Virginia vs. Richmond — a breakdown

sp-BrycePerkins-CourtesyUVA

Transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins will be one of the most important players in getting Virginia to a win over Richmond in his first start as a Cavalier.

Courtesy University of Virginia

Players to watch

Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins

All eyes will be on Perkins as he makes his first start as a Cavalier. After two transfers and injuries, the Arizona Western product is at last going under center in Division I football — there is bound to be some emotion and nerves from the get-go. He will also be running Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s system for the first time, and Mendenhall himself will be calling plays out of a completely redesigned offense. Ultimately, Perkins’ ability to get comfortable and in control of the offense early in the game will be critical to the Cavaliers getting a win. For the Cavalier faithful, seeing Perkins in action through the running game — where he mainly excels — will be an exciting change of pace from more pro-style quarterbacks of previous years.

Virginia wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus

While Virginia’s offense is sure to have a lot of new changes, one continuation from last year that the Cavaliers will hope to see is a strong showing from senior wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. In 2017, Zaccheaus broke a 16-year old single-season program record for receptions after he recorded 85 receptions. Zaccheaus also had 895 receiving yards to his name that season, which guided him to the No. 5 spot on Virginia’s all-time list for single season receiving yards. With this successful display, Zaccheaus earned an All-ACC Second Team selection. It’ll be interesting to see how he gels with new quarterback Bryce Perkins, and whether or not he can continue to be a consistent passing option for the Cavaliers.

Keys to the game

Set the tone with run defense

In a stunning blowout loss to Richmond two years ago, the Cavaliers allowed the Spiders to gash them in the run game from the first drive, leading to a huge swing of momentum they could not overcome. Richmond trotted out a balanced rushing attack last season, with five players amassing more than 200 yards, and retain their leading rusher from last season in junior Xavier Goodall. Now that they lost start quarterback Kyle Lauletta to graduation, the Spiders could lean on the run again early on, and Virginia will have to swallow up early attempts to control the pace of the game. The Cavalier defensive line has been fighting injuries and playing uncertainty all summer, so the Richmond running game could prove to be a mismatch if the line does not hold strong from the beginning. How this positional battle shakes out will ultimately determine the game’s tempo and momentum for both teams. 

Protect the quarterback

Richmond has a pretty strong defense — especially up the middle — that features experience and talent. Last year redshirt senior defensive tackle Andrew Clyde recorded a team-high nine sacks, senior linebacker Justin Rubin led the team with 92 tackles, and senior linebacker Dale Matthews racked up 67 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions for the Spiders. Meanwhile, Virginia’s offensive line struggled quite a bit last year, allowing 92 sacks. The offensive line will have different responsibilities this year with a more mobile offense, and it will be key for the Cavaliers to adapt to these offensive changes and to keep Richmond’s experienced defense from getting to Perkins. 

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