CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Brennan Armstrong threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and Virginia opened the Tony Elliott coaching era with a 34-17 victory against Richmond in the season-opener for both on Saturday.
Armstrong hit Lavel Davis Jr. on a 56-yard touchdown for the Cavaiers' first score and Perris Jones for 11 yards to make it 34-17 early in the fourth quarter. On a career-long 64-yard scoring run in the first half, Armstrong also passed Bryce Perkins (7,910) to become Virginia's career total offense leader.
Savon Smith scored on an 8-yard run and caught a 5-yard pass from Maryland transfer Reece Udinski for the Spiders' touchdowns. Richmond, of the Colonial Athletic Association and Championship Subdivision, fell to 3-30-2 in the series.
Even in victory, Elliott found lots that has to be improved upon, especially since he felt like the team was celebrating after its 28-10 halftime edge.
“I wasn’t pleased with the second half. I challenged the guys in the locker room coming out that we got to finish,” he said. "You know, if we’re going to find out the maturity level and the makeup of this team in the second half, and I felt like the guys just were excited about the success. They were focusing on the first half.
“Great opportunity to teach,” he added. “The second half, I'm glad we were able to finish it and find a way, but it’s going to be a tough day on Monday when we want transparency. These are things that we’ve got to do.”
Armstrong finished 21 of 33 for 246 yards and ran for 105 yards on 10 carries. Jones, who ran for 104 yards, also scored on a 15-yard run, and Mike Hollins had a 3-yard scoring burst. Virginia gained 246 passing and 259 rushing.
On one of Armstrong's runs, he lowered his head like a fullback and plowed into a group of tacklers, picking up the yardage for a first down.
“I had to tell him, don’t take that hit in some of those situations,” Elliott said.
Richmond finished with 330 yards, and coach Russ Huesman liked what he saw.
“I just don't know if we had any big chunks out there other than in the running game," he said. "We have to gain bigger chunks. Hopefully that will come.”
Armstrong reached 8,071 career yards.
Richmond: The Spiders were crisp on their opening scoring drive, with Udinski completing all six of his passes and Smith capping it with consecutive hard runs of nine and eight yards, but the bigger Cavaliers adjusted defensively.
Virginia: Elliott has repeatedly said he wants a more balanced offense after the Cavaliers did almost all their damage through the air last year, and Armstrong is clearly a big part of that, too. Many of his runs appeared by design, including the 64-yarder, the longest of his career, when he high-stepped to avoid a tackle near the line of scrimmage, then took off with an escort down the right sideline.
Richmond opens it home season against Saint Francis next Saturday night.
The Cavaliers go on the road to play at Illinois next Saturday.
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