Virginia drops road contest at Illinois

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Virginia wide receiver Keytaon Thompson makes a leaping catch Saturday against Illinois. ( photo)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In its first road game under head coach Tony Elliott, Virginia lost 24-3 to Illinois on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The Cavaliers (1-1) were coming off an opener in which they scored 34 points. That was against Richmond, which competes in the Football Championship Subdivision. Against Illinois (2-1), from the Big Ten Conference, UVA mustered only 222 yards.

Sixty-two of those yards came on one play: a completion from quarterback Brennan Armstrong to wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr. The Fighting Illini sacked Armstrong five times and harassed him on countless other plays.

At Scott Stadium last season, the Wahoos routed the Illini 42-14, totaling 556 yards of offense, but the rematch bore no resemblance to that game. The Hoos’ defense forced four turnovers Saturday, but their offense was unable to capitalize on those takeaways or generate any momentum.

Virginia finished 1 for 16 on third-down conversions and 1 for 4 on fourth down.

Special teams were an issue for the Cavaliers, too. UVA led 3-0 in the first quarter when, after fielding an Illinois punt, Billy Kemp IV tried to run. Kemp fumbled at the Cavaliers’ 6-yard line, and the Illini recovered in the end zone for a touchdown that put them ahead to stay.

Virginia, which finished with 13 first downs, had only four through three quarters.

This marked the second time in the past two seasons that UVA has failed to score a touchdown in a game. In the first, though, a 28-3 loss to Notre Dame at Scott Stadium, Armstrong was out with an injury. Armstrong played Saturday, but his inexperienced offensive line gave him little protection and opened few holes for the Cavaliers’ running backs.

UVA gained only 42 yards on the ground. Armstrong finished 13-of-32 passing for 180 yards, with two interceptions.

Virginia hosts Old Dominion next Saturday at Scott Stadium. The 2 p.m. game will air on ACC Network.