CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Brennan Armstrong said “it was pretty surreal, pretty weird” playing as a visitor at Scott Stadium, where he’d emerged from the Virginia locker room for five seasons.
It wasn’t as weird as the ending in his lone visit as an opponent.
Armstrong hit KC Concepcion with a pair of touchdown passes and Brayden Narveson kicked a second-chance 33-yard field goal as time expired and North Carolina State beat Virginia 24-21 Friday night.
The Cavaliers made a dramatic comeback to tie it with 36 seconds left, but penalties — two they survived and one they didn’t — were their undoing.
“Penalties won us the game,” Armstrong said.
Narveson’s first attempt from 48 yards was blocked by James Jackson, but he was called for a personal foul, moving the ball 15 yards closer. His second try was true.
The drive was necessary after freshman Anthony Colandrea led Virginia on an 11-play, 66-yard drive and hit Malik Washington from 3 yards out to make it 21-19. The Cavaliers, however, were called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, and on their 2-point attempt from the 18, Colandrea hit Malachi Fields to tie it up.
Another 15-yard unsportsmanlike call — this one on the freshman quarterback — forced Virginia to back up 15 yards on the kickoff, and a nice return by Julian Gray set the Wolfpack up at the Virginia 48. Three runs by Armstrong moved the ball to the 30.
One penalty was for retaliation, Virginia coach Tony Elliott said, the officials told him, and another was for a player taking his helmet off before leaving the field of play. The third was called because Jackson ran into the snapper.
“We’re in the final moments of the game and that’s where you need to be at your sharpest,” Elliott said, refusing to blame the officials. “We just didn’t have the discipline down the stretch to win the football game.”
Armstrong, who transferred after last season, was booed when he trotted onto the field for the opening series, but displayed many of the attributes that made him one of the nation’s top quarterbacks two years ago. He struggled in a new system last season, and reunited this year with former offensive coordinator Robert Anae.
He finished 15 for 30 for 180 yards, the TDs and an interception, and led them with 64 rushing yards, often trying to punish would-be tacklers and former teammates. The Wolfpack (3-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) won their third straight in the series.
Colandrea started his third straight for the Cavaliers (0-4, 0-1) at quarterback in place of injured starter Tony Muskett. He showed flashes of potential, including an 11-yard run and completions of 19, 10 and 12 yards on the tying drive, but also inexperience, throwing a deep ball on the run into quadruple coverage with Virginia trailing 21-13. The pass was tipped and intercepted, the first of his two picks.
Virginia squandered two good scoring chances, including a 1st-and-goal from the four after Colandrea’s 59-yard connection with Washington. Three plays netted just a yard and Will Bettridge kicked a 21-yard FG. He kicked another from 36 yards after the Cavaliers couldn’t convert on 3rd-and-1 from the 19.
Dexter Mimms III’s 1-yard run 28 seconds before halftime gave N.C. State a 14-7 lead.
The Wolfpack stopped Virginia’s 4th-and-1 try from their own 49 and took advantage, needing seven plays that ended with Armstrong’s 12-yard pass to Concepcion to go ahead 7-0 on the opening play of the second quarter. The pair later teamed on a 48-yard scoring play to make it 21-13 in the third quarter.
The Cavaliers drew even at 7-all on their next possession, driving 75 yards in nine plays. Colandrea finished it with some nifty footwork to escape pressure, then found Washington in the back of the end zone on 3rd-and-goal from the 8.
N.C. State: Armstrong said this week it has taken the Wolfpack some time to adjust to the new offense, but he looked like he had so many time in Virginia colors. He connected with Concepcion for 30 yards on a 3rd-and-14 play, then ran 13 yards to the Virginia 1 later in the drive to help set up their go-ahead-for-good touchdown.
Virginia: The Cavaliers reached 100 rushing yards for the first time in four games, finishing with 113 yards on 41 attempts. Colandrea and Washington did their best to fill the void, combining 10 times for 170 yards. Washington also became just the third Cavaliers receiver with three consecutive 100-yard games.
The Wolfpack is at home next Friday night against Louisville.
Virginia plays at Boston College next Saturday.
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