Virginia clinches ACC Coastal, snaps 15-game losing streak to Virginia Tech

Thanks to a monster performance from Bryce Perkins, Virginia snapped a 15-game losing streak to rival Virginia Tech. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

The streak has finally come to an end. 

With a 39-30 win on Friday in Charlottesville, Virginia knocked off rival Virginia Tech for the first time since 2003, snapping a streak of 15 consecutive losses to the Hokies in the Commonwealth Cup. With the victory, Virginia claimed the ACC Coastal Division title, clinching a trip to the ACC championship game for the first time in program history. 

Virginia jumped out to a 13-6 halftime lead thanks to two long touchdown runs by quarterback Bryce Perkins. The second half was all about the passing attack from Perkins and Virginia Tech’s Hendon Hooker.

Between the 9:00 mark of the third quarter and the 7:35 mark of the fourth quarter, there were six straight scoring drives, four touchdowns and two field goals, to tie the score at 30-30. On the next possession, however, the Virginia defense finally made a play. 

Facing a third-and-17 from near midfield, Hooker forced one into traffic that was intercepted by Virginia’s Noah Taylor — a play that gave the ball back to the Virginia offense at its own 35 with 4:47 to play. 

With Perkins at the controls, Virginia moved the ball just far enough to get into range for kicker Brian Delaney. Delaney, who missed an extra point in the first quarter, stepped up and drilled a 48-yard field goal to give his team a 33-30 lead with 1:23 to play.

Virginia Tech would regain possession with a chance to go in front, but the Cavaliers defense was up to the task. Hooker was sacked on three consecutive downs. The third sack of Hooker was a strip sack in the end zone that was recovered by Eli Hanback for a game-sealing and celebration-inducing touchdown.

Virginia will play Clemson for ACC title

Virginia’s win on Friday gives the program its first division title. And perhaps more notably, gives the ACC Coastal a different champion for the seventh consecutive season. 

Duke won the division in 2013 before it went to Georgia Tech in 2014, North Carolina in 2015, Virginia Tech in 2016, Miami in 2017, Pittsburgh in 2018 and finally Virginia — the only team that hadn’t won it — this season. 

The win gives Virginia the chance to duke it out with mighty Clemson in the ACC title game in Charlotte next weekend. Clemson, No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, is 11-0 heading into Saturday’s game against rival South Carolina. 

The Tigers are the defending national champions and haven’t lost a game since losing to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals two seasons ago on Jan. 1, 2018.

While Virginia will be massive underdogs against Clemson, Friday’s win could vault UVA up the bowl pecking order. As the second-best ACC team, Virginia would almost certainly be slotted into the Orange Bowl with Clemson seeming like a lock to make the College Football Playoff.

Monster performance by Bryce Perkins

Bronco Mendenhall seemed like a strange fit when he left BYU for Virginia after the 2015 season. Virginia went 2-10 in his first season, reached a bowl game in Year 2, but now has cemented itself among the top ACC Coastal programs with back-to-back winning seasons. The emergence of Perkins has played a massive role in the program’s rise.

Perkins arrived in January 2018 as a junior college transfer and quickly became the team’s starting quarterback. A bruising runner who continues to get better and better as a passer, Perkins had one of his best games on Friday against a defense that had posted back-to-back shutouts in its previous two games.

He gashed the Hokies for touchdown runs of 39 and 67 yards in the first half before hitting a bevy of explosive plays through the air in the second half. In all, Perkins completed 20-of-33 passes for 311 yards while going for a career-high 164 yards rushing. Now Perkins will get the chance to play on the massive stage that is a conference championship game.

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