CHARLOTTESVILLE — There was a cloud hanging over host Virginia from the opening minutes Saturday night at Scott Stadium.
The outcome was never in doubt against Abilene Christian, a 39 1/2-point underdog, but what the Cavaliers couldn't afford was an injury to one of its impact players.
Virginia went on to defeat the visiting Wildcats, 55-15, but the question for the remainder of the night was the status of outside linebacker Charles Snowden.
It was a bizarre sequence on Abilene Christian's first drive as cornerback Nick Grant was helped off the field following ACU's fifth play from scrimmage and Snowden was injured on the seventh play.
Snowden did not return until the second half, when he was not in uniform and could be spotted atop a trunk of sorts, with his right ankle tightly wrapped.
Virginia (4-4, 3-4 ACC) has turned a corner after losing four games in a row in October; however, three subsequent victories have come at home.
Of course, the home-field advantage has not been much of an advantage without fans in the stands, but Abilene Christian did have to travel 1,388 miles to Charlottesville from its west Texas campus.
It wasn't a great test for the Cavaliers but Abilene Christian (1-5) picked up six first downs in the first quarter, compared to five for Virginia.
For the game, Virginia had a 23-22 edge in first downs, but the Cavaliers had far more big plays, including a 90-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brennan Armstrong to freshman Lavel Davis Jr. on the last play of the first quarter.
It was the sixth touchdown reception of the season for Davis, who is averaging 26.7 yards per catch. It should be noted that Davis did not have a reception in an October game at Wake Forest and then did not dress the next week in UVa's 19-14 loss at Miami.
No reason was given for his absence, other than it was not behavioral or related to academics. Clearly, he was missed during his absence, although the Cavaliers were able to beat 15th-ranked North Carolina without him.
While the Cavaliers have been able to win three games in a row, upcoming opponents will be an upgrade. Their regular season ends with Florida State on the road, Boston College at home and Virginia Tech on the road.
This is not the strongest lineup that Florida State has put on the field against Virginia and it's uncertain what will happen next with Florida State, which was scheduled to entertain Clemson on Saturday before COVID-19 issues led to a postponement.
That was because a Clemson player had tested positive for the coronavirus, a condition that has not been a major issue for Virginia's football team.
Clearly, the Cavaliers don't want to travel to Tallahassee without the availability of Snowden, an elite pass rusher capable of making plays all over the field.
"There's the highest level of concern," UVa coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We're thin already and [the Snowden injury] added to it. It's always hard to see players get hurt. I hate that part of the business and this job. It is an issue."
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