Virginia’s opponent lines up a game-winning field goal with three seconds remaining. The snap is good. The hold is good. The kick is… no good.
Is any of this sounding familiar?
For the second week in a row, the Cavaliers were gifted with a bit of luck as their opponent missed a last-second field goal. James Turner pushed his 49-yard field goal attempt wide left and Virginia escaped Louisville with a 34-33 victory, UVA’s first win in Louisville in program history.
The Cavaliers led the Cardinals 13-10 at halftime, but the Hoos proceeded to have their most disastrous quarter of the entire season. Louisville outscored Virginia 20-0 in the third quarter and led Virginia 30-13 heading into the fourth.
The UVA defense came up with a few key stops and Brennan Armstrong and the Cavalier offense scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to retake the lead. Armstrong found tight end Grant Misch in the corner of the end zone for a one-yard touchdown to tie the game and Brendan Farrell added the extra point to give Virginia a 34-33 lead with 22 seconds remaining.
Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham drove the Cardinals 44 yards down the field in just four plays to the UVA 32-yard line. But James Turner’s field goal missed its mark and the Hoos stormed the field in celebration for the second week in a row.
Virginia had a less than ideal start to its opening drive of the game. Brennan Armstrong was sacked on the first play from scrimmage and Keytaon Thompson was tackled in the backfield on second down. The Hoos recovered, though, as Armstrong found Ra’Shaun Henry down the left sideline for a 30-yard completion to convert the long third down. Henry had nine receptions for 179 yards in the game.
Armstrong drove the Hoos down the field and eventually threw a short pass to Billy Kemp, who broke a tackle and scored from 14 yards out to give Virginia the early 7-0 lead. Kemp recorded nine receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown.
That lead lasted for all of 12 seconds.
On the first play of Louisville’s ensuing drive, Malik Cunningham threw a perfect deep pass and hit Tyler Harrell in stride at midfield and Harrell ran it the rest of the way for a 91-yard touchdown to tie the game.
After the first two drives ended in touchdowns, it seemed we were well on our way to seeing the shootout we expected in this game. However, both defenses stepped up for the rest of the first half.
Louisville’s defense bent, but did not break. Virginia drove the ball inside the Louisville 10-yard line on back-to-back possessions, but the Cardinals held the Hoos to field goals on both drives.
Similarly, Virginia held Louisville to a field goal after the Cards had driven to the UVA ten-yard line. Coen King also forced a Louisville fumble deep in Virginia territory, dislodging the ball after a completed pass and then falling on it for the turnover.
Both teams missed field goals on their final possessions of the half and the game went into halftime with Virginia leading 13-10.
To put things in the most delicate of terms, Louisville dominated Virginia in the third quarter.
The Cardinals outscored the Cavaliers 20-0 and had 133 total yards to Virginia’s 34 yards in the quarter. Louisville scored on each of its four possessions in the third and Brennan Armstrong threw two bad interceptions.
A little over two minutes into the second half, Hassan Hall burst through the middle of the Virginia defense and ran 52 yards for a touchdown to give Louisville its first lead of the game.
On the ensuing UVA possession, Armstrong targeted Ra’Shaun Henry but had his pass intercepted by Trey Franklin, who returned the ball to the Virginia 25-yard line, which set up a Louisville field goal to make it 20-13.
Virginia went three-and-out on its next drive and Louisville went right back to the ground game, for which the UVA defense had no answer. Three straight runs of seven or more yards by Hassan Hall set up a three-yard Jalen Mitchell touchdown run to extend the Louisville lead to 14 points.
Things only got worse for the Hoos on their next drive, as Brennan Armstrong was sacked and then had his pass tipped into the air and easily intercepted by Kenderick Duncan. UVA’s defense did well to force another Louisville field goal but the Cavaliers found themselves trailing 30-13 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Hoos kept their composure on their first drive in the fourth. Armstrong completed a pass to Ra’Shaun Henry on the left sideline for a first down at the Louisville five yard-line. Then, Keytaon Thompson took a handoff and ran up the middle untouched for a touchdown to make it 30-20.
Crucially, the UVA defense forced a three-and-out and gave the ball right back to Virginia. Armstrong passed to Keytaon Thompson, who shed multiple tacklers and ran 34 yards to the Louisville 21-yard line. After another first down completion to Billy Kemp, Armstrong threw to tight end Jelani Woods on a slant to bring Virginia to within three points with a little less than eight minutes left in regulation.
Armstrong attempted an astounding 60 passes, completing 40 of them for 487 yards and three touchdowns. This was his fourth game with at least 400 passing yards this season.
The teams traded punts and then Louisville nearly sealed the win, as Hassan Hall broke loose on another long run, but Darrius Bratton made a chase down tackle to prevent the touchdown.
UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall called Bratton's tackle "the play of the game" and chose Bratton to have the honor of breaking the rock after the game.
Still, Hall picked up 53 yards on the carry and Louisville kicked a field goal to extend the lead to 33-27.
UVA got the ball back with 2:22 remaining. On two occasions on the drive, Virginia faced a fourth down and converted on completions from Armstrong to Billy Kemp and Keytaon Thompson.
Thompson finished with nine receptions for 132 yards, one of three UVA receivers with nine receptions in the game.
Thompson nearly had the game-winning touchdown on a reception on a crossing route but was dragged down inside the Louisville two-yard line. Armstrong then went to a target no one expected, finding tight end Grant Misch in the back left corner of the end zone for the game-tying touchdown.
Backup kicker Brendan Farrell, starting again in place of Justin Duenkel, calmly made the extra point to give the Hoos the 34-33 lead.
Malik Cunningham, who threw for 270 yards and a touchdown in the game, led the Cardinals 44 yards down the field in just 19 seconds and gave the Cardinals a chance to win the game.
Just as in last week’s win at Miami, Virginia got lucky again, as Louisville kicker James Turner missed the 49-yard kick wide left and the Cavaliers emerged victorious.
With the win, Virginia improves to 4-2 on the season and, more importantly, gets back to .500 in ACC play with a 2-2 conference record. Up next, UVA returns home to face Duke next Saturday at 12:30pm.
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