Sep 23, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader (6) runs with the ball for a touchdown against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first half at JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Szmyt’s five field goals allow Syracuse to top Virginia

Andre Szmyt tied the Syracuse record by making five field goals, including the decisive boot with 1:14 remaining, as the host Orange nipped Virginia 22-20 on Friday evening.

Syracuse (4-0, 2-0 ACC) benefited from a third-down facemask penalty on Virginia (2-2, 0-1) on the final drive. Shortly thereafter, Garrett Shrader’s 12-yard scramble set up Szmyt for the winning kick.

The Cavaliers drove to near midfield on their last-minute drive, but Brennan Armstrong’s final two passes fell incomplete.

Shrader finished 22 of 33 for 277 yards with an interception and a rushing score for the Orange, who won despite committing four turnovers. Oronde Gadsden II led Syracuse with seven catches for 113 yards.

Armstrong went 19 of 38 for 138 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Perris Jones contributed 87 rushing yards and a touchdown for Virginia, which committed two turnovers, missed two field goals and had an extra point blocked.

Trebor Pena ignited Syracuse by returning the game’s opening kickoff 57 yards. The Orange offense needed only five plays to cover the final 41 yards, capped by a 17-yard TD scramble by Shrader.

The Cavaliers then missed field goals on consecutive possessions as Brendan Farrell was wide right from 50 and then from 48. Following the second miss, the Orange drove 11 plays and Szmyt kicked a 26-yarder to make it 10-0.

Armstrong fumbled on the next play from scrimmage, setting up Syracuse deep in Virginia territory. The Orange generated no offense on that drive, but Szmyt drilled a 32-yard field goal for a 13-0 cushion.

The senior kicker booted another field goal late in the first half to make it 16-0.

Keytaon Thompson got Virginia on the board on the opening drive of the second half, plunging in from 1 yard out. Pena fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Cavaliers were back in the end zone two plays later, this time on a 4-yard run by Jones.

The Orange then converted three third downs — including a third-and-18 — as part of a 14-play drive that Szmyt punctuated with a 40-yard field goal in the final minute of the third quarter.

The score remained 19-13 until Virginia scored on fourth-and-goal from the 4 with 5:51 remaining in the contest. Armstrong found Lavel Davis Jr. over the middle for the TD, and the extra point put the visitors in front.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader (6) avoids a tackle by Purdue Boilermakers defensive tackle Branson Deen (58) in the third quarter at JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse eyes 4-0 start as Virginia visits in ACC matchup

Fresh off dramatic victories their last time out, Syracuse and visiting Virginia convene Friday evening for a prime-time Atlantic Coast Conference showdown.

Syracuse (3-0, 1-0 ACC) remained unbeaten with a thrilling 32-29 triumph against Purdue last weekend. Garrett Shrader found Oronde Gadsden II for the decisive touchdown with seven seconds left, capping a 22-point fourth-quarter performance by the Orange.

Shrader and Gadsden hooked up six times for 112 yards and two scores as part of a team performance that coach Dino Baabers believes could propel his program forward.

“This is a spiritual-type game here,” Babers said. “To win a game like that, to have the scoreboard go back and forth from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, through the highs and lows. … There were turns, there were deep valleys and then there were big climbs.”

Virginia (2-1, 0-0) is coming off an exciting victory of its own — a 16-14 win over Old Dominion in which Brendan Farrell kicked the winning 26-yard field goal as time expired.

Brennan Armstrong threw for 284 yards — 118 to Keytaon Thompson — and Xavier Brown ran for 88 yards on nine carries for the Cavaliers. Brown, a freshman tailback, is averaging 7.2 yards per carry on 17 attempts this season.

“As I told him in the locker room afterwards, I’m not a discriminator of age or whatever it may be,” Virginia coach Tony Elliott said. “If you’re the best guy, you’re the best guy. And right now, he’s running with the most tenacity out of all the guys.”

The Orange have a dynamic running back of their own in Sean Tucker, who ran for 1,496 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Tucker rushed for 100-plus yards in each of the first two games this year, although he authored a quiet Week 3 performance with just 42 yards on 18 carries.

