For the first time in 13 years, the Virginia football team picked up a postseason win as the Cavaliers cruised to a 28-0 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Belk Bowl. This was Virginia’s first bowl win since the Cavaliers defeated Minnesota in the 2005 Music City Bowl.
Virginia had a complete outing on both sides of the ball as they dominated in every facet of the game. Olamide Zaccheaus, the game MVP, hauled in 12 passes for 100 yards and three touchdowns in his final game as a Cavalier. Fellow fourth year Jordan Ellis had a workman’s game with 26 carries and 106 yards with one touchdown.
Quarterback Bryce Perkins went 22-for-31 for 2018 yards and three touchdown passes in the game. He added 81 yards on 15 carries on the ground.
“I’m so lucky to be at UVA and coach these kids,” Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall told ESPN after the game.
The Hoos out-gained USC 413-261 in the game and handed South Carolina their first shutout since 2006. The Cavalier defense was fantastic, holding quarterback Jake Bentley to 17-for-39 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Virginia held USC to just 12 first downs (to UVA’s 28) and dominated time of possession 42:35-17:25.
South Carolina started with good field position after Brian Delaney’s opening kickoff took a sharp bounce out of bounds. The Gamecocks converted their first third down of the game, and went for it on 4th-and-1 from the UVA 42-yard line. Bentley rolled out of the pocket after USC decided to pass instead of rush on the play, and they were unable to convert as the ball sailed over the receivers head.
On Virginia’s first play from scrimmage, Perkins connected with Evan Butts for 12 yards and a first down. Perkins targeted Dubois twice on the drive (sandwiching a 5-yard run from Ellis), but wasn’t able to pick up another first down and the Hoos punted. Virginia came thisclose to pinning the Gamecocks at the one yard line, but a toe on the line gave USC a touchback.
The next Gamecock possession was short after three rushes from Ty’Son Williams—the third of which Jordan Redmond stuffed on 3rd-and-1—to give the Hoos the ball right back. Virginia started the drive on their own 23-yard line, and Perkins used his legs to pick up 13 yards right off the bat. Zaccheaus had pick ups of 10 yards (and another first down) and eight yards on back-to-back plays before Ellis ground out three yards for another first down in South Carolina territory.
Ellis and Zaccheaus combined to pick up two more first downs for the Cavaliers and get the Hoos to the 14-yard line. South Carolina’s defense got to Perkins on first down for a loss of five yards, and Dubois was forced out on the sidelines on 2nd-and-15. On a designed run, Perkins scrambled to the 6-yard line. Facing 4th-and-2, Coach Mendenhall elected to go for it, and the gamble paid off as Perkins found Zaccheaus in the end zone for the score and the 7-0 lead with 3:30 to play. The scoring drive took 6:31 off the clock as the Hoos went 77 yards in 13 plays for the touchdown.
Bentley found K.C. Crosby for a 22-yard pick up on USC’s first play of the ensuing drive. A short rush and an incomplete pass set up a 3rd-and-7. Shi Smith picked up six yards, and South Carolina wisely rushed it this time on 4th-and-short for the first down at the VA 44-yard line. USC kept the chains moving, working their way to the 28-yard line as time expired on the first quarter.
The Hoos out-gained USC 94-83 in the first quarter and averaged 5.5 yards per play to their 4.4. Perkins went 5-for-8 passing for 42 yards and a touchdown in the first 15 minutes, while his favorite receiver was Zaccheaus with four receptions (on four targets) for 30 yards and a touchdown. Ellis bruised his way to 21 yards on four attempts (5.3 yards per carry), and Perkins added 21 yards on three attempts in the first quarter.
The second quarter got off to a quick start for the Hoos defensively. Pressure from Juan Thornhill forced Bentley to overthrow his receiver on second down, and superstar corner Bryce Hall broke up his nation’s-best 21st pass on third down to set up a 45-yard field goal attempt for South Carolina. Parker White missed it by a whisker, preserving Virginia’s 7-0 lead and giving the ball back to the Hoos on the 20-yard line.
Zaccheaus hauled in another pass for a 12-yard pickup and a first down, and some elusive footwork and good headwork from Perkins found Hasise Dubois for another first down. The drive stalled at the South Carolina 46-yard line after the Hoos lost yardage on first down and were unable to convert 3rd-and-13. Lester Coleman boomed the punt deep and pinned SC inside their own 10 after Bryan Edwards called for the fair catch at the 7-yard line.
A 15-yard rush from Mon Denson gave the Gamecocks some breathing room, and Bentley connected with Shi Smith for a 13-yard pickup and another first down. A short rush and a pass deflection at the line by Charles Snowden set up 3rd-and-7 for USC. Bentley evaded pressure from Jordan Mack and Chris Peace before finding Josh Vann in space, but the young receiver turned upfield before completing the catch and the Gamecocks punted the ball away.
Virginia was penalized for a personal foul, pushing the Hoos back to their own 10-yard line. On 2nd-and-8 things got a little dicey after the ball ricocheted off of Zaccheaus’s hands, but Dubois had his teammate’s back to haul in the pass and set up a short yardage third down play. Ellis powered through the middle for four yards and the new set of downs before Joe Reed drew a flag for interference that moved Virginia forward 15 yards to the UVA 38-yard line.
Dubois picked up nine yards on first down and another completion to Zaccheaus gave Virginia a first down at midfield. A Perkins rush for four yards and a seven yard pass to OZ kept the Hoos in business, and Virginia followed it up with four straight rushes (and another first down) from Ellis to set up 2nd-and-7 from the South Carolina 26-yard line. Perkins found Zaccheaus for his eighth reception of the half for another first down, and Perkins ran it up the middle for a hard-earned four yards as the clocked ticked through a minute left in the half. Ellis got the call on 2nd-and-6, and the senior running back trucked up the gut for nine yards and the touchdown with 42 seconds left in the half.
