Saturday night, fans at a packed Scott Stadium were eager to see how Virginia Football’s “New Standard” would make the Cavaliers a different team from the one that suffered a humbling 49-7 loss to the Naval Academy at the end of last season. Virginia’s (1-0) dominating 42-13 win over Richmond (0-1) — who beat the Cavaliers two years ago in Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s first game with the program — certainly had fans leaving the game with more positivity and excitement than they had after the Military Bowl defeat.
“I was pleased with the victory,” Mendenhall said. “Game one I think is always important for your team and for your season. Camp was four weeks and to now have a return on their investment I think is always motivating and necessary.”
After a weather delay stalled the start of the game by roughly forty minutes, the first quarter got underway. Richmond was first to get on the scoreboard after Spiders linebacker Dale Matthews picked off Virginia junior transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins’ pass and ran for a 72-yard touchdown. Although it wasn’t the start Perkins was hoping for, he proved what he was capable of just a few plays later when he rushed for 36-yards into the end-zone, marking the longest rush by a Virginia quarterback since 2014.
“After that first pick, we got it out, came up to the sideline, took a deep breath and said ‘I got it out now. Let’s just go play,” Perkins said.
Perkins flashed his speed again in the first quarter when he ran for a 22-yard touchdown to give the Cavaliers their first lead of the game and to make him the first quarterback since 2009 in program history to rush for two touchdowns in a single game. Perkins finished the night with 108 rushing yards.
“He just has that game-breaking speed and athletic ability to take it the distance whenever he has the ball in his hands,” senior running back Jordan Ellis said. “He took some tough hits today and he got right back up. He’s tough. That’s what we want in our quarterback.”
Ellis had tremendous success, himself, running for a career-high 146 yards and picking up two touchdowns.
“It felt good out there,” Ellis said. “Obviously, with Bryce having those two huge runs at the start of the game, it opened up the run game for us. That’s what we plan on doing. We are going to have to carry the team in the ground game. That’s what we are going to do.”
After Perkins’ second touchdown, the Cavaliers held on to the lead for the remainder of the night. Virginia went into the locker room at halftime with a solid 28-10 lead, and the team continued to widen that lead into the second half. After adding two more touchdowns, the Cavaliers finished off the night with a 42-13 win. As a team, the Cavaliers totaled 492 yards on offense, with 301 rushing yards, marking the first time that the team rushed for at least 200 yards under Mendenhall.
“This was the expectation, to come in here and win – not only win, but dominate,” senior wide-receiver Olamide Zaccheaus said. “We hold ourselves to a new standard, as we’ve been saying, and that was the expectation – to come in here and dominate in all three phases. This is the result we’ve worked for. We’ve just got to move forward and prepare for Indiana.”
Zaccheaus was another crucial player to Virginia’s offensive success – as he has been throughout his career for the Cavaliers – picking up 101 receiving yards, and scoring one touchdown. This was the fourth game in Zaccheaus’s career in which he had over 100 receiving yards.
Despite the dominating win, Zaccheaus acknowledged that the Cavaliers aren’t where they want to be.
“We had a lot of mistakes and dropped balls,” Zaccheuas said.” We can’t be where we need to be the first game of the year. It’s just not possible. Of course there’s more that we can do. It’s just little things we have to do and make sure Bryce is comfortable and confident.”
Virginia’s next chance to get the little things right comes on Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m., when they take on Indiana on the road. Last year, Indiana (1-0) However, Mendenhall believes the team is in a different place than last year.
“I am pleased with the progress our program is making,” Mendenhall said. “I recognize we are still at the beginning of what this season will look like, this offense will look like, and this team. But there is a different poise, a different maturity, a different clarity and confidence certainly from two years ago or three years ago in our opener."