Virginia rallied to tie NC State in the final minute with a 4-yard TD pass from Anthony Colandrea to Malik Washington, then one of the more dramatic two-point conversions you’ll ever see.
That was as good as it would get, unfortunately.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Colandrea on the game-tying play, a floater to Malachi Fields that seemed to hang in the air forever, helped set up the Wolfpack with a short field, then a penalty on a 48-yard field-goal try gave State kicker Brayden Narveson a second chance, which he converted from 33 yards on the final play to close out the 24-21 win.
This is what undisciplined teams do.
Virginia (0-4, 0-1 ACC) did everything but win this one. The defense, which came in giving up 42.3 points and 451.7 yards per game, held State (3-1, 1-0 ACC) in check, limiting the Pack to 319 yards of total offense.
UVA alum Brennan Armstrong, who holds most of the program’s passing records, was underwhelming in his return to Scott Stadium with his new school, going 15-for-30 for 180 yards, two TDs and one INT through the air, though he did go for 79 sack-adjusted rushing yards on 13 attempts on the ground, including 18 yards on the short game-winning drive.
Colandrea, a true freshman in his third career start, outplayed the sixth-year veteran, going 18-for-30 for 272 yards and two TDs, with two INTs, through the air, and running for 56 sack-adjusted rushing yards on 13 carries on the ground.
Washington had his third straight 100+-yard receiving game, with 10 catches on 17 targets for 170 yards and two TDs.
UVA outgained State 384-319.
But the ‘Hoos could not get out of their own way in the key moments.
The inability to get much going on the ground with the running backs – Kobe Pace, Mike Hollins and Perris Jones gained 63 yards on 28 carries on the night – helped lead to the Pack’s first touchdown.
Coach Tony Elliott decided to go for a fourth-and-one at midfield late in the first quarter, but Hollins was stood up at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
NC State went 49 yards on seven plays, with Armstrong connecting with Kevin Concepcion for a 12-yard TD that put the Pack on top early in the second quarter.
Virginia answered with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive culminating with an 8-yard Colandrea-to-Washington TD pass to tie the score.
The Pack went into the break with a 14-7 lead after a 1-yard Delbert Mimms TD run just before the half.
UVA would get the margin down to one with a pair of Will Bettridge third-quarter field goals.
An Armstrong-to-Concepcion 48-yard pitch-and-catch made it 21-13 State going into the fourth quarter.
Virginia had its chances in the fourth quarter. Colandrea was picked off on a tip-drill play on a deep ball intended for Fields that was ever-so-slightly underthrown.
The second Colandrea INT was a classic rookie mistake. On a first-and-10 at the State 26, Colandrea was flushed from the pocket, and tried to force a pass into the end zone for Washington, who was blanketed by a bevy of Pack defenders.
Aydan White intercepted the pass at the NC State 1 to end that threat.
Credit to the UVA D, which got stops all night long, and forced a State punt to give the offense one last chance.
The final drive saw Colandrea go 6-of-7 for 50 yards through the air, the final pass a 3-yard TD to Washington.
Offensive lineman Ty Furnish was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the TD, which set the two-point try back to the 17 with 36 seconds left.
Improbably, Colandrea, under heavy pressure, was able to scramble around enough to buy time to find Fields in the end zone for the tying score, but in the aftermath of the play, the young QB, whose helmet had been jostled on a hit on the play, took the helmet off after the play was over, and he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
That set Virginia back 15 yards on the kickoff, which State return man Julian Gray took back to the UVA 48, setting up the Pack with great field position.
Pack coach Dave Doeren decided to go for the kill with three seconds left with the ball at the UVA 30. The kick from Narveson was blocked at the line, but UVA linebacker James Jackson was assessed for an illegal leaping penalty on the play, moving the ball 15 yards closer.
Narveson split the uprights on the 33-yarder on the untimed down to end it.