The scoring drive ate up 8:10 of game clock and went 90 yards in 14 plays. Ellis rushed for 28 yards on seven carries on the drive, including the scoring play.
South Carolina built some momentum with a 31-yard pass to Crosby as Bentley eluded pressure from the Virginia defense. Bentley connected with Rico Dowdle to get the Gamecocks down to the Virginia 38-yard line, but an incompletion and a holding call backed USC up. Facing 4th-and-1 with six seconds left (and no timeouts) from just outside field goal range, Virginia swarmed and sacked Bentley to end the half.
The first half from Virginia was just about as good as you could ask for as the Hoos held South Carolina scoreless and held the advantage in almost every stat. Virginia led USC in overall yardage (197-160), yards per play (5.1-4.8), and first downs (16-7).
Perkins went 13-for-17 (76%) for 102 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and added another 31 yards on six carries. Ellis amassed 58 yards on 13 carries in the first half with one touchdown, and Zaccheaus hauled in one touchdown on eight receptions on nine targets (Dubois caught his one miss) for 65 yards.
Defensively, Mack led the Hoos with six first half tackles, followed by Thornhill with five. The Cavaliers had one sack, two quarterback hurries, and three pass break ups as they limited South Carolina to just seven first downs and a 2-for-8 mark on third down.
South Carolina returned the favor to start the second half by kicking the ball out of bounds on the kick off, giving the Hoos the ball at the 35-yard line. A reception from Reed gave the Hoos a first down, but the drive fizzled out at the South Carolina 49-yard line. AFter a punt from Coleman, the Gamecocks took over at their own 16-yard line.
Crosby fumbled the ball on the first play from scrimmage for USC in the second half, but he recovered his own mistake. Bentley found Smith for a 12-yard pickup to get the Gamecocks to a manageable 3rd-and-3. Virginia wouldn’t relent as Mack came off the edge untouched to wrap up Bentley for the Hoos’ second sack of the game. South Carolina would punt to Virginia, and Billy Kemp returned the ball 11 yards to set up the Hoos at the SC 39-yard line.
Perkins scampered eight yards for a first down after Ellis picked up three yards, and the chains kept moving as Chris Sharp hauled in his first reception of the game for 10 yards. The Gamecock defense got to Perkins on first down for a loss of two yards and a catch-and-run from Zaccheaus set up 3rd-and-6 from the SC 14-yard line. After taking their second timeout of the half, Perkins scrambled for nine yards and the first down. The Hoos were flagged for illegal motion on the next play, setting up 1st-and-goal from the 10 yard line. Virginia needed just one play to find the end zone as Perkins connected with OZ for the touchdown, his second of the day.
Virginia used 4:29 and went 39 yards in eight plays to bump their lead to 21-0 with 7:14 to play in the third quarter.
The Gamecocks managed to pick up one first down before a failed rush and an incomplete pass set up 3rd-and-10 for SC. Robert Snyder broke through, getting to Bentley and recording Virginia’s third sack of the game and forcing the punt.
Facing 3rd-and-7 on their next possession, Perkins found Zaccheaus for a 34-yard pickup which was negated by a flag for pass interference (pick play) on Ben Hogg. The Cavaliers punted on 4th-and-15, giving the ball back to the Gamecocks at their own 32-yard line with under four minutes left in the third quarter.
After an incompletion on first down, Bentley found Denson in stride who rattled off 23 yards. On the next play, Bentley threw a perfect pass to find Smith for 37 yards, their biggest gain of the day. Denson lost three yards on 1st-and-goal from the eight, and Joey Blount nearly picked off the next pass to set up third down for the Gamecocks. Bentley overthrew Edwards on the next play, and USC elected to go for it on fourth down with 2:02 left in the quarter. After a timeout, Bentley and Chavis Dawkins were seemingly not on the same page as the pass fell harmlessly incomplete as the Gamecocks turned it over on downs.
Dubois picked up 14 yards for a first down, and Perkins followed that up with one of his own on his legs to end the fourth quarter with the Hoos leading 21-0. The Cavaliers pulled off some trickeration on the first play of the fourth, but Dubois was loose carrying the ball on the reception and fumbled. Bentley attempted a deep ball on second down, and Tim Harris was in perfect position to break up the pass in the end zone. On the next play, Thornhill was in the right place to pick off Bentley and rattled off a 54-yard return to set up the Hoos at the South Carolina 21-yard line.
The Hoos rushed the ball three times with Perkins losing a couple yards on third down to set up a 33-yard field goal attempt for Delaney. He missed, giving the ball back to the Gamecocks without taking advantage of the turnover. South Carolina attempted three passes with all three missing the mark. The Gamecocks punted back to Virginia after using just 1:49.
A Perkins pass to Hogg for 18 yards and a rush from Perkins for 19 yards set up a 1st-and-10 at the SC 19-yard line as the Hoos kept working clock. Ellis picked up six yards to go over 1,000 yards on the season and set up a 2nd-and-4 from the 12 yard line.
On the next play, Perkins found Zaccheaus for his third touchdown of the day, giving Virginia a 28-0 lead with 6:42 to play.
Shi Smith had a huge 65-yard return on the ensuing kick-off. After three incomplete passes and an ineligible man downfield penalty on USC, Edwards hauled in a difficult pass on fourth down to keep the drive alive at the VA 24. Bentley’s next pass would sail incomplete, but the next one would find its way into the waiting hands of Tim Harris for the interception.
Virginia would pick up three more first downs to run out the clock for the shut out win. The Hoos finished the season with an 8-5 record.