Friday will mark the sixth all-time matchup between the teams, with Virginia leading 3-2. The last meeting, in 2015, was a triple-overtime thriller in which the Cavaliers emerged with a 44-38 home victory.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Greenville, North Carolina, USA;  Old Dominion Monarchs quarterback Hayden Wolff (11) throws the ball against the East Carolina Pirates during the first half at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Old Dominion faces another in-state foe in Virginia

Old Dominion aims to knock off another in-state neighbor on Saturday afternoon when it faces Virginia in Charlottesville.

The Monarchs (1-1) have had success against the state’s other Power Five program, Virginia Tech, beating the Hokies for the second time in five seasons on Sept. 2 in Norfolk.

Old Dominion has only faced the Cavaliers (1-1) once before, leading late before losing 28-17 to a 21st-ranked Virginia team on its previous visit to Charlottesville on Sept. 21, 2019.

“That makes the games so exciting,” Monarchs coach Ricky Rahne said of playing another regional rival. “Then, it becomes about managing our own emotions and expectations a little bit and that’s what we’ve got to continue to focus on.”

The ODU offense is led by Hayden Wolff, who has passed for 440 yards, three touchdowns and an interception so far this season. Top target Ali Jennings III leads the nation with 322 receiving yards on 13 catches (24.8-yard average) and has caught all three of Wolff’s TD tosses.

The Monarchs — who moved from Conference USA to the Sun Belt this season — followed up the season-opening win against Virginia Tech with a 39-21 loss last Saturday at East Carolina. The Pirates’ Holton Ahlers passed for 270 yards and two touchdowns.

Old Dominion will face another veteran, left-handed quarterback in Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong, whose school-record streak of 18 consecutive games with at least one TD pass ended last Saturday in a 24-3 loss at Illinois.

The Cavaliers managed 222 yards of offense against the Illini, their fewest in a game since 2017 — and 62 came on one play, a catch by Lavel Davis Jr.

“All the things that I saw in the game are correctable,” first-year UVA coach Tony Elliott said. “I’ve got to challenge the staff, myself and the players to make sure that we own the mistakes, that we don’t point fingers, that we don’t try and pass the blame on anybody else, but look at the man in the mirror. If we do that, we’ll learn from this experience and hopefully it’ll make us better going forward.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Elliott looks on from the sidelines during the second half at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois eyes rebound, revenge against new-look Virginia

Illinois coach Bret Bielema called facing Virginia for the second straight season “a tale of two cities” because of the Cavaliers’ offseason coaching changes.

After experiencing the worst of times in last year’s 42-14 loss in Charlottesville, Va., the Illini (1-1) hope for better results on Saturday afternoon when Virginia (1-0) visits Champaign, Ill.

“It’s a little bit unique, right?” Bielema said of the rematch with a Virginia squad featuring new head coach Tony Elliott and new coordinators on offense, defense and special teams. “… They’re kind of completely different from where they were at a year ago.”

A year ago, Brennan Armstrong shredded the Illini with 405 passing yards and five touchdowns and Virginia rolled up 556 yards of offense.

The Cavaliers opened the Elliott era last Saturday with a 34-17 win against FCS member Richmond. Armstrong passed for 246 yards, rushed for 105 and accounted for three touchdowns. Former walk-on Perris Jones ran for 104 yards and scored rushing and receiving TDs.

It was the first win as a head coach for Elliott, the former Clemson offensive coordinator and associate head coach.

“Very, very appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach at the University of Virginia and I just want to thank all those who believe in me and gave me an opportunity to be here,” Elliott said.

After a Week 0 win against Wyoming, Illinois fell 23-20 at Indiana last Friday. The Hoosiers scored the winning TD with 23 seconds left to cap a 75-yard drive. Four turnovers and a second consecutive game with eight penalties hurt the Illini.

“Since Day One I’ve talked about ‘before we start winning games, we have to stop losing them,’” Bielema said.

Bielema announced Monday that Illinois freshman wide receiver Shawn Miller will have season-ending surgery for an unspecified injury.

After serving a first-half suspension for a targeting penalty that carried over from last season, Virginia linebacker Josh Ahern had five tackles and a sack in the second half against Richmond. He also had an interception that was wiped away by a penalty.

