With the Commonwealth Cup, the ACC Coastal and a lot of pride on the line, Virginia knocked off Virginia Tech, 39-30, behind 475 total yards from senior quarterback Bryce Perkins.
After jumping out to an early 13-3 lead, the Cavaliers (9-3, 6-2 ACC) let the Hokies (8-4, 5-3 ACC) storm back into the game with 17 unanswered points. The two teams went back and forth for most of the fourth quarter before a couple of crucial plays on both offense and defense opened the door for Virginia to beat Virginia Tech and book a spot in the ACC championship game.
The Virginia offense struck first on the game’s opening drive despite some great defensive plays by Virginia Tech. Perkins ran for a first down twice in third-and-long situations to keep the drive alive before breaking loose for a 39-yard rushing touchdown to give the Cavaliers a 6-0 lead. The Virginia touchdown was the first time the Hokies’ defense allowed a score since Nov. 9.
While the Cavaliers forced a Virginia Tech three-and-out on the next drive, an interception from Perkins gave the Hokies the ball right back. Virginia’s red zone defense held Virginia Tech to a field goal as the Cavaliers’ lead was cut to 6-3.
Virginia’s response was immediate. On the Cavaliers’ next possession, Perkins burst through the Hokies’ defense and ran 67 yards to the end zone for yet another rushing touchdown.
Neither scored for over 15 minutes as both team’s defenses forced punt after punt. Virginia Tech finally ended the scoring drought late in the second quarter as another red zone drive ended in a field goal.
After scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter, Virginia was held scoreless in the second quarter and went into halftime with 13-6 lead.
Virginia Tech opened the second half with its first touchdown of the game. Sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker sidestepped multiple Virginia defenders on a 34-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 13-13.
The Hokies took their first lead of the game after junior running back Deshawn McClease dove into the end zone from the one-yard line. McClease’s run capped off a 71-yard drive that gave Virginia Tech a 20-13 lead.
The Cavaliers ended the Hokies’ 17-0 scoring run with a touchdown on their next drive. Perkins first connected with senior wide receiver Joe Reed with a 42-yard pass that got Virginia into Virginia Tech territory. Another pass from Perkins found sophomore halfback Billy Kemp IV who used a burst of speed to score Virginia’s first touchdown since the first quarter.
Hooker and the Hokies quickly regained the lead, launching a deep 61-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Tré Turner on the next drive. Virginia replied with multiple long passes of its own before finishing the drive with a two-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Wayne Taulapapa.
The rivals traded field goals before junior kicker Brian Delaney’s 48-yard field goal sailed through the uprights late in the fourth quarter. With 1:23 left in the game, Virginia held a 33-30 lead over Virginia Tech.
As the Hokies attempted a final drive to tie or win the game, three straight Cavalier sacks stifled Hooker and the rest of the offense. On the third down, junior defensive end Mandy Alonso stripped the ball from Hooker, which was recovered by senior defensive tackle Eli Hanback in the end zone for a touchdown. The big defensive score extended Virginia’s lead to 39-30 and effectively sealed the game for the Cavaliers.
In a rivalry game that was always going to go down to the wire, multiple Cavaliers stepped up exactly when they were needed to help Virginia upset Virginia Tech.
Virginia will next play in the 2019 ACC Championship Game Dec. 7 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.