CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Bryce Perkins said it felt good to be back, and it showed.
Virginia’s junior college transfer quarterback ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 185 yards and two more scores as the Cavaliers beat Richmond 42-13 in the opener for both teams on Saturday night.
“It felt good getting back into it and doing what I came here to do,” Perkins said.
Perkins, who arrived last January, overcame a 72-yard interception return for a touchdown on the Cavaliers’ first offensive series with his legs first. He ran 36 yards for a touchdown to end the next series and then 22 yards for a score on the third series, giving a crowd that waited through a 40-minute delay for threatening weather in the area a reason to cheer.
He was fine after that, leaving the Spiders at times baffled. They’d seen little tape of his dual-threat skills because he played in a run-oriented offense last season and had to adjust on the fly.
“It was tough and we were scrambling defensively trying to figure things out,” Richmond coach Russ Huesman said. “The dude’s quick. He’s electric and they did a great job of putting him in position to utilize his legs.”
The FCS-level Spiders, seeking a repeat of two years ago when they spoiled Bronco Mendenhall’s first game at Virginia with a 37-20 victory, got an early boost when Dale Matthews Jr. stepped in front of Perkins’ short pass and went 72 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
“Just trying to make a play, man,” Perkins said of the interception. “I’ve just got to do a better job.”
Richmond mustered only 143 yards on offense in the first half and trailed 28-10 at the break.
By then, Perkins had run for two scores and thrown for another.
Jordan Ellis added 146 yards on 20 carries with touchdowns of 10 and 21 yards for Virginia. Olamide Zaccheaus caught six passes for 101 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown, and Hasise Dubois caught a 20-yard throw from Perkins early in the fourth quarter to give Virginia a 42-13 advantage.
Perkins, Ellis said, made it all possible.
“It opens up the whole offense because the linebackers, safeties, everybody has to account for him, he said of Perkins.
The Spiders, who gained 524 yards two years ago in manhandling the Cavaliers, finished with just 225. That included only 34 rushing yards on 18 carries and just nine first downs.
Richmond: The Spiders got Kevin Johnson back behind center after he redshirted last year, but going against Virginia’s veteran secondary was a tall order. Johnson guided the Spiders to two playoff victories in 2016 and should have an easier time making plays against other FCS-level opponents.
Virginia: Perkins played as advertised and showed off his not-going-to-be-caught speed on both touchdown runs. Zaccheaus also turned on the jets when he caught a short pass and beat the Spiders to the corner on his scoring play, and Ellis seemed to only get stronger as the game wore on.
YOUTH IS SERVED
Virginia has the third-most underclassmen on its roster in the nation with 88, and 11 made their college debuts against the Spiders. The freshmen included Brennan Armstrong, who relieved Perkins at quarterback in the fourth quarter, completed one of two pass attempts and ran three times for 11 yards. Five other true freshmen also saw action for the Cavaliers.
Richmond quarterback Kevin Johnson was 11 for 28 for 194 yards with two interceptions. … Virginia’s Brian Delaney routinely launched kickoffs that landed outside the back of the end zone. … The Cavaliers held the ball for 38:02 and gained 301 of their 492 yards on the ground, their first game with 200 or more yards rushing in third-year coach Bronco Mendenhall’s tenure.
Richmond drops back down to the FCS level as its hosts Fordham next Saturday.
Virginia goes on the road to play at Indiana next Saturday.