CHARLOTTESVILLE — For the fledgling ACC Network hoping to entice viewers with video replays of the 1995 and 2011 Virginia-Florida State football games, now there’s a trilogy.
“Anyone that was in the stadium today witnessed an amazing football game,” said Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall after UVa had outlasted the Seminoles 31-24 at Scott Stadium on Saturday night.
The Cavaliers, who moved up four spots in the new AP Top 25 Poll released Sunday to No. 21, trailed on three separate occasions, the last after a 17-yard touchdown pass from James Blackman to Keyshawn Helton put Florida State on top 24-17, with 11:42 remaining.
Virginia (3-0, 2-0 ACC) was on the verge of tying the game on a 1-yard touchdown run by Wayne Taulapapa with 6:02 remaining. However, kicker Brian Delaney missed the extra point after going 37-for-37 in his career to that point.
That set the stage for Taulapapa’s third touchdown of the night, a 2-yard run with 2:34 remaining. UVa quarterback Bryce Perkins added a two-point conversion run, but the game was hardly over.
The Seminoles (1-2, 0-1) marched from their 25-yard line to the UVa 4 before Cam Akers was stopped short of the end zone by the Cavaliers’ Bryce Hall and De’Vante Cross as time expired and fans engulfed the field.
“I felt lucky to be part of it,” said Mendenhall, who in his fourth season as UVa’s coach was facing the Seminoles for the first time. “To have so many people come and support us was so gratifying.”
The crowd of 57,826 was the largest of Mendenhall’s UVa tenure.
“From the student section to the stands, to the upper deck, to the hill in the end zone, man, what an amazing setting,” Mendenhall gushed.
UVa also made its season debut in the Top 25 coaches poll this week at No. 22.
Florida State, with 15 ACC championships on its resume, had won 15 of the previous 18 games in the series.
“Our guys balled hard, but we didn’t finish in the fourth quarter,” second-year Seminoles coach Willie Taggart said. “We didn’t make enough plays against a tough, good football team.”
As usual, the Cavaliers were led by senior quarterback Bryce Perkins, who shattered a rock, a locker-room tradition following UVa wins.
He completed 30 of 41 passes for 295 yards and one touchdown, and added 46 yards on the ground.
“How do you stop him?” Mendenhall said. “We’re not growing it at the rate we’re growing it without Bryce Perkins. He plays within the system really well and he plays outside the system really well, and we need both.
“He’s exemplary. I’m so lucky he’s here and we’re so lucky he’s here, not only by how he plays but who he is. Without him, we don’t win.”
The final minutes were nerve-wracking for the Cavaliers, who appeared to have the Seminoles stopped on a fourth-and-5 play from the FSU 45, only to have senior linebacker Jordan Mack called for a personal foul as a result of an illegal hit on QB Blackman.
Earlier in the drive, when it appeared that Florida State had been stopped on fourth-and-15 from its 20, Mendenhall was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that followed a pass interference call against UVa’s Nick Grant.
“I’ve already apologized to my team for my personal foul,” Mendenhall said. “It was my first ever. I didn’t set a very good example in that one case.”
Taulapapa’s third touchdown run of the night was the fourth lead change in a game that also was tied 17-17 after a 12-yard touchdown pass from Perkins to Joe Reed early in the fourth quarter.
“The combination between him and Bryce in the short-yardage situations … they just wouldn’t be stopped,” Mendenhall said.
Reed had eight receptions for 83 yards, along with a 22-yard run and a 35-yard kickoff return.
Defensively, UVa was led by Mack, who had 13 tackles, including four on Florida State’s final drive.
However, Mack also had the unsportsmanlike penalty on fourth down late in the drive.
“I don’t know if I can describe what it was to live and play through it,” Mendenhall said. “It felt like we had the game won three different times. Our defensive heart and effort was magical. I won’t forget this one … ever.”