Cavalier Corner

December 2021

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Page 12 of 35

DECEMBER 2021 11 fewest since shutting out both of its first two opponents in 1952. The tides turned quickly as Virginia let an opportunity slip away at then-No. 21 North Carolina despite the historic passing effort by Armstrong. The Wake Forest Demon Dea- cons then sent UVA to 0-2 in the ACC, with the eventual Atlantic Division champions winning their fifth straight game against the Cavaliers by a 37-17 count. GAME OF INCHES The road ahead looked grim for the Cava- liers, who had a quick turnaround on a Thurs- day night in Miami and another stint away at Louisville in a 10-day span, but it proved to be the turning point of the season. UVA put an end to its recent misfortunes in Miami with a 30-28 triumph. The Wahoos' stout defensive effort, which included the second safety of the season and a missed Hurricane field goal as time expired, helped them snap a five-game road losing streak and generated the momentum they so des- perately needed to get the season back on track. When it comes to heroics, no win in the 2021 season matched Virginia's triumph at Louisville. The Cavaliers scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to erase a 17-point defi- cit en route to a 34-33 victory. The game's signature play came at the goal line with 22 seconds left on a one-yard touchdown pass to the back corner of the end zone from Armstrong to Grant Misch. The Cardinals did have a chance to go ahead, but another missed field goal in the final seconds helped right the Cavaliers' season. The back-to-back ACC road victories were the first since 2011 and sparked a four- game win streak that included a shutout of Duke and a 48-40 home win over Georgia Tech in which the Cavaliers amassed 636 yards of total offense. Suddenly, Virginia was in the driver's seat sitting at 6-2 overall, with a 4-2 mark in ACC play. IN IT UNTIL THE END The Cavaliers' final four games featured three straight ranked opponents and a clash against Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale. Virginia headed west to Provo, Utah, for a late night battle against BYU on Oct. 30, the first game for Mendenhall against his former employer. The contest saw 115 points and 1,322 yards of total offense between the two teams but an eventual 66-49 victory for the Cougars. The loss proved to be even more significant, as Armstrong left with a rib injury that would keep him out for the ensuing contest against Notre Dame. Cavaliers fans got a possible glimpse into the future with rookie Jay Woolfolk under center against the seventh-ranked Fighting Irish. Woolfolk became the first true first- year to start at quarterback for UVA since 1977, when Bryan Shumock started the first five games of the season. Woolfolk ended up throwing for 196 yards, the most ever by a true first-year starting quarterback at Virginia, eclipsing Scott Gardner's 189-yard performance against North Carolina in 1972, but it wasn't enough to prevent a 28-3 loss. Despite two non-conference losses late in the season, the Cavaliers still found them- selves in the ACC Coastal Division race. A win in the final two games against Pitt and Virginia Tech would clinch the Cavaliers' sec- ond Coastal crown in three seasons. The matchup against the 20th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers featured two of the na- tion's top quarterbacks in Armstrong, who made his return from injury, and Kenny Pickett. Armstrong outdueled the Heisman Trophy finalist by throwing for 487 yards to Pickett's 340, but it was the Panthers who scored late to seal a 48-38 victory, dashing UVA's Coastal Division title and ACC cham- pionship game aspirations. The regular season did not end on a positive note, as the Cavaliers squandered another 400-yard passing effort from Arm- strong, the first quarterback in the history of the rivalry with Virginia Tech to throw for 400 yards. The Cavaliers were held to a season- low three points in the second half, and the Hokies held on for a 29-24 victory. POSTSEASON ACCOLADES Armstrong and his supporting cast were not short of local and national recognition. The third-year Cavalier quarterback finished as the ACC leader in passing yards and total offense, and earned third-team All-ACC hon- ors from a voting panel of 50 media mem- bers and each of the league's head coaches. In addition, Armstrong garnered second- team All-ACC honors from the Associated Press and Pro Football Focus. He also was a semifinalist or finalist for three national quar- terback awards, The Manning Award (finalist), the Davey O'Brien Award (semifinalist) and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award after setting school records for passing yards, total offense and passing touchdowns (31) in 2021. Second-year wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks broke Herman Moore's single-season receiving yards record and became the first UVA wideout to eclipse the 1,200-yard mark. Wicks earned first-team All-ACC honors and was recognized as the Touchdown Club of Richmond's Offensive End of the Year. Virginia averaged 515.8 yards per game of total offense behind an offensive line an- chored by Olusegun Oluwatimi. The fourth-year was rewarded for his efforts, becoming the first Virginia center to be a finalist for the presti- gious Rimington Trophy, annually given to col- lege football's top center. Oluwatimi also was a second-team All-ACC selection, plus was named a second-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. 2021 VIRGINIA SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 4 William & Mary W, 43-0 Sept. 11 Illinois W, 42-14 Sept. 18 at North Carolina L, 59-39 Sept. 24 Wake Forest L, 37-17 Sept. 30 at Miami W, 30-28 Oct. 9 at Louisville W, 34-33 Oct. 16 Duke W, 48-0 Oct. 23 Georgia Tech W, 48-40 Oct. 30 at BYU L, 66-49 Nov. 13 Notre Dame L, 28-3 Nov. 20 at Pittsburgh L, 48-38 Nov. 27 Virginia Tech L, 29-24 Dec. 29 vs. SMU* (ESPN) 11 a.m. * Wasabi Fenway Bowl at Fenway Park in Boston Second-year wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks broke Herman Moore's single-season receiving yards record and became the first UVA wideout to eclipse the 1,200-yard mark. (Photo courtesy UVA)

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