Virginia chasing 2-0 start as ailing Fighting Illini visit

Virginia has won nine straight nonconference games at Scott Stadium heading into Saturday morning’s clash with an Illinois squad limping into Charlottesville, Va., after a humbling setback.

The Illini (1-1) of the Big Ten and the Cavaliers (1-0) of the ACC are meeting for the first time in the regular season. Illinois swept the only two previous meetings in the 1990 Citrus Bowl and the 1999 MicronPC.com Bowl.

Virginia opened its season with a 43-0 home thumping of FCS opponent William & Mary on Saturday night, while Illinois fell 37-30 on Saturday to UTSA in Champaign for its first loss under new coach Bret Bielema.

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“This isn’t where I want to be,” Bielema said after the game, the Roadrunners’ first win against a Big Ten opponent.

UTSA never trailed as it piled up nearly 500 yards of offense (280 passing and 217 rushing). Illinois reached the red zone with a chance to tie or win on its final possession but couldn’t punch it in.

“We weren’t good enough to win today, but the worst thing that can happen from this point forward is if we don’t learn from this moment,” said Bielema, whose team opened the season with a 30-22 win against Nebraska on Aug. 28. “… Unfortunately, it sucks to go through it, but hopefully it will be a positive thing for us in the future.”

The Illini defense will be tested by a versatile Virginia offense that outgained William & Mary 545-183, with Brennan Armstrong passing for 339 yards and accounting for four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).

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Of the Cavaliers’ 32 rushing attempts, 20 were by players who joined the program as quarterbacks: Armstrong, Keytaon Thompson, Iraken Armstead and Jacob Rodriguez. Thompson had a 40-yard run, Rodriguez a 24-yarder and Armstead a 20-yard pickup.

“There’s appearing to be the makings of a pretty diverse offense with a lot of different opportunities, with room to grow on the execution,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said.

Armstrong completed 21 passes to nine different receivers against the Tribe.

“It was a good little icebreaker this week,” Armstrong said. “Now we start getting to the (Power Five games) with Illinois. I’m excited to go continue to get better this next week and figure out what we need to work on.”

–Field Level Media