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UNC vs. Virginia: X-Factor

Don’t be fooled by his down season: Brennan Armstrong can terrorize the Tar Heels.

Miami v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

On paper, this Saturday’s matchup against familiar foe Virginia in sleepy Charlottesville should be penciled in as a win. The Heels are riding high after a convincing 42-24 win over supposed-bullies Pitt, and the Cavs are mired in an awful debut season for new head coach Tony Elliott.

The biggest victim of UVA’s coaching change following the abrupt retirement of Bronco Mendenhall is unquestionably quarterback Brennan Armstrong. The super senior had an amazing fourth year at Virginia, better statistically than Sam Howell. Let’s review:

  • 326 completions from 500 pass attempts (65.2%)
  • 4,449 passing yards and 31 passing touchdowns
  • 251 rushing yards (decent) and NINE rushing touchdowns

With the kind of season Armstrong had last season, when news broke that he was returning to UVA for one last ride, I chalked down this year’s visit to Scott Stadium as a loss. When you combine a proven quarterback against our (then) unknown freshman at a venue that Mack Brown has not won at, you’re not imbued with too much confidence.

But the Brennan Armstrong that put up a huge performance last season in a losing effort in Chapel Hill is gone. That night, Armstrong put on an insane performance, throwing for 554 yards and four touchdowns. The Hoos only rushed for 24 yards, a figure that UNC collectively out-gained by 368 yards.

This season, Armstrong is not close to touching any of his milestones last season, save for interceptions (he had 10 all of last season, and needs just one more this year with four games left). He is rushing more this season, after becoming more of a passing threat last season, so perhaps a return to the spooky version of Armstrong that ran 20 times for 66 yards and a touchdown (while still throwing for 208 yards and 3 TDs) against Carolina on Halloween night will show up.

Things are bad this season at Virginia. The offense is not producing, the grounds are half-empty, the kick-offs are all at noon, and there generally seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for the program. But if there was ever a boogeyman who could sneak attack Carolina right when they were least expecting it, it’s Brennan Armstrong in Charlottesville. Keep your fingers crossed he doesn’t break out of his funk this weekend.