CHARLOTTESVILLE —The Florida State football team that everybody remembered came to life Saturday night at Scott Stadium.
And, at the end, so did Virginia.
A 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore Wayne Taulapapa, followed by a two-point conversion run by quarterback Bryce Perkins with 2:34 remaining enabled UVa to rally past the Seminoles 31-24.
The Cavaliers then had to weather three major penalties on Florida State’s final drive before tackling Cam Akers within yards of the spot where the Cavaliers stopped Warrick Dunn in UVa’s epic victory over FSU in 1995.
“Our defense is built to make those stops,” UVa quarterback Bryce Perkins said to The ACC Network. “No matter how many penalties they call or how many plays they make, our defense is going to stop them.”
Of the three late penalties, two were interference calls, and the other was an unsportsmanlike flag that Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall told the ACC Network was thrown on him. That was the one that concerned him the most.
“I didn’t set a very good example of keeping my composure,” Mendenhall said. “I would have been disappointed if what I did had cost us the win. Our team and coaching staff deserved to win this game.”
While the Seminoles were giving up a total of 80 points in their first two games, they were also scoring 76 points and that’s the side Virginia saw as the Seminoles built 24-17 lead.
The Cavaliers, who earlier in the week had entered the Top 25 at 2-0, beat Florida State for the fourth time in 19 meetings.
A crowd of 57,826 was the largest for a Virginia home game during the four-year Mendenhall coaching era, surpassing the crowd of 48,609 for the Cavaliers 2017 game with Virginia Tech.
“I’m so thankful that the community and the state has come out to support us like this,” Mendenhall told The ACC Network. “It makes such a difference.”
Saturday night’s game was scoreless until UVa’s Brian Delaney kicked a 39-yard field goal to give the Cavaliers a 3-0 lead with 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Florida State, a 15-time ACC champion, took its first lead of the night shortly thereafter as James Blackman connected with Gabe Nabers on a 10-yard touchdown with 12:21 left in the half.
Virginia regained the lead on a Wayne Taulapapa 3-yard run that made it 10-7 with 8:58 left before halftime.
The third lead change of the second quarter gave the Seminoles a 14-10 margin on a 3-yard pass from Blackman to Cam Akers with 38 second left in the half.
At that point, Virginia had outgained the Seminoles 208-187, with Perkins accounting for 178 yards — 138 passing and 40 rushing.
The situation didn’t get much better after halftime as the Cavaliers kicked off, stopped FSU on downs and then found itself in a first-and-28 from its own 3-yard line.
A 47-yard Nash Griffin punt to the FSU 41 gave Virginia some breathing room. But FSU clearly had the momentum by that point, thanks to touted running back Cam Akers, who had rushed for 20 yards on eight carries in the first half.
The Cavaliers were unable to flip the field before Ricky Aguayo kicked a 53-yard field goal that gave Florida State a 17-10 lead with 5:48 left in the third quarter.
Virginia subsequently forced the first tie of the night on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Perkins to Joe Reed to make it 17-17 with 14:15 left.
Florida State needed only two minutes and 33 seconds to regain the lead, 24-17, on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Blackman to Keyshawn Helton with 11:42 left.