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Doughty: Virginia faces an uphill climb after loss to Wake

Doughty: Virginia faces an uphill climb after loss to Wake

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Virginia senior tight end Tony Poljan (center) is tackled by Wake Forest sophomore defensive back Zion Keith on Saturday at Truist Field in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Cavaliers dropped their third straight game in a 40-23 loss to the Demon Deacons.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — If you lose to Wake Forest, where do you go from there?

That’s no knock on the Deacons, who had moved into the favorite’s role by game time Saturday, but seriously, when does Virginia win again?

Following a 40-23 loss at Wake on Saturday, Virginia (1-3, 1-3 ACC) travels to Miami next week. Then, it hosts North Carolina, which was ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll this week. Miami was 13th.

Before the season, it was clear that Virginia needed to make the most of its early opportunities and the Cavaliers have been favorites against Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest (for most of the week).

A good place to start Saturday would have been the first quarter. Entering the game, the Cavaliers had been outscored 34-0 in the first quarter of their first three games.

With two early touchdowns by the Deacons, the streak became 48-0 before UVa’s Brian Delaney converted a 32-yard field goal with 6:59 left in the first quarter,

Delaney had been a bright spot for the Cavaliers, going 10-for-10 on field-goal attempts in the first three games. He had made 17 consecutive field goals over a two-year span before he missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt with 5:25 left in the third quarter.

The score was tied 20-20 at the time and Virginia was in position to take its first lead of the game. Instead, Delaney’s kick was wide to the right and the Deacons countered with a 14-play drive that was capped by a 38-yard Nick Sciba field goal.

Another Delaney field goal made it a 23-23 game with 13:28 left, but it was all Wake Forest after that, starting with a 75-yard go-ahead touchdown run by Kenneth Walker III with 13:14 left.

There was plenty of time remaining, but the Cavaliers were toast by that point as Wake ended the game on a 17-0 run.

After all the offensive weapons that were lost when 2019 quarterback Bryce Perkins and receivers Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed completed their eligibility, this was a team that needed to win games on defense.

In their past three games, the Cavaliers have yielded 41, 38 and 40 points.

The case could be made that Virginia’s best game of the season came in Week 2, when the Cavaliers were 41-23 losers to No. 1-ranked Clemson at the Tigers’ Death Valley.

UVa’s starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong was hailed for his performance in the Clemson game but suffered a concussion one week later against North Carolina State and was not along for the trip to Wake Forest.

Starting at quarterback for the Cavaliers was Lindell Stone, a fourth-year junior who came off the bench against the Wolfpack and passed for 240 yards and threw three touchdown passes in the second half.

What a tale it would have made if Stone, the Texas-bred gunslinger, had led the Cavaliers to a big victory over the Deacons after biding his time for three years?

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, Stone did not have a monster game Saturday, although he finished with reasonable numbers, completing 24 of 42 passes for 193 yards.

It was a bizarre situation in that three UVa quarterbacks received playing time — and at critical times.

True freshman Iraken “Ira” Armstead attempted three passes and had six rushing attempts for 46 yards and a TD. Another quarterback, Keytaon Thompson, a transfer from Mississippi State, had 10 carries for 72 yards.

The word on Thompson, an early candidate for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Armstrong, was that he had suffered a shoulder problem that had impeded his throwing ability.

He told reporters that he had attempted passes in practice this week. While his future might be uncertain, he isn’t alone in that regard.

Will Armstrong be released from the concussion protocol in time to play at Miami? Who knows? If not, does Stone get the call again? What about Armstead?

There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding the quarterbacks, but if the Cavaliers keep making a habit of giving up 40 points or more, that will certainly need to be addressed.

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