CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Brian Delaney kicked a 48-yard field with 1:23 to play to put Virginia ahead and the Cavaliers sealed it with a defensive score, beating No. 23 Virginia Tech 39-30 Friday to end a 15-game losing streak in the rivalry and earn their first trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
Bryce Perkins ran for two long touchdowns and passed for another for the Cavaliers (9-3, 6-2), who became the seventh different winner in as many years to claim the Coastal Division. Delaney also kicked a 25-yard field goal for Virginia, and his last kick made up for a missed extra point early.
Hendon Hooker ran for one touchdown and threw for another for the Hokies (8-4, 5-3), who came in having won six of seven games to surge into championship contention.
The Cavaliers’ winning drive began with Noah Taylor’s interception of Hooker’s pass at the Virginia 35. Virginia moved steadily downfield, not facing a third down play until it was third-and-15 from the Hokies’ 40. Perkins hit Tavares Kelly for nine yards and Delaney converted the kick, setting off a cautious celebration.
On the Hokies ensuing possession, the Cavaliers sacked Hooker on three straight plays. Mandy Alonso had the last one, forcing a fumble that Eli Hanback recovered in the end zone, finally giving the Virginia faithful enough cushion to celebrate the end of the Hokies’ decade-and-a-half of domination.
Virginia led 13-6 after a defensive first half, but then the offenses took over.
Hooker ran 34 yards to tie the game at 13. The next three series ended in punts before the Hokies drove 71 yards to take their first lead at 20-13 on Deshawn McClease’s 1-yard run. Virginia answered with a 79-yard march, Perkins hitting Joe Reed early in the drive for 42 yards to the Virginia Tech 35 and later connecting with Billy Kemp for the last 30 yards and the tying touchdown.
A 39-yard pass from Hooker to Tre Turner made it 27-20, and three plays into the fourth quarter, Wayne Taulapapa’s 2-yard run tied it at 27.
The ensuing possessions produced field goals for each team, making it 30-30 and setting up the finish.
Perkins ripped of touchdown runs of 39 and 67 yards in the first half to make it 13-3. He had 137 rushing yards in the opening quarter.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies had been 6-0 with Hooker as the starter, in part because of a surging defense and Hooker’s efficiency. He came into the game having thrown for 10 touchdowns with no interceptions in those starts, and while his streak ended at 124 passes without a pick on a Hail Mary throw to end the first half, the interception by Taylor on a deep ball proved the critical play of the game.
Virginia: Perkins started slowly throwing the ball but used those two huge draw play runs to cause the Hokies to have to adjust. He finally found his rhythm in the passing game and finished 20 of 33 for 311 yards. He also ran for 164 yards with 137 of those coming in the opening quarter.
Virginia Tech will await it 27th consecutive bowl invitation, the longest such streak in the nation.
Virginia will represent the Coastal Division against No. 3 Clemson in the ACC championship next Saturday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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