Everyone had to wait an extra 40 minutes to start their season thanks to some inclement weather, but the Virginia Cavaliers are 1-0 after dominating the Richmond Spiders 42-13. Bryce Perkins shone in his Wahoo debut, finishing with 108 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and went 13-for-24 for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He’s the first UVA quarterback to rush for over 100 yards in a game since Jameel Sewell did it against Virginia Tech in 2009.
Jordan Ellis was practically unstoppable on the ground, rushing for a career high 146 yards with two touchdowns. He picked up 7.3 yards per carry and eluded tackles left and right as he frustrated Richmond’s defenders all evening. Virginia was rightfully criticized last season for going away from the running game, and this reliance on Ellis was refreshing to say the least. Olamide Zaccheaus shone as a receiver, breaking the century mark with 101 yards and a touchdown in the game.
The Hoos amassed 492 total yards, and held Richmond to just 225 yards and zero offensive touchdowns. Virginia finished 9-for-15 in third down conversions, and picked up 25 first downs in the game.
Virginia’s defense stood tall on the first series of the game as they forced Richmond into a three-and-out. The Hoos put together a strong first drive with Perkins, Dubois, and Joe Reed all picking up first downs before Perkins threw a panicked pass that found the hands of Richmond linebacker Dale Matthews, Jr. Matthews took it 78 yards the other way for the pick-six, putting the Spiders up 7-0 with 8:50 left in the first quarter.
Richmond attempted an onside kick, which was both recovered by Virginia and failed to go the required 10 yards, so the Hoos started with great field position on their second offensive drive. Perkins attempted a deep pass to first year Tavares Kelly, but it was almost intercepted. Another pass attempt fell short on 2nd and 10, but Perkins called his own number and found his way 36 yards to the end zone for his first touchdown as a Cavalier.
The Spiders responded with a long drive, going 50 yards on six plays in just over two minutes to tack a field goal on to go up 10-7. A personal foul on Juan Thornhill and a 17 yard run from Gordon Collins put Richmond in field goal range and Griffin Trau made good on the 42 yard attempt.
Virginia took their first lead of the day thanks to Perkins’s second rushing touchdown of the quarter. Things looked bleak after back-to-back false starts made it 1st and 20, but three Ellis rushes (including on a 4th and 1) kept the drive alive and eventually set up Perkins for a 22 yard touchdown scamper.
Perkins accumulated 73 yards in the first quarter on five carries to go with his two rushing touchdowns.
At the start of the second quarter, the Hoos quickly built their lead to 21-10 thanks to a three play, 49 yard, 1:08 scoring drive. This time, Perkins found his man in Olamide Zaccheaus, connecting for a 38 yard touchdown pass.
Richmond had a strong drive threatening—buoyed by a 54 yard completion—but Trau missed a field goal attempt from 28 yards to keep the score the same.
Virginia went a cool 80 yards in eight plays on their next drive, with Perkins finding Zaccheaus for a 33 yard connection and Ellis scored his first touchdown after a 10 yard rush.
The Cavaliers took that 28-10 lead into the locker room at halftime, with Perkins’s pick-six standing out as the only really bad blemish of the half. Perkins was 8-for-16 in the air for 121 yards and one touchdown to go with the interception, and added a ridiculous 107 yards on the ground with two touchdowns. He carried the ball just nine times in the first half, averaging just shy of 12 yards per carry.
Jordan Ellis was a work horse in the first half, adding 94 yards in the first 30 minutes on 14 carries (6.7 yards per carry). Zaccheaus hauled in five passes for 90 yards and the one touchdown. The Hoos out-gained the Spiders 317-143 in the first half, including a dominating 196-36 on the ground.
Virginia got the ball to start the second half, and picked up where they left off in the second quarter. The Hoos needed just 4:15 to go 65 yards, capped with an elusive 21 yard touchdown run from Jordan Ellis.
Both teams traded punts before Richmond made it 35-13 after a 38 yard field goal from Trau.
The Hoos answered on their next offensive possession, going 59 yards in seven plays as Perkins found Hasise Dubois for the 20 yard touchdown. Dubois caught the pass in stride, breaking one tackle and finding the end zone. The score put Virginia up 42-13 and gave the Cavaliers some breathing room.
Joey Blount ended Richmond’s next drive with Virginia’s first interception of the season. The pick was also the first of his career and set up an offensive drive that saw second year running back PK Kier go off for 26 yards. The Hoos were unable to keep the drive alive, however, and punted back to the Spiders with 7:37 left in the game.
Reigning ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Brenton Nelson notched his first interception of the second after just one offensive play from the Spiders, giving the Hoos the ball right back. Brennan Armstrong came in to spell Perkins at quarterback for the final seven minutes, seemingly indicating that Coach Mendenhall will utilizing the new red shirt rule that allows players to play in up to four games without losing eligibility. Virginia attempted a 35 yard field goal, but AJ Mejia missed wide and the questions around the Cavalier kicking game loom.
Richmond finished with 194 yards in the air and Kevin Johnson going 11-for-28, including pass plays of 21 and 54 yards. Virginia’s secondary is expected to be one of the best in the league this season, but the long ball was an issue at times against Richmond. It feels nitpicky to harp on it in a 29 point win, but the Hoos need to lock down opposing wide receivers with teams like NC State and Miami on the horizon. This isn’t to say that the secondary didn’t make some outstanding plays, Virginia just cannot afford to give up big plays.
The Hoos hit the road next week to face the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm, and the game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.