CHARLOTTESVILLE — From almost all accounts, Virginia’s football team did itself proud in a trip to Clemson in the second week of the college football season.
The Cavaliers did not distinguish themselves one week later in a 38-21 home loss to North Carolina State on Saturday.
Virginia had the home-field advantage, if there is such a thing in this empty-stadium world, and had been tabbed as a seven-point favorite.
That may have been a little steep, given that the Wolfpack (3-1, 3-1) had scored 99 points in its first three games.
Virginia (1-2, 1-2) started slowly in its opening game against Duke and trailed as late as the fourth quarter before pulling away for a 38-20 victory.
It was even worse Saturday as N.C. State jumped to a 24-0 halftime lead.
By that point, starting UVa quarterback Brennan Armstrong had been lost for the duration after taking a blow to the head with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
It would be unreasonable to say that Armstrong’s injury was a major factor in the Cavaliers’ loss, given that Virginia was trailing 17-0 at the time and Armstrong had been sacked three times.
Virginia added Keytaon Thompson, a graduate transfer from Mississippi State, for just that sort of situation.
Thompson has been splitting his time between quarterback and wide receiver, however, and had even caught a touchdown pass one week earlier at Clemson.
This time, the call went out to Lindell Stone, a longtime reserve who is listed at 6 feet and 240 pounds and wears No. 36, which is highly unusual for a signal-caller. He had attempted one pass in each of the past two seasons.
It should be noted that Stone, a Texan who played at Woodberry Forest outside Charlottesville, set the record for career passing yardage and touchdown passes in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association.
He didn’t lead the Cavaliers to victory Saturday, but he finished 30-of-54 for 240 yards and three touchdowns. He attempted 43 passes in the second half, a staggering figure.
Virginia finished with 64 passing attempts, including a 26-yarder by punter Nash Griffin on a trick play. Griffin’s pass to blocking back Nick Jackson, normally a linebacker, set up a Stone touchdown pass that pulled UVa to within 24-14 with 2:08 left in the third quarter.
There was still enough time for Virginia to pull out the win and the Cavaliers got within 10 on a second occasion, 31-21, on a pass from Stone to freshman Lindell Davis Jr. with 6:08 left.
UVa stopped N.C. State on downs and got the ball back with 4:59 left but four straight incompletions ended the Cavaliers’ hopes.
With 64 pass attempts, the Cavaliers came close to breaking the school record of 66, set in 2017 in a 34-17 home loss to Indiana. The fact that the Cavaliers lost both games should say something.
The Cavaliers’ longest run from scrimmage was a 12-yarder by Shane Simpson. That’s where the Cavaliers could have used Armstrong, but he hadn’t done much before his injury and was sacked repeatedly, which says more for his protection than his escapability.
His status for the Cavaliers’ upcoming game with Wake Forest is undetermined but N.C. State was a team that Virginia could have beaten and even if the Cavaliers get past the Deacons, they’ve got Miami and North Carolina to follow.
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