CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia entered Saturday’s game against Abilene Christian with two important goals. The 39½-point favorites wanted to soundly win and avoid injuries.
The Cavaliers (4-4, 3-4 ACC) accomplished the first, rolling over an outmatched squad 55-15. Starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong dominated the Wildcats, racking up 435 total yards and four touchdowns without committing a turnover, and the defense held the Wildcats to two scores.
But costly injuries beset Virginia. Cornerback Nick Grant went down on the team’s first defensive series. He later returned, but the biggest blow came a couple of plays later when star linebacker Charles Snowden went down with a right leg injury. As he stayed on the field long after the whistle blew, he took his helmet off and slammed it on the turf in frustration.
“It’s always hard to see players get hurt,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I hate that part of the business and this job, especially the players that I have such good relationships with and just admire.”
Mendenhall declined to provide official updates on anyone’s health immediately after the game.
Trainers helped Snowden off the field as he avoided putting pressure on his leg. He immediately headed toward the locker room.
He returned to the sideline in the second half wearing a sweatshirt and what looked like a cast on his right leg. He sat on a training table for the final half, chatting with teammates who stopped by to share words of encouragement.
Later in the first half, Lavel Davis Jr. fell hard and missed a few plays. Davis returned, but the Cavaliers’ bad injury luck wasn’t done.
Freshman Nusi Malani, a player the Cavaliers desperately need because of limited defensive line depth, also left the game and went to the locker room.
While injuries might keep Mendenhall up at night, Virginia’s performance should put him at ease. The Cavaliers opened the scoring with a 28-yard yard touchdown pass to Tony Poljan.
On the first quarter’s final play, Virginia extended its lead to 14-0 on a 90-yard touchdown strike from Armstrong to Davis. The 6-foot-7-inch wide receiver caught the ball around midfield before galloping by a defender.
“We saw it once in fall camp this year, and we were like, ‘Oh wow, he’s got some speed,’” Armstrong said.
Virginia led 28-7 at halftime after scoring on a pair of Shane Simpson 1-yard runs, including one as the clock expired to end the half. Abilene Christian scored on a 2-yard pass from Stone Earle to Kobe Clark.
The drive continued thanks to a D’Angelo Amos interception return for a touchdown being overturned because of a questionable pass-interference call.
Abilene Christian took advantage of the penalty, marching downfield to cut the deficit to 21-7 before Virginia quickly answered with Simpson’s second score.
The lead quickly grew in the opening moments of the second half, as UVA ran a quick play to Keytaon Thompson, who turned the short pass into a 56-yard touchdown. Two minutes later, Thompson took the ball, rolled left and flipped it to Armstrong, who then launched a 52-yard touchdown pass to Ra’Shaun Henry. That put UVA up 42-7 with 9:06 left in the third quarter.
As the lead grew, so did the list of injuries.
Amos went down on a special teams play, slowly leaving the field and not returning to the game. He favored his right leg as he limped off the field.
UVA avoided other devastating injuries as it quickly turned to players well down the depth chart to close the game. The Cavaliers added their final offensive score on a 2-yard pass from Lindell Stone to freshman wide receiver Demick Starling.
As time expired, Virginia’s D’Sean Perry returned an interception 84 yards for the Cavaliers to cover the 39½-point betting spread.
The result left the Cavaliers at .500 for the year and riding a three-game winning streak.
Abilene Christian 0 7 0 8 — 15
Virginia 14 14 14 13 — 55
UVA—Poljan 28 pass from Armstrong (Delaney kick), 4:40.
UVA—L.Davis 90 pass from Armstrong (Delaney kick), :00.
UVA—Simpson 1 run (Delaney kick), 7:53.
ACU—Clark 2 pass from Earle (Hernandez kick), :30.
UVA—Simpson 1 run (Delaney kick), :00.
UVA—K.Thompson 56 pass from Armstrong (Delaney kick), 11:33.
UVA—Henry 52 pass from Armstrong (Delaney kick), 9:06.
UVA—Starling 2 pass from L.Stone (Delaney kick), 5:57.
ACU—Mansell 2 run (kick failed), 1:26.
UVA—D.Perry 84 interception return, :00.
First downs 22 23
Rushes-yards 32-62 33-115
Passing 278 403
Comp-Att-Int 28-45-1 22-29-0
Return Yards 41 26
Punts-Avg. 5-44.4 2-37.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 10-62 6-53
Time of Possession 32:30 27:30
Rushing–Abilene Christian, Earle 13-20, Mansell 8-18, McKnight 6-13, T.White 3-7, Dobbins 2-4. Virginia, Armstrong 6-52, Walker 14-36, Simpson 4-9, K.Thompson 3-8, L.Stone 2-5, Taulapapa 3-4, P.Jones 1-1.
Passing–Abilene Christian, Earle 19-31-0-150, Mansell 9-13-1-128, (Team) 0-1-0-0. Virginia, Armstrong 16-23-0-383, L.Stone 5-5-0-23, K.Thompson 1-1-0-(minus 3).
Receiving–Abilene Christian, Clark 7-81, D.Lewis 6-51, McConnell 5-67, Hohenstein 4-22, Lutz 3-32, Brooks-Wess 1-12, McKnight 1-8, Da.Johnson 1-5. Virginia, Poljan 5-77, Kemp 4-69, K.Thompson 2-66, Simpson 2-22, Starling 2-11, P.Jones 2-3, L.Davis 1-90, Henry 1-52, Mitchell 1-9, Jana 1-7, L.Stone 1-(minus 3).