–Field Level Media

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Virginia Cavaliers running back Perris Jones (2) scores a touchdown in front of Richmond Spiders defensive lineman Ray Eldridge (93) during the first half at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Brennan Armstrong stars as Virginia beats Richmond

Virginia celebrated head coach Tony Elliott’s debut with a 34-17 nonconference home victory against Richmond on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

The longtime Clemson offensive coordinator and associate head coach was hired in December to replace Bronco Mendenhall.

Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong passed for 246 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and a score on a record-setting day. He completed 21 of 33 passes with one interception. Perris Jones rushed for 104 yards and had rushing and receiving touchdowns.

Reece Udinski passed for 160 yards and a TD and Savon Smith rushed for 88 yards and a score for the Spiders of the FCS.

Richmond struck first but Virginia took control with four straight touchdown drives to build a 28-10 halftime lead.

The Spiders got within 28-17 early in the third quarter on Udinski’s 5-yard pass to Smith.

Richmond threatened again late in the quarter, driving to the Virginia 36-yard line before the Cavaliers got a fourth-down stop.

Virginia capped the ensuing drive with Armstrong’s 11-yard pass to Jones in the end zone for a 34-17 lead with 11:51 remaining.

Elliott said he wanted to bring more balance to the Virginia offense and the Cavaliers finished with 259 yards on the ground and 246 in the air.

Richmond led 7-0 with 6:27 left in the first quarter when Smith’s 8-yard run capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive.

Just 31 seconds later, Armstrong connected with Lavel Davis Jr. for a 56-yard touchdown pass. It was the first catch since 2020 for Davis, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

Jones’ 15-yard TD run gave Virginia its first lead at 14-7 in the final seconds of the first quarter.

Armstrong’s 64-yard run early in the second quarter made it 21-7 and made him Virginia’s all-time leader in total offense, passing Bryce Perkins (7,910 yards). Armstrong finished the game with 8,071 yards.

Jake Larson’s 38-yard field goal got the Spiders within 21-10.

The Cavaliers took a 28-10 lead into intermission when Mike Hollins recovered his own fumble in the end zone.

–Field Level Media

Jul 21, 2022; Charlotte, NC, USA;  Virginia Head Coach Tony Elliott talks to the media during the second day of ACC Media Days at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, NC. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Richmond rolls in as Virginia kicks off Tony Elliott era

The Tony Elliott era begins at Virginia on Saturday afternoon as the Cavaliers open the season against the visiting Richmond Spiders in a non-conference game in Charlottesville, Va.

The former Clemson offensive coordinator and associate head coach was hired in December to replace Bronco Mendenhall, who retired unexpectedly after six seasons at Virginia.

Coming off back-to-back .500 seasons (6-6 in 2021), the Cavaliers figure to have an explosive offense fueled by fifth-year quarterback Brennan Armstrong and talented wide receivers Dontayvion Wicks, Keytaon Thompson and Billy Kemp IV.

Armstrong ranked second in the nation last season in passing yards per game (404.5), completing 65.2 percent of his throws for 4,449 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for nine scores.

But Virginia also finished last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing, averaging 123.6 yards per game. Elliott is determined to bring more balance to the program this season, especially near the goal line.

“I think anybody who’s close to the game knows how demoralizing being able to run the ball at will is,” he said, “and then when you run the ball in from that close, it’s a mindset. … If you can run the ball in, it sends a message.”

Virginia and Richmond are meeting for the first time since the 2018 season opener, a 42-13 win by the Cavaliers.

The Spiders, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, enter their sixth season with coach Russ Huesman and are coming off a 6-5 campaign in 2021. They were tied for No. 24 in the preseason AFCA Coaches’ FCS Top 25 poll released on Aug. 15.

Richmond ranked among the stingiest defensive teams in the CAA last fall, led by preseason All-America linebacker Tristan Wheeler with a conference-leading 114 tackles and Freshman All-America defensive back Aamir Hall with 13 pass breakups.

Graduate transfer QB Reece Udinski has 39 games of experience at Maryland and VMI, including 27 starts at VMI.

“I think our offense is looking good,” Huesman told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “… I think we’ll have the ability to move the ball and score points.”

–Field Level Media

Feb 2, 2022; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Commanders co-owner Dan Snyder speaks as co-owner Tanya Snyder (L) listens during a press conference revealing the Commanders as the new name for the formerly named Washington Football Team at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia tables bill for Commanders stadium funding

The Virginia General Assembly tabled a bill Thursday that would have determined the extent to which the state would help the Washington Commanders build a new stadium.

