Editor’s note: The Roanoke Times is taking an early look at every game on Virginia Tech’s 2019 schedule. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday this summer for a new preview.
The countdown clock reset when Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins fumbled in overtime at Lane Stadium.
Virginia accomplished a lot in 2018 — the program had its most wins since 2011, made back-to-back bowls for the first time in more than a decade — but the Commonwealth Cup remained out of its grasp as did a Coastal Division title.
The stakes could be just as high when the next chapter of the historic rivalry rolls around on Nov. 29 in Charlottesville.
Last year vs. Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech W 34-31 OT
What happened? Virginia Tech’s 15th straight win in the Commonwealth Cup was a special one. The first overtime game in the history of the rivalry came down to a 42-yard field goal from Brian Johnson and Bryce Perkins’ game-ending fumble.
“That was fantastic,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said, after the game. “I’m not sure what to say about the game. There were a lot of plays on both sides of the ball. Two teams that obviously wanted to find a way to win the game.”
Virginia Tech needed a desperation drive in the final minutes to force overtime after Virginia came storming back from a 14-0 halftime deficit. The Cavaliers scored on four straight possessions in the second half to take a 31-24 lead with 2:41 to go in the game.
Virginia linebacker Charles Snowden’s interception with 3:40 left almost sealed the win, but a five-play, 75-yard drive saved Tech’s season. Hokies running back Steven Peoples scored the game-tying touchdown with 1:51 left.
Position(s) of strength: While much of the league searches for answers at quarterback this fall, Virginia isn’t sweating anything.
The Cavaliers have Bryce Perkins under center looking to follow up on a season that saw him set the school’s single-season record for total offense (3,603 yards) and touchdowns (34). The only real blemish for the dynamic dual threat was the overtime turnover against Virginia Tech, a play that’s haunted and fueled him throughout the offseason.
Virginia’s optimism about the 2019 season doesn’t just stem from Perkins though. Much of last year’s top 20 defense is coming back led by pre-season All-ACC defensive back Bryce Hall.
Ch...ch...changes: Virginia hit the transfer portal to replenish an offensive line that lost three starters (two graduated, one transferred). The Cavaliers signed Air Force lineman Victor Oluwatimi and Penn State lineman Alex Gellerstedt. Oluwatimi is expected to start at center while Gellerstedt is settling in at tackle.
Virginia’s offensive line has given up more than 30 sacks each of the past three seasons. With the Cavaliers looking to keep Perkins healthy, the offensive line need to bring that number down in 2019.
Lingering questions: The biggest question mark for Virginia is at running back where it needs to replace Jordan Ellis. Ellis had 1,026 yards last season with 10 touchdowns. The Cavs were 5-0 the last two years when he rushed for 100-plus yards. Perkins gives Virginia a running threat in the backfield on every play, but they will miss Ellis’ steady hand. He had 200-plus carries each of the last two seasons.
PK Kier and Wayne Taulapapa are the names to watch, but matching Ellis’ workload won’t be easy.
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