Virginia beat Liberty 55-27 Saturday afternoon on a cold day at Scott Stadium, overcoming early struggles to win in dominant fashion.
The Cavaliers (8-3, 5-2 ACC) took down the Flames (6-5) with a strong offensive performance. Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins had 199 yards passing, 2 passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. Three other players also had rushing touchdowns, including junior running back PK Kier, who led the team with 82 yards rushing.
“It’s our ideal,” Coach Bronco Mendenhall said about the team’s offensive performance. “You have the running back run game in addition to the quarterback run game … It’s encouraging, it’s needed, it’s necessary and it’s coming at the right time.”
To start off the game, the Cavaliers forced the Flames into a three-and-out and then used good field position to engineer a touchdown drive. Junior wide receiver Terrell Jana’s catch put Virginia up 7-0.
After another quick stop, junior kicker Brian Delaney connected on a 26-yard field goal to extend the Cavaliers’ lead to 10 points late in the first quarter.
On the subsequent drive, the Cavaliers appeared to be headed toward another stop, but the Flames converted on third down and a 56-yard pass put them within striking distance. Liberty senior running back Frankie Hickson punched it in for the 6-yard score to make it 10-7 and bring the first quarter to a close.
Liberty’s momentum didn’t end there, continuing to play well to start the second quarter. Facing 3rd and 17 at the Virginia 32 yard line, senior quarterback Stephen Calvert delivered a touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Noah Frith put the Flames on top, 14-10.
Virginia’s offense continued to struggle to get anything going and was stuffed on 4th down in Flames’ territory.
But junior safety De’Vante Cross’ interception turned things around in the next play. Calvert heaved it up under pressure and Cross came down with it, returning it into Liberty territory.
Perkins and the offense did the rest of the work, setting up junior running back Lamont Atkins’ first career touchdown to help Virginia regain the lead, 17-14.
“I ran it in there, got the ball, my boy PK [Kier], he made a really good block for me,” Atkins said when describing his first touchdown. “I get in the end zone, and I’m like ‘Wait a minute, I’m in the end zone right now.’ It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”
Atkins had a 33-yard carry to set up another Virginia touchdown. This time freshman running back Mike Hollins punched it in for the score, sending the Cavaliers into the break up 24-14.
On the first drive of the second half, the Flames had appeared to stop the Cavaliers, and the Virginia field goal unit was out. Then redshirt freshman quarterback Brennan Armstrong came out and threw a pass to junior linebacker Charles Snowden for the first down. Perkins came back in after the trick play and connected with senior wide receiver Joe Reed to put Virginia up 31-14.
After pinning Liberty with a great punt, the Cavaliers forced Liberty into a three-and-out. Liberty then punted the ball just 14 yards, giving the Cavaliers the ball in the red zone. Perkins finished the drive off with a two-yard touchdown run.
After 28 unanswered points for Virginia, Liberty finally scored the following drive to make it 38-21. Calvert threw the touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden for the score.
Virginia responded with a touchdown drive of its own, going 81 yards for the score. Kier led the Cavaliers with a 38-yard run to get within striking distance, and Kier punched it in the following play with a four-yard run.
The teams then traded field goals, and Cross came up with his second interception of the game to set up Virginia with the football. Armstrong came in to replace Perkins and delivered a touchdown strike to freshman wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks, padding the Cavaliers’ lead.
Liberty made a field goal as time expired to make the final score 55-27.
Next up for the Cavaliers is Virginia Tech Friday afternoon at Scott Stadium. The stakes are high as Virginia looks to end its 15-game losing streak against the Hokies.