The bill is not dead, but it won’t be voted on this year.

The franchise purchased 200 acres of land in Prince William County, Va. last month for about $100 million. It is considering options in Maryland and the District of Columbia in addition to Northern Virginia for a new stadium to replace its current home, FedEx Field.

Budget negotiators in the Virginia state legislature agreed to cap Commanders stadium bonds at $350 million, far less than an initial estimate earlier in the spring of $1 billion. The Washington Post later reported that the number may fall below $300 million.

Per ESPN, Democratic state senator Chap Petersen said a “panoply of reasons” factored into the vote being tabled.

“For some people there are some systemic issues,” Petersen said. “I don’t believe the team has the type of community backing I would expect from a major pro sports franchise and then all the issues with the owner (Dan Snyder).”

Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell received requests to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on June 22 as part of the investigation into “hostile workplace culture.” In addition, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares opened an investigation into allegations regarding the team’s alleged financial malpractices.

The Commanders released a statement saying they support the legislature’s decision.

“Given the complexity of this endeavor, coupled with the remarkable economic development opportunity that we believe our new venue project represents, we support the decision of stakeholders in the House of Delegates and the State Senate to more deeply examine this issue,” the statement said in part.

–Field Level Media

Feb 2, 2022; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Commanders co-owner Dan Snyder speaks as co-owner Tanya Snyder (L) listens during a press conference revealing the Commanders as the new name for the formerly named Washington Football Team at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Commanders buy land in Virginia for possible stadium site

The Washington Commanders purchased 200 acres of land in Prince William County, Va., for about $100 million, multiple media outlets reported Monday.

The franchise is in the process of weighing its options for a new stadium to replace FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The team has considered potential sites in Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, but ESPN reported that Virginia was its preferred site for now.

NBC Sports Washington reported that the land is Woodbridge, Va., situated just off Interstate 95.

The team moved out of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and into FedEx Field in 1997. FedEx Field has been widely panned as one of the least enjoyable stadiums in the NFL, and the Commanders’ contract to play there expires in 2026.

The Commanders’ team headquarters are in Ashburn, Va., and they hold their training camp in the state capital of Richmond.

Budget negotiators in the Virginia state legislature have agreed to cap Commanders stadium bonds at $350 million, far less than an initial estimate earlier in the spring of $1 billion.

Also potentially complicating matters: Virginia attorney general Jason Miyares launched an investigation into the team’s business practices last month in response to evidence that may show owner Daniel Snyder engaged in financial improprieties while running the team.

The House Oversight & Reform Committee told the Federal Trade Commission in a letter last month that it had obtained evidence that Snyder “may have engaged in a troubling, long-running, and potentially unlawful pattern of financial conduct” that took advantage of the team’s fans.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2020; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder speaks during the introductory press conference for head coach Ron Rivera at Inova Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia AG to investigate Commanders’ alleged financial misconduct

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares told the Washington Commanders in a letter Monday that his office will launch an investigation into allegations regarding the team’s business practices.

“To be clear, I have not prejudged the issues raised regarding the Commanders,” Miyares wrote. “However, I view it as my responsibility to carefully examine the material facts regarding this matter after it was brought to my attention. I request full cooperation and transparency from your client during this inquiry.”

The House Oversight & Reform Committee told the Federal Trade Commission in a letter this month that it had obtained evidence that Commanders owner Daniel Snyder “may have engaged in a troubling, long-running, and potentially unlawful pattern of financial conduct” that took advantage of the team’s fans.

Two main allegations are at the core of the dispute: that Washington illegally withheld refundable security deposits from ticket holders, and that executives kept two sets of books to hide revenue from the NFL in order to share less in the league’s revenue-sharing pool.

The Commanders formally responded last week by issuing a letter to the FTC that rebutted individual points made in the testimony of former ticket executive Jason Friedman, while painting Friedman as a disgruntled ex-employee who had been angling to return to the team.

The Commanders’ team headquarters are in Ashburn, a suburb in Northern Virginia. They hold their training camp in Richmond, Va., and are considering building a stadium in the state.

Three sites in Northern Virginia had been proposed, but the state legislature reportedly planned to cut a proposed financing package from $1 billion to $350 million.

–Field Level Media