In their first ACC game of the 2018 season, the Virginia Cavaliers picked up a crucial home win over the visiting Louisville Cardinals (2-2, 0-1 ACC). With the win, Virginia improved to 3-1 (1-0 ACC) and comfortably handled the Cards from start to finish.
The Hoos struggled in the red zone in the first half but got big plays from quarterback Bryce Perkins in the second as Virginia pulled away for the win. Perkins finished with 197 yards on 17-for-24 passing and two touchdowns and added 78 yards and a touchdown on the ground with his legs.
Jordan Ellis (68 yards rushing) and Olamide Zaccheaus (29 yards receiving) had quiet games, but the Hoos had solid days out of Evan Butts, Chris Sharp, and Joe Reed as Perkins connected with 10 different receivers.
The Hoos amassed 401 yards of offense with an even balance of 204 yards on the ground and 197 yards passing in the game.
Defensively, Charles Snowden was outstanding with a team high eight tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery, a sack, and two pass break ups. Virginia held Louisville to 214 yards of total offense and one red zone appearance in the game.
The Virginia defense got off to a great start, holding Malik Cunningham and the Cardinals to a three-and-out in their first possession.
Perkins found De’Vante Cross for a huge pickup of 20 yards for a first down, and the Hoos had an additional 15 yards tacked on after a targeting call against Louisville. The play was reviewed, and targeting was upheld and Khane Pass was ejected from the game. Freshman Tavares Kelly hauled in a 25 yard pass at the 10 yard line, but Virginia faltered in the red zone and came away with no points after a missed field goal attempt by A.J. Mejia.
Louisville converted a short 4th-and-1 from just inside the 50 yard line, but the Virginia defense wouldn’t let the Cardinals get another first down on the drive and Louisville elected to punt.
Ellis got nothing on his first carry of Virginia’s second series, but shimmied for eight yards on second down. The Hoos got a first thanks to designed run by Perkins. Another first down pick up by Perkins was negated by an illegal block call against the Hoos, and Virginia punted to the Cardinals.
The Cardinals drove to midfield as time expired in the first quarter with the score knotted at 0-0. Virginia out-gained Louisvile 73-50 in the first 15 minutes, getting 51 yards in the air and 22 on the ground.
Virginia started the second quarter off on the right foot as the 6-7 Charles Snowden used his length to pick off a pass from Cunningham. The Hoos picked up a first down thanks to another rush by Perkins, but the Louisville defense held in the red zone once again. Coach Mendenhall switched things up, bringing Hunter Pearson out to convert the 28-yard field goal and put the home squad up 3-0 with 10:46 left in the first half.
Lousiville put together a strong drive, but Eli Hanback came up huge on 4th down as he tackled Cunningham behind the line of scrimmage to give the Hoos the ball back at their own 37 yard line. Robert Anae got creative, attempting a pass from Hasise Dubois to Perkins, but the pass went incomplete and led to what looked like a jammed finger for the Cavalier QB. Brennan Armstrong entered the game in his stead, rattling off a huge 34-yard run to put the Hoos back in the red zone. It looked as if Armstrong had Dubois in the end zone for a sure touchdown, but the pass was broken up last second and Pearson rang true on his second FG of the day to put Virginia up 6-0 with 2:23 remaining in the half.
Once again, Snowden and the defense came up huge as they stifled everything Louisville attempted leading to a 1:28 possession and three-and-out from the Cardinals. Virginia was content to run the clock out and take the 6-0 lead into the halftime break. Offensively, the Hoos amassed 156 yards in the first half with 90 coming on the ground and 66 in the air. Ellis struggled to get much going, picking up just 26 yards on 10 carries as the Louisville defense keyed in on the stud running back. Surprisingly, Olamide Zaccheaus had no touches in the first half, and was only targeted once (the first play of the game).
Defensively, Virginia shone in the first half. Snowden led the team with seven tackles over the first two quarters and added the interception that led to the Hoos’ first points. True freshman Jordan Redmond was seemingly everywhere with four tackles (three solo) and 1.5 tackles for loss. Louisville had just 88 yards of total offense in the first half, with Cunningham accounting for 61 of them. The Cardinals were just 2-for-7 from third down and couldn’t break into the red zone in the first half.
Zaccheaus’s first reception of the game gave Virginia a first down and kept the drive alive with a 10 yard pickup. Things then fell apart for the Hoos. A holding call against Dubois made it 2nd-and-20, and a tip drill on 3rd-and-17 led to an interception by the Cardinals. Rodjay Burns returned the INT to the three yard line, putting Louisville in scoring position for the first time of the day. The Virginia defense stood tall, stuffing the Cards on three straight plays and forcing Louisville to settle for a field goal to make it 6-3.
Virginia built off of the momentum gained by Zandier and the defense, driving 67 yards in seven plays for the first touchdown of the day. Evan Butts hauled in a huge third down reception for 14 yards to keep the drive alive, and Perkins rattled off a huge 36-yard run—complete with him hurdling a defender—to take the Hoos into the red zone.
Dubois caught a pass to set up 1st-and-goal for Virginia, and Perkins found Chris Sharp wide open in the end zone for the touchdown and the 13-3 lead with 5:47 left in the third.
Juwon Pass, who came into the game at quarterback for Louisville after the Cards picked off Perkins, led a strong drive, but Bryce Hall got a good read on a pass downfield and came up with Virginia’s second interception of the game. Aaron Famui got good pressure on Pass as he threw, and Pass made the mistake of throwing into triple coverage with Hall in the vicinity.
Virginia took their 13-3 lead and possession into the fourth quarter. The Hoos faced a 3rd-and-10 to open the final stanza, but Perkins found Dubois for an easy 11 yards and a first down. Facing 3rd-and-13 after a holding penalty and an unsuccessful run attempt by Perkins, the Hoos hit paydirt as Perkins perfectly hit Joe Reed in stride for a 44-yard touchdown reception and a 20-3 lead.
Pass found Trey Smith for a big pickup on first down, but an open field tackle by Brendon Nelson, and a pass breakup and sack by Charles Snowden ended the Louisville drive after just four plays and 1:54 off the clock.
Once again, Virginia’s defense was stifling as Famui sacked Pass and forced the ball loose. Snowden—who else—fell on the loose ball, and gave the Hoos outstanding field position. Virginia rushed the ball four times, culminating in an eight yard touchdown run by Perkins that featured his second hurdled defender of the game. The score put Virginia up 27-3 with 6:14 remaining and gave the Hoos the breathing room they needed to be comfortable.
Louisville picked up 54 yards, but the defense once again stood strong as they forced the Cardinals to turn it over on downs as Pass couldn’t connect with Smith.
Armstrong returned for the Hoos as Virginia worked on running out the clock to secure the hard fought victory.