Olamide Zaccheaus ended his Cavalier football career by scoring three touchdowns and winning the game’s Most Outstanding Player award, as Virginia used a balanced offensive attack and a smothering defense to shutout the South Carolina Gamecocks 28-0, their first bowl victory in thirteen years.
Virginia scored a touchdown in each quarter, dominating both sides of the ball.
Bryce Perkins threw 3 touchdown passes, all to Zaccheaus, including a 6-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to draw first blood. Jordan Ellis ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries for Virginia, who improved to 7-0 on the season when Ellis gets at least 15 carries.
The Cavaliers controlled the running game, with 205 yards of rushing offense while the defense held South Carolina to just 43 yards on the ground.
The most competitive aspect of the game was supposed to be South Carolina’s vaunted passing attack against Virginia’s 14th-ranked passing defense. Gamecock quarterback Jake Bentley was a game removed from torching Clemson’s defense for five touchdowns, but was missing star receiver Deebo Samuel, who sat out to prepare for the NFL draft. The Cavalier secondary limited Bentley to 218 yards and intercepted him twice.
The Virginia defense made big plays at critical points in the game, holding South Carolina to 4 of 18 on 3rd and 4th down conversions and picking Bentley off to end important Gamecock drives to stop them from getting back in the game.
A vital key to Virginia’s victory was time of possession, with the Hoos possessing the ball for 42:35, as compared to South Carolina’s 17:25. Virginia milked the clock on their scoring drives, with three of their four touchdown drives lasting at least five minutes.
It was a banner day for Cavalier seniors playing their last game, as all 4 touchdowns were scored by seniors Olamide Zaccheaus and Jordan Ellis, while Tim Harris and Juan Thornhill each had one interception.
With the win, Virginia finished the season with an 8-5 record, an improvement from last year’s 6-7 campaign. The season’s success is especially influential when compared to just 2 years ago, when the team went 2-10 in Bronco Mendenhall’s first year as head coach.
Bryce Perkins said “This is the first step toward making big strides. Next year we want the Coastal Division and the ACC championship.”
We will just have to wait and see.