CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Brennan Armstrong threw for 383 yards and four touchdowns and Virginia beat Abilene Christian 55-15 on Saturday night.
Armstrong completed just 16 passes, but the scoring throws covered 28 yards to Tony Poljan, 90 yards to Lavel Davis Jr., 56 yards to Keytaon Thompson and 52 yards to Ra’Shaun Henry as the Cavaliers made quick work of their Southland Conference foe.
The one to Davis stood out, coming on the last play of the first quarter, because the 6-foot-7 freshman caught the ball on a slant pattern and gradually ran away from the cornerback Christopher Satterfield for the 90-yard score.
“When he caught it, I didn’t know where the corner was to get him but I thought he might be gone,” Armstrong said, adding that he’s seen Davis do similar in practice.
The Wildcats (1-5), who have had two games canceled because their scheduled opponents had coronavirus-related issues, were a late addition to Virginia’s schedule when other nonconference options fell through, and they were clearly overmatched.
The Cavaliers (4-4) started slowly, but a 33-yard run by Armstrong got their offense untracked, and his 28-yard pass to Poljan got them on the board late in the first quarter.
Shane Simpson scored on a pair of 1-yard runs in the second quarter, the second to cap a 64-yard drive that used the last 30 seconds of the half. It came after the Wildcats drove for their first points of the night on Stone Earle’s 2-yard pass to Kobe Clark.
Earle was making his first start and just his second appearance. He finished 19 of 31 for 150 yards and also ran 13 times for 20 yards.
In the second half, after two passes by Armstrong broke for long touchdowns, coach Bronco Mendenhall substituted liberally.
“It was just really gratifying to see smiles from so many players that haven’t had a chance to play this year in an actual game, after they’ve been practicing and laboring and working to help their teammate and this program move forward,” Mendenhall said.
“To be able to get so many of those guys into the game, That was, I think, the best part of the game for me,” he said.
The game was the first played under new, stricter attendance standards established by the governor because of a rise in coronavirus cases. Instead of 1,000 fans, only 250 were permitted.
Coach Adam Dorrel said he’s tried hard not to make excuses for his team this year, but that Earle started because the normal starter, Peyton Mansell, has been banged up.
“Today we were absolutely decimated by injuries and COVID. We had spots where we were one deep. Literally one deep,” Dorrel said.
Virginia scored on the last play of three quarters. After Davis’ catch and run, Simpson plowed in from the one on the last play of the first half and, D’Sean Perry intercepted a pass at the Virginia 16 and returned it 84 yards to create the final score.
Abilene Christian: Earle was making his first start for the Wildcats and the freshman certainly demonstrated that he can play, especially when Abilene Christian plays schools at its own level. He did throw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by D’Angelo Amos, but the play was overturned by a questionable pass interference call. Mansell came on in the third quarter and scored on a 2-yard run with 1:26 remaining. They also got a safety with 34 seconds left.
Virginia: The victory could prove costly as several defensive stalwarts had to be helped off the field. Cornerback Nick Grant eventually returned but linebacker Charles Snowden was taken to the locker room and came back to the sideline in the second half on crutches. Snowden started the season slowly, but had six sacks in his last three games. Amos later also had to be helped off the field with Virginia leading 42-7.
Mendenhall said he had no updates on any of the players injured.
The Wildcats do not have any additional games scheduled.
Virginia goes on the road next Saturday, playing at struggling Florida State.
Follow Hank on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.