CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall doesn’t seem inclined to slacken the pace that could result in a quarterback leading the team in rushing for the first time in 55 years.
Senior Bryce Perkins was the Cavaliers’ leading rusher through six games, only to be passed Saturday by sophomore Wayne Taulapapa, who has rushed for 287 yards, compared to Perkins’ 253.
It wouldn’t be close if Perkins hadn’t been sacked 22 times, resulting in 140 yards in losses.
The last quarterback to finish a season as UVa’s leading rusher was Bob Davis with 427 yards in 1964.
Davis went on to become the 1966 ACC player of the year and was chosen by the Houston Oilers in the second round of the 1967 NFL Draft.
Davis finished the 1964 seasons with 84 rushing attempts. In comparison, Perkins had 212 rushing attempts last year.
He’s on a similar pace this year, with 106 attempts after seven games.
Mendenhall doesn’t anticipate any let-up in the calls for Perkins to run the ball. In fact, his work load could increase now that back-up Brennan Armstrong, a redshirt freshman, appears closer to full strength.
Armstrong hasn’t played since the second game of the season, when he came off the bench to complete nine of 10 passes for 103 yards in the Cavaliers’ 52-13 victory over William and Mary.
Not long after that, Armstrong was seen wearing a boot as the result of a lower-leg injury or condition.
Sophomore Lindell Stone has subbed for Perkins twice in mop-up situations.
“We’ve made an effort not to include [Perkins] in the run game while our primary back-up has been hurt,” Mendenhall said Monday as the Cavaliers turned their attention to a 3:30 p.m. Saturday game at Louisville.
“Knowing that would not only affect that game but possibly the rest of the season.”
That hasn’t taken any of the emphasis away from winning.
“If that means running the quarterback more, we’ll do that,” Mendenhall said. “I don’t have a certain number of plays, but we do have yardage thresholds and point thresholds and we intend to use every player we have to get to those marks.”
It turns out, Armstrong actually was cleared to play against Duke.
“We had an option to play him but at the risk of not quite being ready yet, so we chose not to,” Mendenhall said.
Remarkably, Perkins’ 22 rushing attempts Saturday against Duke were a season high. He had four games with 21 or more rushing attempts last year, topped by his 25 attempts in a torrential downpour at Indiana.
He had 24 rushing attempts in a 34-31 loss last year at Virginia Tech, where he might have recorded a career high if he hadn’t lost a game-ending fumble in overtime. He was on a similar pace Saturday but wasn’t needed in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Mendenhall confirmed that 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive lineman Tommy Christ, a sophomore who started three games on defense last year, has moved to offense. … Ryan Swoboda, who had started two games at offensive tackle, did not play Saturday and his status had not been updated Monday. … After connecting on 48 of 49 point-after kicks over the past two seasons, Brian Delaney gave way to back-up Justin Duenkel for the final PAT on Saturday.