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Virginia football completely collapses in 27-24 loss at Boston College

In perhaps one of its best opportunities to win in 2023, the Cavaliers blew a double digit lead for the third time this season

<p>Senior running back Mike Hollins scored his second rushing touchdown of the season in the first half of the defeat.</p>

Senior running back Mike Hollins scored his second rushing touchdown of the season in the first half of the defeat.

Virginia football fell to 0-5 Saturday afternoon in a 27-24 loss to Boston College. The Cavaliers (0-5, 0-2 ACC) led by 14 at the end of the first half and amassed a 4-1 turnover margin advantage, but allowed the Eagles (2-3, 1-2 ACC) to rush for over 200 yards and kick a go-ahead field goal with 2:11 left to win the game.

Despite freshman Anthony Colandrea assembling one of the greatest freshman seasons in school history, Coach Tony Elliott reiterated that senior Tony Muskett would not lose his starting spot due to injury. The veteran quarterback immediately proved why, leading a strong 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Virginia touchdown. A creative play call by Offensive Coordinator Des Kitchings helped create open space for graduate student running back Mike Hollins, who took a short Muskett toss to the endzone. Muskett displayed strong command of the offense en route to a 7-0 early Cavalier lead. 

The Cavaliers continued to hold down the run game while Eagles sophomore quarterback Thomas Castellanos was unable to connect with his receivers on a pair of deep incompletions. 

After getting the football back, senior offensive lineman Ugonna Nnanna allowed a costly third down sack to give away Virginia’s momentum. On the punt, sixth year running back Perris Jones hit the return man early for a penalty — but Boston College declined due to a lengthy punt return anyway. 

The Cavalier defensive front was able to get consistent pressure against a strong Eagle offensive line, as sixth year defensive lineman Aaron Faumui added yet another tackle for loss. Boston College’s difficulties establishing the run forced Castellanos into obvious passing situations, where freshman cornerback Dre Walker recorded his first career interception on fourth down.

The second quarter began with a sizable scramble by Castellanos that ended with junior safety Jonas Sanker forcing a fumble that Boston College recovered. On the very next play, however, fifth year linebacker Josh Ahern intercepted Castellanos for Virginia’s second defensive turnover. 

The Cavalier offense surrendered another penalty on third down, this time an offsides call against graduate student center Brian Stevens — but Muskett launched a quality throw under pressure to junior wide receiver Malachi Fields for a first down anyway. Muskett later gunned a perfect 18-yard pass to Washington for a touchdown to put Virginia up 14-0. 

After exchanging fruitless offensive possessions, the Cavaliers were back on defense, where Faumui chased Castellanos down for a stop. Despite quality coverage from sixth year cornerback Tayvonn Kyle, he was called for a questionable pass interference penalty to give Boston College a crucial first down. Sanker stopped Castellanos again — but on a significant third down, the Eagles broke several Virginia tackles for a 34 yard gain despite pressure on Castellanos before graduate student cornerback Malcolm Greene was called for another poor pass interference call. On the next play, graduate student running back Pat Garwo III rumbled for a two-yard touchdown to cut the Cavalier lead to 14-7. 

Fields collected a first down catch to give Virginia a chance to produce one more drive in the first half. After an incompletion, Muskett and freshman receiver Jaden Gibson connected for a 23-yard gain — followed by another Washington first down. With eight seconds left in the first half and no more timeouts, the Cavaliers had an opportunity at the Boston College 33-yard line. 

Nnanna gave up what would have been a sack, but Muskett fired the ball away with no receiver in the vicinity to create an intentional grounding penalty. Normally, this would have created a 10-second runoff to send the game to halftime. However, a helmet came off — meaning the 10-second runoff is nulled as play is immediately stopped for safety reasons. Virginia had one last play from 39 yards out, which was a miraculous touchdown catch by Fields to push the Cavaliers to a 21-7 lead. A massive highlight, Fields’ incredible catch gave his squad its biggest momentum of the game going into halftime. 

Defensively, another egregious pass interference penalty gave up a first down. Missed tackles by the Virginia defense allowed Boston College to tack on a field goal, but the Cavaliers still led 21-10.

Back on offense, Virginia went three-and-out. Another penalty for interfering with the punt return put the Eagles in a favorable field position as they ran for a 30-yard gain, while sixth year cornerback Coen King picked up a costly pass interference penalty that put Boston College at the 15-yard line. An eventual four-yard touchdown by sophomore wide receiver Joseph Griffin Jr. cut the Cavalier lead to 21-17. 

Nnanna was called for holding — and on the next play, Muskett was intercepted. The Virginia defense had chances to get the ball back, but it gave up a fourth down conversion. Greene later blew his coverage to allow a 33-yard touchdown as Boston College took a 24-21 lead, scoring 17 unanswered points in the process. Back on offense, the momentum had completely shifted as Muskett took consecutive sacks. 

On defense, a scary collision between Greene and Boston College graduate student wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe stopped play with both teams kneeling in support for their injured teammates. Both players were taken to their respective locker rooms for further medical evaluation. O’Keefe was taken to a local hospital via ambulance. 

The Cavalier defense made a massive play by forcing a fumble recovered by senior defensive back Dave Herard. In need of some tying points, Virginia’s offense faced a fourth down with four yards to go at the Boston College 37-yard line — and Elliott shockingly elected to punt.

For the second straight possession, Herard got the football back for the Cavaliers via a forced fumble. The Virginia offense gave sophomore kicker Will Bettridge the opportunity to convert a 44-yard field goal to tie the game at 24-24 with seven minutes remaining.

Once again, the Cavalier defense was unable to get a stop on fourth down. The Eagles fought for a field goal to take the lead. Down 24-27, the Cavaliers had just over two minutes to orchestrate a game-winning drive on offense.

Muskett was unable to overcome Eagle pressure and completed just one of four passes to cement Virginia’s fifth straight loss in the 2023 campaign. The Cavalier coaching staff has struggled immensely in every aspect of game management, and its fate may lie in Saturday’s home contest against William and Mary at noon on ACC Network.


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