entire season in jeopardy.

For as catastrophic as things seemed for UVA at the end of the game, the fact that Virginia only lost by 17 and even had multiple leads in this game was a vast improvement over the Cavaliers’ disastrous start to the game.

Virginia’s first three possessions of the game were as follows: three-and-out, interception, three-and-out. BYU turned each of those short and unsuccessful UVA drives into touchdowns and, less than seven minutes into the first quarter, the Hoos found themselves in a 21-0 hole to Bronco Mendenhall’s former team.

As we have seen time and time again this season, Armstrong and company responded well to the adversity. Armstrong bounced back from the interception and led the Cavaliers on a 12-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by a five-yard touchdown run by Armstrong to put the Hoos on the board.

After totaling just 11 yards of offense on seven plays in their first three drives, the Cavaliers put together six consecutive touchdown drives through the end of the first half, just one of many insane offensive stats from the first half.

The UVA defense managed to come up with a few stops, including two punts and a BYU field goal in the second quarter. Beyond that, however, the Cavalier defense was little more than a revolving door for Jaren Hall, Tyler Allgeier, and the explosive BYU offense. The Cougars scored five touchdowns in the first half and scored on each of their first five possessions in the second half.

Running back Tyler Allgeier was absolutely unstoppable, rushing for a career-high 266 yards on 29 carries and scoring five touchdowns. BYU’s passing game was equally as effective, as Jaren Hall went 22/37 for 349 passing yards and three touchdowns. The receiver tandem of brothers Puka and Samson Nacua terrorized the Virginia secondary. Puka Nacua led BYU with eight receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown, while Samson Nacua had three catches, also for 107 yards and a score.

The abysmal performance by the UVA defense included all of the worst habits the Hoos have displayed this season, including poor tackling, blown coverage, and allowing chunks of yardage on big plays. Virginia’s defensive woes made it so that the Cavalier offense had to be essentially flawless in order to have a chance to emerge victorious.

After a shaky start, the Hoos were almost perfect on the offensive end in the second quarter. Armstrong threw long touchdown passes on back-to-back drives. The first was a 40-yard strike down the left sideline to Jelani Woods, who scored to make it 28-14. 

After Virginia forced a rare BYU punt, Armstrong found Dontayvion Wicks over the middle of the field and Wicks took it to the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to just seven points.

Armstrong completed 22 of 34 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns, while also carrying the ball 11 times for 94 yards and a touchdown. He also broke the UVA single-season passing record set by Bryce Perkins in 2019. 

Wicks had four receptions for 125 yards, including a 70+ yard touchdown catch for the second week in a row.

UVA held BYU to a field goal on the next possession, and then Devin Darrington broke loose for a 49-yard touchdown run to make it 31-28. The Cavalier defense rode the energy of the offense and forced another BYU punt. Virginia got the ball back and Brennan Armstrong made magic happen, dancing around multiple tacklers in the backfield before taking off down the left side of the field for a highlight-reel 30-yard touchdown run.

Suddenly, Virginia had its first lead of the game at 35-31 and all the momentum of the game on its side.

That did not last very long.

BYU scored in just three plays, capped off by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Hall to Samson Nacua, beginning a stretch in which BYU and Virginia scored touchdowns to exchange the lead six times.

On Virginia’s ensuing drive, Armstrong found Keytaon Thompson for a 27-yard completion, then ran for 20 yards, setting up a 12-yard touchdown pass on a slant to Billy Kemp to regain the lead at 42-38 heading into halftime.

Extra Point: Check out the top five plays from Virginia's loss at BYU

Thompson had nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown and Kemp added three receptions for 38 yards and a score.

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The statistics of the first half alone showed an entire game’s worth of offensive production. The teams combined for 832 yards of total offense and 80 total points, the highest scoring half in any college football game this season. Virginia surpassed its season average for rushing yards in only the first half with 168 yards.

It seemed that neither team’s defense made it off the bus for the first half.

In the second half, however, the difference was that BYU’s defensive adjustments resulted in vast improvements, while Virginia’s defense continued to look helpless against the Cougars.

BYU took less than two minutes to retake the lead to start the third quarter on a 49-yard touchdown run by Tyler Allgeier.

Virginia went three-and-out on its first drive, but the Cavalier defense caught a break as Jacob Oldroyd missed a 33-yard field goal on BYU’s next possession.

UVA put together a nice nine-play, 80-yard drive, ending with a two-yard touchdown pass from Armstrong to Keytaon Thompson in the flat to convert on fourth down. Virginia acquired the lead again at 49-45 and it seemed that the last college football game of the day was going to deliver one of the most entertaining finishes.

BYU went back in front at 52-49 on a touchdown from Jaren Hall to Pau’u Neil to start the fourth quarter. This time, the Cougars took the lead for good.

Wayne Taulapapa got hit hard on a carry on the first play of the ensuing UVA drive, resulting in a fumble recovered by BYU. In addition to the caused turnover, the hit also knocked Taulapapa out of the game. Two plays later, Tyler Allgeier was in the end zone again after a 31-yard touchdown run to put the Cougars up by ten.

In a game in which defensive stops were hard to come by, turnovers made a deadly difference. Virginia coughed the ball up three times, including the Taulapapa fumble and two interceptions from Armstrong.

The second interception, which occurred on Virginia’s next drive, was costly in more ways than one. Armstrong ran for a four-yard gain to pick up a first down, but was slow to get up and was holding his ribs. He attempted to run another play and left a pass well short that was intercepted by Jensen Drew. Armstrong immediately walked off the field and could be seen on the television broadcast telling the UVA sideline that he believed his rib was broken.

Armstrong exited the game and did not return. With Armstrong out for the rest of the game and BYU leading by 10 points with possession, Virginia’s chances for a comeback dwindled to something close to zero. Allgeier punched in his fifth touchdown of the game on a four-yard score to put the nail in the coffin with 7:12 remaining.

Freshman Jay Woolfolk replaced Armstrong at quarterback and drove the Hoos into BYU territory, but could not put a scoring drive together as UVA turned the ball over on downs to essentially end the game.

BYU milked the remainder of the clock on its next drive and the Cougars put the finishing touches on a 66-49 victory in Bronco Mendenhall’s homecoming.

With the loss, Virginia falls to 6-3 overall. A non-conference defeat on the road at the hands of a ranked opponent is far from the end of the world for UVA. However, two extremely disturbing problems emerged from the game in addition to the loss that ended the Cavalier win streak. Virginia’s defense looked as vulnerable and flawed as it has all season. Even worse, Brennan Armstrong, who has been doing his best as the nation’s leading passer to carry that defense to victories by simply outscoring the opponent, has suffered what appears to be a very serious rib injury. The Hoos still have the potential to defend their ACC Coastal crown and return to the ACC Championship, but those hopes hinge upon Armstrong’s ability to return for the home stretch of the season as November begins.

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