If Bryce Perkins hasn’t already solidified a spot in Virginia football lore, there’s no better opportunity than his last appearance at Scott Stadium.
In two seasons as UVa’s quarterback, Perkins has set the school record for total offense in a season, led the Cavaliers to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2004-05 and tossed three touchdown passes in a 28-0 Belk Bowl victory over South Carolina.
He also received the Bill Dudley Award as the 2018 state player of the year.
What he hasn’t done — in fact, what Virginia’s team hasn’t done since 2003 — is beat Virginia Tech.
The ’Hoos and Hokies square off at noon Friday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
Could this be Perkins’ crowning accomplishment?
He enrolled at Virginia for the winter semester of 2018 after leading Arizona Western to the junior college championship game. He had begun his career at Arizona State but never played for the Sun Devils as the result of a broken bone in his neck.
“I’m happy that, throughout all my ups and downs, I came here and was part of this legacy and part of this team,” he said, “and I hope that when I leave, that this team is known as one of the best UVa teams.
“When I leave, I hope that the legacy of me is the legacy of us as a team.”
After a slow start, Virginia Tech has the same record as Virginia, which is 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the ACC’s Coastal Division. The winner of Friday’s game will meet Atlantic Division winner Clemson in the ACC title game.
“Shoot, we almost lost to ODU,” Perkins said prior to a 55-27 victory over Liberty last Saturday. “Throughout the last couple of games, I’ve seen things that I need to improve on. I feel like I am improving still.”
In his only other game against the Hokies, the Cavaliers would have won with a touchdown. However, a bobbled exchange led to a Perkins fumble that was recovered by the Hokies, who prevailed 34-31.
Quarterbacks coach Jason Beck said at mid-week that he believes the ending of the 2018 game has left Perkins with a score to settle.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Beck said. “He’s very competitive. He’s very driven and critical of himself. He did not play his best. At times, he played really well, but he had some mistakes that really hurt, so I’m sure he’s excited to get back out there and kind of redeem himself.”
Perkins hasn’t spoken to the media since the Monday before the Liberty game. He was excused after the game after doing as many or more interviews than any other UVa player this season. He was on the slate early this week but there were numerous conflicts as Thanksgiving and a Friday game loomed.
“No matter what, if he’s playing good or not playing good, he’s the same guy,” Beck said.
Perkins is listed at 6 foot 3 and 215 pounds. Tech sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker, the Hokies’ starter over the second half of the season, is 6-4 and 228 pounds.
“They’re both good runners; I think they have a similar type of pocket presence,” said Kelly Poppinga, who coaches the UVa outside linebackers and serves as co-defensive coordinator. “They’ve got a similar pocket presence. If they don’t like what they see, they’re going to take off and run.
“I think [Hooker is] more of a physical runner than Bryce, where I think Bryce likes to avoid contact and run out of bounds.”
Nevertheless, Perkins leads the Cavaliers in rushing with 523 net yards (756 before losses). Wayne Taulapapa, who was injured last week, is second on the team in rushing with 399 yards. Perkins is almost certain to be the first quarterback to lead the Cavaliers in rushing since Bob Davis in 1964.
A victory for the Cavaliers would no doubt help Perkins put the 2018 fumble to rest.
“I think it can be a catalyst for the best preparation possible,” UVa coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “All the significant victories or losses, man, they embed within your fiber.
“That one play certainly received all the attention because that’s how the game ended. I think we have to acknowledge that it was maybe the most visible of many decisions and things along the way.”