Rejuvenated Bryce Perkins gives North Carolina the blues

Bryce PerkinsUVA quarterback Bryce Perkins was a virtual one-man wrecking crew Saturday in the recently remodeled Keenan Stadium, beautifully nestled in the Carolina pines on the campus of the University of North Carolina.

Only two other quarterbacks have ever inflicted more damage against a North Carolina defense than Perkins’ performance Saturday: Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (525 total yards) and Duke’s Daniel Jones (547 total yards), both now starting quarterbacks in the National Football League.

Perkins, through the air and on the ground, carved up Carolina to the tune of 490 total yards, 378 yards passing and for good measure 112 yards with his feet, leading the Cavaliers to a crucial 38-31 ACC win over the Tar Heels.

Perkins’ tantalizing 65-yard run in the opening moments of the third quarter was unquestionably the biggest eye-opener of the game, but there were plenty more plays from the entire Cavalier offense that came up huge on the prime-time Saturday night clash.

Plagued by some nagging injuries for most of the season, coupled with an offensive line that was truly learning on the job, Perkins had struggled most of the 2019 season to recreate the magic he unveiled in his first year as the Wahoo signal-caller.

Perkins’ passing numbers were so diminished from last season that North Carolina’s game-plan heading into the pivotal contest was to make Perkins throw the ball more instead of running.

“He had not been as good of a thrower as a runner,” said UNC coach Mack Brown. “So our plan was to make him throw the ball to win the game, and he did,” added Brown.

And man, did he ever throw. Perkins threw long, he threw short, he threw into coverage, heck, on one play, he even floated a pass over the bewildered Tar Heel defense for a touchdown. On this magical night on Tobacco Road, Bryce Perkins was, well, Bryce Perkins.

Kudos to Perkins for stepping up his game in such a key contest in front of a hostile UNC crowd. Virginia entered the game struggling mightily on offense, and the Carolina faithful smelled fresh blood in the water.

And yes, big gulp here, credit offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who has endured his share of criticism from all of us arm-chair quarterbacks.

Saturday night, Anae kept the Tar Heels off-balance with play fakes, crossing routes and even a fake-punt that was executed to perfection.

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said coming into the game the team knew they had to step up on the offensive side. “We knew that to have success down the stretch, we had to play better on that side of the ball,” Mendenall said. “And to their credit they did.”

The Perkins karma even worked when he was off the field. Facing a fourth and three at Carolina’s 33-yard line late in first quarter play, the Cavaliers lined up to attempt a field goal.

Breaking the huddle, Virginia had backup quarterback Brennan Armstrong take the snap and found Tanner Crowley open on the right side for five yards and a first down. A few plays later Perkins ran from the one for the Cavaliers’ first score of the night.

While the game had an incredible ebb-and-flow, it was the Cavaliers that prevailed, and can now clearly see the end result. A Coastal Division title is within reach.

Virginia concludes the regular season with three consecutive games in what is now the friendly confines of Scott Stadium where the Cavaliers are unbeaten this season.

Georgia Tech, Liberty, and a Black Friday matchup with Virginia Tech are on the horizon. A horizon Virginia hopes ends with a trip to Charlotte and the ACC Championship game.

If Bryce Perkins and the Virginia offense continues to click as they did against the Heels, then book your room in the Queen City.

Story by Scott German

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