Cavaliers’ Rally Earns Last-Play Comeback Win Over Stubborn ODU

Ken Cross

September 19, 2022 at 4:21 pm.

The Virginia Cavaliers have a solid approach from head coach Tony Elliott and offensive coordinator Des Kitchings in trying to build a balanced offense.

Saturday afternoon’s 16-14 win over Old Dominion was a lesson in how to overcome all of the things that can happen in a game and still turn up with a win.

Virginia had three turnovers deep in ODU territory in the first half, but the defense helped the team weather those storms.

“I’m going to be conservative and say we left 21 points out there,” Elliott said.

Two of the fumbles occurred on the Monarchs’ seven-yard line and the six-yard line.

The game ended with senior kicker Brendan Farrell nailing a 26-yard field goal on the last play to allow the Cavaliers to move to 2-1 with the ACC portion of their schedule starting at undefeated Syracuse on Friday evening.

“Turnovers were down in the red zone area,” Kitchings said. “I’d like to think we would have scored three touchdowns down there and we gave it away. This team, this staff — maybe it’s necessary for us to figure out how to win a game and you build on it.”

All totaled, Virginia carried the ball 45 times for 229 yards, as Xavier Brown led the attack with 90 yards on nine carries.

“I’m learning from the older guys,” Brown said as he pointed to his offensive line. “I think what Coach Kitchings puts on the field, we execute it and when (quarterback) Brennan (Armstrong) does what Brennan does, he’s Brennan Armstrong.”

Brown has the ability to lead the running attack, but also with his speed and movement, he can become a threat in the passing game.

“Xavier had some big explosive plays for us and the kid is totally about winning,” said Kitchings. “He’s tough. He’s smart. He’s soaking up information. He’s got some ability and we got the team to build on that.”

Building a balanced offense has been a major essential for Coach Elliott.

Through three games, Virginia has 116 rushes and 104 passing attempts to define the balance and that has spurred the 2-1 record as three of the Cavaliers’ first four ACC games are on the road.

Virginia is also finding balance out of different running backs each week as Armstrong had 14 carries for 76 yards and Perris Jones had 56 on 11 carries to follow Brown’s heroics on Saturday.

“That was good for us on offense,” said Brown. “I was really excited because we were moving the ball on them. We just have to put the ball in the end zone.”

Currently, Armstrong is the second leading rusher as he was in 2021 in posting 150 yards on 35 attempts. He was sacked five times in the loss at Illinois. He has 217 yards on 35 carries in dealing one of the best fake dive plays to a running back and his keeper outside.

Jones leads in rushes with 37 and leads in yardage with 186.

In the passing game, Armstrong hit Lavel Davis with a 17-yard pass in the fourth quarter and he became Virginia’s all-time passing leader. His 284-yard performance against ODU equated to 7,504 all-time as Armstrong passed Matt Schaub (7,502).

The 25-yard reception by Lavel Davis also sits in Saturday’s annals as it was the longest reception of the season.

The importance of the balanced offense is seen as what will be the benchmark in how far Virginia can move forward in ACC play. Kitchings discussed how and why the Cavaliers can minimize the turnovers.

“Turnovers are a concern,” expressed Kitchings. “We have seven now in three games. That’s not playing winning football, especially when we go on the road.”

Dropped passes have been a problem as well, as those are a mental problem that have to be alleviated with the psychology attributed to the players who struggle.

“Even with the drops, we probably did a better job in protections today and we got some guys down the field,” said Kitchings. “There are glimpses. We have three turnovers in the red area and that is tough.”