Football selected to play in Belk Bowl, will face South Carolina on Dec. 29

The Cavaliers are set for a return to Charlotte, where they’ve historically found success

Football bowling
The Virginia football team went 7-5 in the regular season. Dorothy Wang | Cavalier Daily

The Virginia football team was selected to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., where it will face South Carolina on Dec. 29.

The Cavaliers (7-5)  were selected to a bowl game for the second consecutive season after losing to Navy in the Military Bowl last year.

It has been 15 years since Virginia last played in the Belk Bowl.

The Cavaliers have significant history with the Belk Bowl, which has changed sponsors since the bowl game was first played in Charlotte in 2002. In fact, Virginia won the first ever bowl game in Charlotte (then called the Continental Tire Bowl) against West Virginia, 48-22. The Cavaliers then returned to the Continental Tire Bowl the following season and beat Pittsburgh, 23-16.

South Carolina (7-5), headed to its third-consecutive bowl game under Coach Will Muschamp, have never played in the Belk Bowl.

The Cavaliers had an impressive season in Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s third year. They performed well in ACC play, and would be 9-3 if not for two close overtime losses at the end of the year against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

The selection to the Belk Bowl, a Tier I bowl game, is a testament to the Cavaliers’ improvement this season.

Beyond the team’s success, a number of outstanding individual players have stood out. Three Virginia players were selected to the all-ACC first-team — senior wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, who holds Virginia’s all-time record for receptions, was named to the first-team offense, and senior safety Juan Thornhill and junior cornerback Bryce Hall were named to the first-team defense. Thornhill led the Cavaliers with 92 tackles and five interceptions, and Hall led the nation in pass breakups.

Virginia also had players on the all-ACC third-team and players receiving honorable mention: senior linebacker Chris Peace and junior wide receiver Joe Reed made the third-team, and junior transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins, senior running back Jordan Ellis and senior tight end Evan Butts received honorable mention accolades.

Perkins took Virginia’s offense to new heights this season, and should be critical in Virginia’s matchup against South Carolina. The dual-threat quarterback had a record-breaking year, setting a Virginia single-season record with 3,314 yards of total offense and a single-season record for touchdowns responsible for with 31 touchdowns this year.

Virginia is poised to face a strong South Carolina football team in Charlotte. The Gamecocks played a difficult SEC schedule, and should be a challenging opponent for the Cavaliers. They are led by junior quarterback Jake Bentley on offense, who threw for over 500 yards and five touchdowns in a loss against Clemson this year.

A win in the game would be a big step in the direction of Mendenhall’s New Standard. Virginia has won just one bowl game since last playing in the Belk Bowl in 2003.

Kickoff for the game will be at noon. 

related stories