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Virginia Squanders Game-Winning Opportunity, Falls to Virginia Tech 29-24 in Commonwealth Clash

The Cavaliers could not finish their last-minute drive and fell to the Hokies for the 17th time in the last 18 seasons

Death. Taxes.

Eh, you know the rest.

Despite Virginia coming into this game as a touchdown favorite and boasting one of college football’s top five offenses, the Cavaliers were held to just three points in the second half and somehow found a way to lose to archrival Virginia Tech 29-24 in the Commonwealth Clash on Saturday night at Scott Stadium.

The vaunted UVA offense was held without a point for the last 27:30 of game time. The Hoos saw their 24-17 lead gradually turn into a 29-24 deficit, as Virginia Tech scored 12 unanswered points, punctuated by a safety after Brennan Armstrong fumbled the ball into the end zone.

Still, Virginia had one last chance to win the game as Connor Blumrick fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Olasunkonmi Agunloye at the UVA 35-yard line with 3:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.

With the ball back in the hands of one of the best quarterbacks in the country, the Cavaliers moved the ball to the Virginia Tech 11-yard line on a pass from Brennan Armstrong to Keytaon Thompson with less than two minutes left.

The next four plays defined how this entire Virginia football season will be remembered. Brennan Armstrong rushed up the middle for a two-yard gain on first down and Virginia Tech called a timeout with 1:22 remaining. Armstrong threw a pass intended for Thompson on second down, but it was broken up by Amare Barno. On third down, offensive coordinator Robert Anae went into the deepest reaches (we’re assuming) of his bag of tricks and called a play for Brennan Armstrong to throw the ball back to offensive lineman Bobby Haskins. The Hokies were not fooled and Haskins was brought down for a five-yard loss. Three plays from inside the Virginia Tech 15-yard line and not a single one of them was a pass play into the end zone.

On fourth and 13, Armstrong threw a pass to Ra’Shaun Henry in the end zone on a crossing route. But, the pass was too high and Henry was well-covered by the Virginia Tech defense anyway. The Cavaliers turned the ball over on downs a mere 14 yards from the end zone and the Hokies retained the Commonwealth Cup for the second year in a row, and for the 17th time in the last 18 seasons.

The first half much more resembled Virginia's performances this season on both sides of the ball, as UVA built touchdown leads on multiple occasions only to watch as the Hokies torched the Virginia defense for big plays to immediately tie the game. Virginia scored a touchdown on a pass from Brennan Armstrong to Jelani Woods, who rumbled towards the end zone and braced for a collision with Virginia Tech’s Dorian Strong. Instead, Strong made a business decision and let Woods get into the end zone without attempting to hit him at the goal line.

Virginia’s 7-0 lead lasted just 68 seconds, as Braxton Burmeister threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Tayvion Robinson to pull the Hokies even with the Cavaliers at 7-7.

UVA responded well with an 11-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by a Brennan Armstrong one-yard touchdown run. The score was set up by a 19-yard completion to Dontayvion Wicks, who broke Herman Moore’s Virginia record for receiving yards in a single-season with the catch.

It seemed that the Virginia 14-7 lead would last just as long as the earlier lead did, as Burmeister broke loose for a 71-yard run before being forced out of bounds at the UVA 3-yard line. However, Virginia’s defense stood tall and stopped the Hokies on three consecutive running plays at the goal line. On fourth down, Burmeister faked the handoff and tried to find Raheem Blackshear in the end zone, but the pass fell incomplete and the Hokies turned the ball over on downs.

Virginia did well to put a drive together despite the poor starting field position. An amazing catch on the sideline by Billy Kemp on third down helped get the Cavaliers out of the shadow of their own goalpost. UVA drove into Virginia Tech territory, looking to double its lead, but Tae Daley intercepted Brennan Armstrong to give the ball right back to the Hokies.

After Braxton Burmeister lobbed a 35-yard pass to Da’Wain Lofton to convert on third and 10, Raheem Blackshear found a hole and ran to the end zone untouched for an 18-yard touchdown.

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Virginia’s offense responded well again, as a bubble screen to Billy Kemp picked up 20 yards and set up an impressive Brennan Armstrong touchdown run on the next play. Armstrong scrambled out of the pocket and had three different Hokies converging on him as neared the goal line. Armstrong lowered his shoulder and sent two of the would-be tacklers to the ground and walked into the end zone.

The Hoos certainly did not know it at the time, but that would be the last time they would find the end zone on Saturday night.

UVA’s defense forced a Virginia Tech three-and-out as West Weeks sacked Burmeister and it looked like Armstrong and company would have a chance to add to its lead before halftime. However, Weeks followed up his great play with a costly miscue, as he made contact with Virginia Tech punter Peter Moore and was flagged for roughing the kicker. The penalty gave the Hokies a fresh set of downs and they ended up kicking a field goal as time expired in the half to make it 21-17.

Virginia’s first drive of the second half stalled deep in Virginia Tech territory and the Cavaliers settled for a 34-yard Brendan Farrell field goal. That score made it 24-17 and was also the last time the Hoos would put points on the board in the game.

Raheem Blackshear gashed the UVA defense for another big 50-yard run. A few plays later, Virginia Tech tied the game on a trick play, as wide receiver Tayvion Robinson threw back to quarterback Braxton Burmeister for a touchdown.

Virginia punted on its next drive, but the Cavaliers’ problems ran much deeper than that. Brennan Armstrong twisted his ankle during the series. Although he returned to the field after missing the first few snaps of the next drive, he was far from his normal self for the rest of the game.

On Armstrong’s first play back on the field, Virginia ran a trick play in which Keytaon Thompson and Brennan Armstrong threw the ball back-and-forth, before Thompson took off behind some blockers down the right sideline. The play seemed to be quite effective until Thompson coughed up the ball as he was tackled and Virginia Tech recovered at the Hokie 17-yard line.

Virginia Tech took the lead for the first time all game on a 38-yard field goal by John Parker Romo with nine and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Dontayvion Wicks dropped what would have been a first-down catch and then Armstrong airmailed his pass to Jelani Woods on third down and UVA went three-and-out on its next possession.

The Hoos came up with the stop that they had to have on defense as Elliot Brown sacked Burmeister for the second time in the game.

UVA put the ball back in the hands of Brennan Armstrong, needing just one scoring drive to save the game. But, Virginia’s offensive woes continued. Armstrong threw back-to-back incompletions, before finding Billy Kemp for a gain of eight yards to set up fourth and 2. On the fourth down play, Armstrong was pressured in the back field and lost control of the ball. Bobby Haskins recovered the ball in the end zone for a Virginia Tech safety to make it 29-24.

Even more importantly, UVA was forced to kick the ball back to Virginia Tech with a little over three minutes remaining. Virginia attempted an onside kick but Virginia Tech recovered it easily. It seemed like the game was already over, but the Hokies decided to give the Hoos one more opportunity, as Blumrick fumbled the ball and turned it back over to the Cavaliers with 3:05 left on the clock.

Virginia drove all the way to the Virginia Tech nine-yard line, but mind-boggling playcalling and poor execution kept the Hoos out of the end zone and the Hokies continued their trend of dominance in this rivalry series.

With the loss, Virginia’s losing streak is extended to four games and the Cavaliers end the regular season with a 6-6 record. UVA will await bowl selection on December 5th.