Bryce Perkins: The fumble, tonsillitis, and now, a champion

Bryce Perkins uva footballThis is going to be an ode to Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins, who, you knew already, fumbled on the final play of the Cavaliers’ 34-31 overtime loss to Virginia Tech last year.

And so, yeah, really wanted to make amends for that, though he had nothing to make amends for, because without him throwing for 259 yards and three touchdowns, and adding another 112 yards on the ground, there’s no overtime, it’s a blowout loss.

Anyway.

He wanted to make amends.

So when he came down with tonsillitis late last week, ahead of the Liberty game, yeah, that’s not ideal.

Perkins led UVA to a 55-27 win in that one, but afterward, and we didn’t know this until after Friday’s game, he was in the hospital.

Here’s Perkins, telling the story:

“After the game, I went to the hospital and spent the night because they were trying to work and put some antibiotics in me,” Perkins said. “Monday, I went to the doctor because my tonsils were really swollen, and they had to drain my tonsils. Yeah, they had to really get in there and pull puss out of my tonsils. I was awake through all of it, and they were surprised I was able to play against Liberty.

“The sports medicine team, the doctors and everybody in this facility was working overnight, overtime, just to get me back on my feet. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to feel better and as fast as I did today.

“It was a rough first day of the week, I missed practice on Monday and had to come back on Tuesday still kind of feeling sick. It’s over now, and I’m feeling great.”

Now, so, you didn’t know that until you just read it.

All you knew was, Perkins threw for 311 yards, ran for 164, redeemed the hell out of whatever he needed to redeem from last year, and you assumed he was 100 percent healthy in doing all of that, and you were hella impressed.

Dude was in the hospital twice in the last six days, then he did all of that.

“I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “There’s not a play he can’t make. I think Bryce Perkins changes the face of UVA football. This era certainly doesn’t happen without Bryce at quarterback.”

This era, and probably future eras.

Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae brought their version of the Air Raid east with them from BYU, but the offense needs a strong-armed quarterback who can also make plays with his feet.

The starter in their first two years in Charlottesville, Kurt Benkert, is now a backup with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, so there was obviously talent there, but Benkert was a stopgap, not a prototype for how Mendenhall and Anae want to do things.

You couldn’t go out to recruits and say, this is the way we want to run our offense, before Perkins arrived on Grounds.

Perkins has set and raised the standard for QB play in the Mendenhall/Anae system.

That was never more evident than Friday.

“Our team, and especially our quarterback played really well today,” Mendenhall said. “The stage was not too big for them. The moment was not too big for them. What was at stake was not too big for them. They believed that they were capable and prepared to perform in this setting and they did. That started from our quarterback position, and I think that started from a year ago in this game.”

Perkins carried that chip on his shoulder from the fumble in Blacksburg through to a solid outing in Virginia’s 28-0 win over South Carolina in the Belk Bowl and then forward to the 2019 season.

And what a season it has been: 2,941 yards, 16 TDs, 9 INTs, 64.1 percent completion rate, 132.5 passer rating, plus a team-leading 687 yards and 11 TDs on the ground.

The numbers wouldn’t have meant much without a win against Virginia Tech.

“You know last year, especially, I was the last play that ultimately ended up costing us the game, and I had to sit with that all year,” Perkins said. “It hurt, so you know, this year I really wanted to go out there and be aggressive. I wanted to just give everything I have to this team and not let them down again. Just do my part, and trust everybody else to do their part to come together as a team to pull this victory off.”

You’re supposed to judge a quarterback not by whatever gawdy stats they may accumulate, but rather by their wins.

Perkins led his team to a win on Friday that has Virginia in the ACC Championship Game.

“All year long, all spring, all camp, since that bowl game we’ve been working as a team to be exactly here,” Perkins said. “We talked about it all year, ACC champs, beat Tech, and everything that we’ve done all year in practice and in games had led us to this moment.

“The narrative was set up perfectly. For the Coastal Championship, we’re at home, I couldn’t write a better script if I had to. I’m excited for this group of guys and excited to represent the Coastal,” Perkins said.

Story by Chris Graham

 

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