Virginia football prepares for its first road game in Illinois

Virginia first-year football coach Tony Elliott called earlier this week that the audio system inside the Cavaliers practice facility be turned up so high that offensive players could barely hear the quarterback -back Brennan Armstrong yelling signals at the line of scrimmage.

The music blaring through the speakers time and time again was the Illinois fight song to give the Cavaliers a taste of the hostile environment they will face Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., for their first road game of the season.

It also served as a reminder that after a relatively comfortable 34-17 win in last weekend’s opener against visiting Richmond, beating Fighting Illini will almost certainly require concentration and far greater attention to detail than that required to send a football. Championship Subdivision Program.

“We practice with music, and usually the music is loud, but I wanted them to hear something different to try and get them used to it – so it’s not the first time they’ve formed the band, it is the first time they’ve heard it,” Elliott says. “So now it’s not even a distraction anymore.” They probably won’t even notice or hear it once up there.

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As well as briefing players on how best to deal with potential crowd noise, Elliott said he and his team are making tactical adjustments in hopes of preventing the attack from getting bogged down again after four straight touchdowns against the Spiders, tying the first and second quarters. .

The scoring barrage began with Armstrong completing a 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr. The junior, who at 6-foot-7 has significant game issues, missed all of last season recovering from a a torn ACL during spring training.

Davis’ strong comeback to the roster is one of many notable performances from players who either didn’t contribute last year or had little presence on the pitch. Every starter on the offensive line, for example, was making his debut in a Cavaliers uniform, and only one member of that group, Dartmouth grad John Paul Flores, had started a college game before last weekend.

Left tackle starter McKale Boley (6-foot-4, 331 pounds) became the second true freshman to start a freshman season at tackle for Virginia and the sixth player in program history to start in n any game in this position.

Center Ty Furnish and right tackle Logan Taylor are both sophomores. Furnish appeared in three games last season and Taylor played two. Starting right guard Derek Devine, a fifth-year senior, missed last season with a broken foot.

“It was the first time, again a lot to clean up, but I’m glad we got out,” Devine said. “I’m happy that we had that first game under our belt, especially for me. It was very nervous in this match, and I’m sure the other guys were a little nervous too.

Despite lacking experience in the game, Virginia’s offensive line only produced one sack and kept Armstrong comfortable in the pocket. It also paved the way for the Cavaliers to rush for 259 yards, marking the fourth time since 2015 that they’ve amassed at least 250 rushing yards.

Virginia also ran 42 times for her most rushing attempts since Dec. 5, 2020, against Boston College.

“I think it took them a bit of time to adjust to the running game, but once they had some success they were able to establish the running game,” Elliott said. “I still have a lot of work to do. You think about it, Devine’s first start, Taylor’s first start, Furnish’s first start, so a bunch of first starts.

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Still, the Cavaliers had two players rushing for more than 100 yards.

Armstrong led the way with 105, the second-highest total of his career, over 10 carries. The fifth-year senior’s 64-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter opened up a 21-7 lead and produced the longest rushing game of his career on the way to the school’s career mark for the total attack.

Tailback Perris Jones, another fifth-year senior, added 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts for by far the most productive game of his career. The former Alexandria walker had rushed for 12 combined yards in his first four years at Virginia.

Jones is one of five Virginia players to have rushed for at least 100 yards in his first career start. The last player to accomplish the feat was quarterback Bryce Perkins (2018), who set a number of notable school records for offense which Armstrong has since surpassed.

“Just keep taking the next steps,” said Jones, who played high school football for Bishop Ireton before transferring to Episcopal as a junior. “You know how to be consistent. This is the key. Not falling, not having a single good performance and going down. He just continues to build on performance and improve every week.

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