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The Return of Dual-Threat Brennan Armstrong: Finally a Heisman Candidate?

Armstrong is the NCAA’s leading passer with only his arm. If he begins to run the ball too, he could be unstoppable.
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Brennan Armstrong has been having a historic season.

For the third week in a row, Armstrong continues to be the leading passer in the NCAA with 3,220 passing yards. In Saturday night’s 48-40 win against Georgia Tech, he became the just third quarterback in UVA history to eclipse the 3,000-yard passing mark in a single season, joining Kurt Benkert and Bryce Perkins, and he did so in only eight games played. With four games to go in the regular season, Armstrong trails only Bryce Perkins, who had 3,538 passing yards in the 2019 season.

He has attained these historic achievements despite not being able to utilize a very important aspect of skillset: his legs.

Armstrong suffered a minor knee injury in the third quarter of Virginia’s week two victory over Illinois. Since then, the Cavaliers have seldom used Armstrong in the rushing game, which has been a weakness of the Virginia offense as a result.

Last season, Armstrong carried the ball 126 times for 552 yards and five touchdowns. Before last week’s game against Duke, Armstrong had 50 rushing attempts for only 44 yards and two touchdowns on the season.

Despite not running the ball very much, Armstrong is also the nation’s leader in total yards at 3,397 yards. 

Beginning in the Duke game and continuing against Georgia Tech on Saturday, offensive coordinator Robert Anae and the UVA offense began to work some designed runs for Armstrong back into their offensive game plan.

In just a couple of designed running plays against Duke, Armstrong had 34 rushing yards and a touchdown. Against Georgia Tech, Armstrong finally appeared to be the explosive dual-threat quarterback the Hoos hoped he would be this season.

Armstrong carried the ball 12 times for 99 yards, including a 45-yard run in the second quarter, and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns. On top of his production in the ground game, he was brilliant as usual in the passing game. Armstrong completed 29 of 43 passing attempts for 396 passing yards and four touchdowns.

Armstrong’s six total touchdowns set a career-high and his 495 total yards was the second-most in a single game in UVA history, behind his own mark of 538 total yards against North Carolina earlier this season. Virginia improved to 7-0 in games when Armstrong has a rushing touchdown.

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“When the knee got tweaked, we were just playing it safe,” Armstrong said following the game. “I’m pretty much one hundred percent back now. It’s just protection since it’s my lead leg and a lot of things can happen in front of the O-line, so I just protect it now. I’m ready to run now, so we just got to utilize that today.”

With Armstrong developing into a threat in the ground game once again, the Cavaliers add yet another option to a Virginia offensive arsenal that is already stacked with weapons. The Hoos amassed 636 yards of total offense against the Yellow Jackets, the sixth-most in a single game in UVA program history and most since 2010.

Armstrong has been getting almost no consideration as a Heisman contender, despite being the nation’s leading passer. After leading the Cavaliers to four consecutive victories and a 6-2 record on the season, Armstrong deserves to at least be in the conversation.

“If he’s not, I don’t know why not and I don’t know what else you have to do or what other numbers you have to put up, or how else you have to lead a team,” Mendenhall said of Armstrong’s place in the Heisman race.

Armstrong will have plenty of big games to make his case in the final third of the season, as Virginia has games against BYU, ranked opponents Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech to end the regular season. 

It is time to put some respect on his name. 

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