They may have been playing some 545 miles west of Scott Stadium, but Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee was a kind host for the Virginia Cavaliers as the Hoos picked up a 45-31 win over the Ohio Bobcats. Virginia decided to play a neutral site game thanks to anticipated issues with Hurricane Florence coming up the East Coast, but the Hoos looked right at home as they improved to 2-1 on the season.
Once again, the Virginia offense got outstanding performances out of their three-headed monster of Bryce Perkins, Jordan Ellis, and Olamide Zaccheaus. Just like the first game of the season against Richmond, all three had over 100 yards and all three set new career highs.
Jordan Ellis, who set a new career high against Richmond with 146 yards, rattled off 171 yards on the ground with three touchdowns. Olamide Zaccheaus was electric with 247 yards on nine receptions and two touchdowns. His 247 yards is not only a career high, but he is now the University of Virginia record holder for receiving yards in a game, a record previously held by Ken Shelton with a 241 yard performance in 1974. On top of all that, Zaccheaus had two 75+ yard touchdown receptions in the game and now has the most 75+ yard receptions in UVA history, breaking a tie with Herman Moore.
Perkins was outstanding, going 25-for-30 and 379 yards and three touchdowns. He showed elusiveness getting out of the pocket, read what the defense gave him, and made smart passes.
Defensively, Zane Zandier had an outstanding day as he led the team with 10 total tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Virginia got the action going early as Charles Snowden and Chris Peace pressured Rourke into a fumble, and Eli Hanback jumped on the ball to give the offense their first shot at 14:18 in the first quarter. The Hoos needed just one play to score the touchdown as Jordan Ellis ran it up the gut untouched for 18 yards and the points.
On Ohio’s ensuing possession, Virginia’s defense was stifling again as the stuffed a run attempt, nearly picked off a pass, and pressured Rourke into a desperation heave that fell short. Once again, the Hoos needed just one play from scrimmage to find the end zone as Perkins found Zaccheaus on the outside for an 86-yard touchdown run. Zaccheaus shook one tackler, then was off to the races as he got outstanding downfield blocking from Hasise Dubois.
Ohio got something going with just under nine minutes left in the first quarter as Rourke broke free for a 70-yard pick up that got the Bobcats to the UVA 4-yard line. Two plays later, Maleek Irons crossed into the end zone to make it 14-7.
Virginia’s next offensive possession played out similarly to their first two, with the Cavaliers needing just one play from scrimmage to score yet again. Just like the first score of the game, Ellis found a hole up the middle and turned on the jets for a 75-yard touchdown run. It was the longest run of his career, eclipsing his previous long of 39 yards in his collegiate debut in 2015. Ellis’s second touchdown run came on their sixth play from scrimmage, with the Hoos scoring on an incredibly efficient three of them.
The first quarter was nearly perfect as the Hoos amassed 217 yards, picking up 115 yards in the air and 102 on the ground. Perkins was a perfect 4-for-4 in the opening 15 minutes with one touchdown. If you take out the long run by Rourke, the Cavalier defense held Ohio to just 31 yards of offense.
Ellis’s third touchdown of the day capped off Virginia’s first extended offensive drive of the day as the Hoos went 68 yards in 5:37. The Cavaliers used a good mix of short passes and power running, culminating in a 6-yard run from Ellis to give the far-from-home team the 28-7 lead with 11:35 left in the first half.
It looked as though Virginia was going to extend their lead as Hanback came up with another fumble recovery, but dropped the ball on the one yard line. A 36-yard pass from Rourke gave the Bobcats some breathing room, but the Virginia defense came up with a huge stop on a 4th-and-2 attempt from the Ohio 45-yard line.
Perkins took his first sack, pushing the Hoos back to 2nd-and-17, but back to back passes to Butts and Zaccheaus gave Virginia the first down and kept the drive alive. Facing a 3rd-and-11 from the Ohio 34-yard line, Perkins evaded pressure and found Dubois for a 16-yard connection and the first down. Two plays later, Perkins went back to Dubois in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass and the 35-7 lead with 2:52 left in the first half.
Virginia’s defense forced a three-and-out, but on the second play of the next offensive possession, Perkins was sacked and lost the ball. Ohio took advantage, needing just one play for Rourke to find Papi White in the end zone. Things went from bad to worse after Ohio elected to try an on-sides kick that hit the Virginia player in the chest and the Bobcats recovered with good position. Rourke connected with Isiah Cox for a 36-yard touchdown and bring the Bobcats back within two scores with 50 seconds left in the half.
Coach Mendenhall still didn’t take a knee and the Hoos drove 60 yards in six plays and 48 seconds as A.J. Mejia hit his first field goal of the season—a 32-yarder—to give Virginia a 38-21 halftime lead.
The first half was a wild ride, led by Perkins’s 18-for-20 passing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Ellis picked up 118 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, and Zaccheaus chipped in 158 yards and a touchdown. Virginia out-gained Ohio 354-222 and picked up 14 first downs to their six.
Ohio made it a 10 point game with 9:27 left in the third quarter as they surgically dismantled the Virginia secondary with a six-play, 80-yard drive. Irons picked up his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run. Rourke was a perfect 4-for-4 for 77 yards on the drive that pulled Ohio within striking distance at 38-28.
On the final play of the third quarter, Bryce Hall knocked down a pass intended for Cameron Odom on 4th-and-3. Ohio had been cruising offensively since they scored their second touchdown of the game, and the stop was huge for the defense as the Bobcats were looking to make it a one score game.
Virginia finally showed life on the offense, but Mejia was unable to convert a 30-yard field goal attempt as the ball clanged off the left upright. The Hoos had worked for 47 yards in eight plays, but came away empty handed and gave Ohio a window to close within one score. The defense picked up the slack, only allowing Ohio to pick up six yards and burn 2:45 of game clock before the Bobcats punted it back to the Hoos.
Perkins and the offense went back to work and needed just three plays for Zaccheaus to rattle off a 77-yard touchdown run to put Virginia up 45-28. The defense followed up the score with a staunch stand that resulted in a three-and-out for Ohio. True freshman Tavares Kelly botched the ensuing punt, however, giving Rourke and the Bobcats another shot to close the gap. Ohio kicked a 45-yard field goal to make it 45-31 with just under three minutes remaining in the game.
Virginia recovered the on-sides kick, and some power-running from Ellis allowed the Hoos to run out the clock and pick up the win.