The Virginia Cavaliers became bowl eligible and picked up another big win in the ACC Coastal division as the Hoos rolled to a 31-21 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Cavaliers are now 6-2 (4-1 ACC) and in the driver’s seat in the Coastal after losses from Miami and Virginia Tech this week.
The sixth win of the season makes Virginia eligible for back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
Bryce Perkins had another outstanding day for the Cavaliers, throwing for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 18-for-27 passing and adding 112 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Olamide Zaccheaus had a record breaking day as he became the all-time leader in receptions at Virginia and had 10 receptions for 108 yards in the game.
Jordan Ellis, who was a question mark for today due to an injury sustained last week against Duke, rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries.
Virginia held UNC to 337 yards in the game and amassed 425 of their own. The Hoos played a clean game, getting flagged once for five yards.
On the first play from scrimmage, Perkins picked up eight yards. Ellis allowed everyone to exhale deeply on the next play as the senior RB easily ran for five yards and a first down. An 11-yard gain from Zaccheaus kept the Hoos moving with another first down, followed by a 19 yard designed run from Perkins. Facing 3rd-and-4, Perkins connected with Hasise Dubois for seven yards and their fourth first down of the opening drive.
Virginia ran into some problems inside the North Carolina 30-yard line as back-to-back passes went incomplete after UNC collapsed Perkins’ pocket and covered all the receivers downfield. Perkins picked up nine yards, setting up a 4th-and-2 from the 26-yard line. Coach Mendenhall elected to go for it, and Perkins easily picked up four yards and the first down to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, Perkins called his own number once again, eluding one defender and scampering into the end zone to put the Hoos up 7-0 after a 13 play, 83-yard drive that took 6:47 off the clock.
Perkins went 3-for-5 for 22 yards in the air and 53 yards on the ground on the drive. North Carolina’s focus on Ellis allowed Perkins some latitude, and he took advantage.
North Carolina converted a 4th-and-3, and one play later Nathan Elliott found Dazz Newsome in stride for a 30-yard touchdown to even the score at seven all. The drive took 11 plays and covered 75 yards, and the Tar Heels went 2-for-3 on third down and 1-for-1 on fourth down on the drive.
On their next possession, Virginia didn’t let off the gas. The Hoos needed just six plays to go 75 yards for Perkins to find Joe Reed with a perfect over-the-shoulder pass for the 27-yard touchdown and the 14-7 lead. Zaccheaus rattled off a 29-yard pick up on the drive and hauled in a catch for another nine.
The Virginia defense came up big and North Carolina punted, but on UVA’s first play from scrimmage Perkins overthrew Reed for an interception. UNC took over at their own 16-yard line and were unable to take advantage of the pick as they went three-and-out.
Virginia got all the way to the 20-yard line before the drive stalled, but Brian Delaney easily knocked one through the uprights for a 37-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead with 7:32 to play in the second quarter. Perkins took a couple tough hits, getting sacked by the hair and pulled down out of bounds by his shoulders on back-to-back plays.
North Carolina responded with an eight play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took just 2:31 off the clock as Virginia’s defense looked lost. Carl Tucker caught the 16-yard touchdown pass, but was wide open and easily strolled into the end zone.
Two rushes by Ellis combined for one yard, and Perkins had to throw the ball away on third and long, bringing on Lester Coleman for his first punt of the game. The Tar Heels went three-and-out, giving the ball right back to Virginia with 2:18 left in the half. North Carolina’s second sack of the half backed the Hoos up to the 15-yard line, and Virginia was content to run the clock out and take a 17-14 lead into the half.
Virginia out-gained North Carolina 204-177 and on the ground 125-45. Elliott and the Tar Heels picked up a lot of short yardage plays in the air (and one big one of 30 yards), amassing 132 passing yards to Virginia’s 79. Perkins went 7-for-12 for 79 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the air and added 58 yards and a touchdown on the ground. His counterpart for the Tar Heels had an impressive first half with 132 yards and two touchdowns on 12-for-16 passing.
North Carolina started the second half with the ball, but an incomplete pass, stuffed rush, and outstanding defense by Juan Thornhill led to a three-and-out for the Heels. Zaccheaus rattled off a 29 yard reception for a first down inside North Carolina territory. Back-to-back incomplete passes left the Hoos with a 3rd-and-10 at the UNC 33-yard line, but the pocket gave Perkins enough time to find Dubois. He made a great catch to keep the ball off the turf and scampered into the end zone to put Virginia up 24-14.
UNC converted a 2nd-and-10 into a first down with a 14-yard connection between Elliott and Michael Carter. After another 4-yard pickup for the Heels, the Virginia defense held strong, culminating in Charles Snowden swatting down his second pass of the day and leading UNC to punt.
Facing 3rd-and-4, Perkins rolled to his right, tucked the ball, and picked up 26 yards. Three plays later, Perkins was sacked and Virginia punted for just their second time of the day. Newsome fair caught the ball at the 14-yard line, setting up the Heels deep in their own territory. The Virginia defense smothered UNC, stopping Newsome for a loss of one before back to back incomplete passes from Elliott.
Virginia got all the way to the UNC 16-yard line—thanks to big plays by Perkins and Zaccheaus—before turning it over on downs. A false start by UNC was wiped out the next play with a 29-yard pick up by Beau Corrales. On 3rd-and-10 from the 40 yard line, Chris Peace got ahold of Elliott, forcing a fumble. Bryce Hall fell on the ball, giving Virginia the possession right back with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
On the next possession, Perkins connected with Zaccheaus for a 17-yard pick up and a first down, making the senior receiver the all-time UVA leader in receptions with 211. It was the last play of the third quarter, setting Virginia up inside the 20-yard line. It took just one play into the fourth quarter for Perkins to find Evan Butts in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown and a 31-14 lead.
North Carolina went three-and-out again—their fifth of the game, after Elliott decied to target a receiver covered by Hall twice. Virginia took over at its own 38-yard line with 14:04 remaining, looking to extend its lead. The Hoos were unable to keep the drive going, punting and setting up the Heels inside their own 15-yard line. UNC looked lost until a big 43-yard pickup on 3rd-and-8 got the Tar Heels moving. Michael Carter was ruled short of the touchdown initially, but after a review was confirmed that he scored, making it 31-21, Virginia with 7:53 remaining.
Rushes from Perkins, Ellis, and Perkins got Virginia a first down and kept the clock moving. North Carolina called their first time out with 4:30 left in the game and Virginia facing a 3rd-and-9 from their own 38-yard line. The Hoos weren’t able to convert, and Coleman punted to set up the Heels at their 21-yard line with 3:29 left and Virginia up 10 points.
UNC picked up a first down and got out of bounds with just under three minutes to go, stopping the clock. An incompletion on first down and a stop in-bounds by Peace on second set up a 3rd-and-5 for the Heels. On third down, Thornhill broke up a pass, forcing UNC to go for it on fourth down from their own side of the field. Snowden broke through the line, getting pressure on Elliott and the pass fell harmlessly incomplete with 2:08 remaining.
Virginia was able to pick up a couple first downs and run out the clock to secure the win. Next week, the Hoos host Pitt in a Friday night game.