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A high wire, with no net: UVA won with just two healthy QBs active

armstrong mendenhall
UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong and head coach Bronco Mendenhall. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

We already had known that Iraken Armstead was out for the season, then learned Saturday that Keytaon Thompson wasn’t going to be available for Virginia in the game with Louisville.

This would leave us with a QB depth chart of Brennan Armstrong, Lindell Stone, direct snap to Wayne Taulapapa?

You look at the box score from the 31-17 UVA win, and your first thought has to be: what in the Sam Hill was Armstrong doing running the ball 15 times?

The claim, after the game, was that none of those were designed runs.


“We intentionally chose not to run the quarterback tonight. Very few were designed runs, they were scrambles because they dropped eight, and they played soft coverage for a while in the game – especially the first half. And so any of the runs, I shouldn’t say that, the majority of the runs were scramble runs and the majority of the yards were scramble yards.”

That was Bronco Mendenhall, telling us a couple of very different things.

That there weren’t any designed runs, and then that “very few” were designed runs.

And then leaning in the direction of “very few” with the observation that “the majority” were scramble yards.

“Those weren’t designed runs, there were very few designed runs, and we knew with our quarterback depth for this week, measuring this game and our season, we decided to not include quarterback runs at the same level. And so again, the yardage reflects maybe that’s not the case, but scramble runs versus designed runs are two different things.”

Well, yeah, they are, and it’s OK to concede that there was some rolling of the dice in the play-calling.

Because, no way Armstrong ran 15 times for 60 yards and two TDs, and all of them were scrambles.

Especially with linemen, running backs and wideouts blocking downfield on more than “very few” of them.

“Yeah, we really didn’t call too many quarterback runs tonight. I don’t remember calling any,” Armstrong said afterward.


Again, OK.

“We saw a lot of our zone reads we had pulls off of, but I told myself coming into the game not to be timid, just because that won’t help me in any way. I really tried to focus on myself, just run and try to get down more often. Don’t be timid, come to the game like you normally would, and I felt good, honestly.”

That’s the more complete answer.

It still looked like there were at least a couple quarterback draws in there, but if we want to leave it at, Armstrong made good decisions on several zone reads, we can live with that.

We don’t know the extent of whatever it is that Thompson is dealing with this week.

It was Armstrong who left the UNC game late with a knee injury, but was obviously no worse for the wear on Saturday.

We know that Thompson has been dealing with a throwing shoulder injury issue since training camp, but he had seemingly played through that.

We also know that it wasn’t COVID that kept him out. A pregame press release from media relations told us that there were no COVID issues for players or staff this week.

You presume that offensive coordinator Robert Anae built his game plan knowing that he wouldn’t have Thompson, meaning he had two QBs going in – Armstrong and Stone.

Holy crap, that’s like walking a high wire without a safety net.

Note to KT: get well, soon, young man.

Story by Chris Graham