The six-win plateau fell officially out of reach for Virginia after a 38-31 loss to Louisville on Saturday. Despite a strong offensive showing from the team's top playmakers, Virginia was not able to put together a consistent 60-minute effort to beat the Cardinals.
Here are the five takeaways:
Strong start: Virginia had a great start to the game as they took the game's opening drive 75 yards in 15 plays for the touchdown. It was only the second time this season the Cavaliers scored a touchdown on their opening drive, the first coming against William & Mary.
What made the opening drive especially impressive was the fact that Virginia was able to go four for four on third down opportunities. Matt Johns looked particularly clutch on third down, scrambling on one play until Canaan Severin was able to get open and scrambling past the sticks on the next series.
Virginia would not convert another third down until midway through the third quarter, going two for 12 the rest of the game.
Turning point: The game turned in the fourth quarter on a critical mistake by Olamide Zacchaeus. After forcing a fumble, the Virginia offense marched 44 yards in four plays to reach the end zone and tie the game at 24. The momentum had tilted completely in UVa's favor and the defense responded by forcing a three-and-out from Louisville's offense. Zacchaeus, however, muffed the ensuing punt which the Cardinals recovered at the Virginia 2-yard line.
Louisville receiver James Quick was right on top of Zacchaeus and hit him as soon as he received the punt. Replay showed that Zacchaeus did not catch the punt cleanly and the hit separated him from the ball completely. London tried to argue that Zacchaeus did not have an opportunity to catch the punt, but to no avail. Louisville took over from the 2-yard line and punched the ball in for the critical go-ahead touchdown two plays later.
Triple threat: Louisville has gotten creative this season with its use of quarterbacks and that was true again Saturday as Kyle Bolin, Reggie Bonnafon and Lamar Jackson all played. Bolin was the team's primary quarterback and completed 10 of 21 pass attempts for 139 yards and a touchdown. Reggie Bonnafon threw a 20-yard touchdown on his only pass attempt as Virginia was taken completely by surprise as he lined up at running back, took the sweep toss and then found Jeremy Smith wide open in the end zone. Jackson made the most of his brief appearance, rushing for 45 yards on his only carry.
Making plays: This game was a lost opportunity for the Cavs as they got incredible efforts from Johns and Severin. Both players set career highs with four touchdown passes for Johns and three touchdown catches for Severin. Johns finished with 260 yards and no interceptions. Severin's 116 receiving yards were the second highest of the season.
Taquan Mizzell had a relatively quiet day for him on the ground with only 40 rushing yards, but had another strong day receiving with eight catches for 89 yards. His performance today puts him in elite company as he became just the fifth player in UVa history with 1,000 receiving and 1,000 rushing yards in his career.
Bowl hopes dashed: With this loss, Virginia is now 3-7 on the season which puts six wins officially out of reach. There is a faint hope that Virginia could still make a bowl as a 5-7 team if there are not enough six-win teams to fill out all of the ACC's bow tie-ins, but that is very unlikely. In order for that to even be possible, Virginia would still have to win both of their remaining games against Duke and Virginia Tech.
This season will mark the fourth-consecutive season in which Virginia has failed to reach six wins and the fifth of London's six-year tenure, putting the head coach's future in Charlottesville very much in doubt.
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