Virginia Football Game Preview: Syracuse Up First In ACC Play

Virginia Perris Jones
Virginia running back Perris Jones and the Hoos hope to start ACC play with a win. ~ Photo By Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

Though the Tony Elliott era began with high aspirations and lofty goals, Virginia football fans have been given a hard reality check over UVA’s 3 opening games. After starting the season 2-1, including last week’s nail-biting win over Old Dominion, the Cavaliers now face their biggest test of the year to date: undefeated in-conference opponent Syracuse.

As the Hoos’ first ACC match up, in which they’ve been listed as 10-point underdogs, this will be an important game for Coach Elliott to establish his presence in the conference and to get things back on track for the program. To do so, he will have to look to the veteran leadership of quarterback Brennan Armstrong and others on the roster.

Let’s take a look at some important storylines for Friday night’s game.

3 Things Virginia Learned From ODU

The Offense Has A Ways To Go

Despite being exalted as having one of the best returning receiving corps in the country, Virginia’s offense has largely struggled over the course of its first three games. Thus far, UVA has been outscored by its opponents 55-53. Furthermore, Brennan Armstrong has only managed to lead the offense to an average of 236.7 passing yards per game, a significant downtick from the team’s 392.6 average passing yards from last season. In order to get back to the powerhouse status the Cavalier offense achieved last year, the unit will need to settle into Elliott’s new system and focus on properly utilizing Billy Kemp IV (when he returns; he’s doubtful this week), Dontayvion Wicks, Lavel Davis Jr., and Keytaon Thompson and their immense talent.

The Defense Looks Stout

While one of Virginia’s biggest concerns heading into the 2022 season was its defense, the unit has proven itself over the team’s opening stretch. The defense has held opponents to less than 20 points in all s three games thus far – only Illinois got past that number, but one touchdown came on a special teams turnover by the Hoos. On top of this, they have forced 4 fumbles and logged 1 interception. Led by Nick Jackson, who has recorded 31 total tackles, the defense has been the reason for Virginia’s two victories and a consistent rock for the team on the field.

Wahoos Can Trust The Special Teams In A Clutch Moment

As we learned in last week’s game against ODU, the Hoos can trust their special teams. Down 1 with 2 seconds remaining, Brendan Farrell took the field for a 26-yard field goal. And, with the game on the line, Farrell made it look easy to earn Virginia its second win of the season. A major confidence booster for the senior from Georgia, Farrell’s 3-4 performance earned him the honor of ACC Specialist of the Week, making him the first Cavalier to do so since Ian Fyre in 2015. That drive started with a big kick return on special teams too, courtesy of Demick Starling. With some clutch plays under the unit’s belt, hopefully Virginia’s special teams can build on this momentum throughout the rest of the season.

3 Players/Matchups To Watch

The Quarterback Battle

Arguably the most exciting aspect of this game will be the quarterback battle between Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong and Garrett Shrader from Syracuse. Under center, these two have already posted impressive numbers in their careers, and will be a key to either team’s victory come Friday.

Through the first three games of the season, Cavalier quarterback Brennan Armstrong has thrown for 710 yards and 2 touchdowns, while logging 3 interceptions. Though the 6’2’,’ 210-pound quarterback hasn’t quite seemed himself,

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