Sobering numbers telling the story of how bad the UVA offense has been this year
The UVA offense, which averaged 515.8 yards a game in 2021, was held below 300 yards for the third time in five games under new head coach Tony Elliott, the former offensive coordinator at Clemson, where he called plays for two national championship game winners, in the Cavaliers’ 38-17 loss at Duke on Saturday night.
Elliott, who at Clemson coached two future first-round QBs, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence, hasn’t yet gotten on the right wavelength with Brennan Armstrong, who averaged 404.5 yards a game a year ago, who hasn’t even thrown for 300 yards in a game once this year.
A new coach taking over a program always comes with questions, but the one thing you wouldn’t have questioned with Elliott taking over at UVA would have been the offense, which brought back Armstrong and his top three receivers – Keytaon Thompson, Dontayvion Wicks and Billy Kemp IV – plus 2020 freshman All-America Lavel Davis Jr.
Worse yet, Elliott and offensive coordinator Des Kitchings, who served as the OC at NC State and Vanderbilt, don’t seem to have any answers as to what needs to be fixed.
All Elliott could offer Armstrong after the loss at Duke, in which BA was 19-of-37 for 202 yards, a TD and an INT, was an apology.
“I’m proud of him, and that’s what I told him at the end of the game. I said, Man, I apologize to you. I gotta do a better job of helping you by getting all these guys to buy in, because I thought he looked as comfortable as he’s looked thus far in the system,” Elliott told reporters postgame.
Wow. Just, wow.
This is the same Armstrong who tested the NFL Draft waters after a 2021 season in which he passed for 4,449 yards and 31 TDs, and now looks to be, at best, an undrafted free agent who will have to fight his way through mini-camp to compete for a practice-squad spot in training camp.
There has been nothing about him having any kind of medical or physical issue, and from just watching him in game action, he’s got the same zip on his throws, the same ability to get the ball downfield.
He doesn’t have a decent offensive line in front of him – 44.1 percent of his dropbacks have been under pressure, according to Pro Football Focus, up from 26.3 percent in 2021.
But even on his clean pocket throws, his numbers are down. Last year, Armstrong completed 69.1 percent of his passes in a clean pocket, and had a 111.0 NFL passer rating on those throws.
In 2022, Armstrong is completing 55.2 percent of his clean pocket throws, and has a 78.8 NFL passer rating.
Armstrong was just 12-of-25 (a 48.0 percent completion rate) for 118 yards and a 75.1 NFL passer rating in the loss at Duke.
Three of the incompletions were drops, which have been an issue all season.
Through five games, UVA receivers have been charged with 17 dropped passes.
“He made some throws, got through his progressions and hit some second or third guys in the progression, so there’s growth,” Kitchings said after the Duke game. “It’s not the growth we want, obviously, at the time we want it, because we felt like we let another opportunity get away from us as a team, as an offense.”