UVa football: Stunned Cavaliers leave Blacksburg with more heartbreak

UVa football: Stunned Cavaliers leave Blacksburg with more heartbreak

BLACKSBURG — A 15th consecutive loss to its in-state rival was one thing. The fact that it was a second straight overtime loss only made matters worse for Virginia on Friday night.

“I’ve never experienced pain like this in my life,” said sophomore linebacker Charles Snowden, who stood to become a UVa hero when he intercepted a pass that gave the Cavaliers a one-touchdown lead late in regulation.

The Hokies rallied to tie the score with 1:41 remaining in regulation and outlasted the Cavaliers 34-31 on a 42-yard Brian Johnson field goal on the first possession of overtime.

The Cavaliers quickly responded with an 11-yard pass from Bryce Perkins to Hasise Dubois that gave them a first down at the Tech 14. However, on the next play, Perkins fumbled and the Hokies’ Emmanuel Belmar recovered to end the game.

One week earlier, Virginia (7-5, 4-4 ACC) had lost at Georgia Tech in double overtime, 30-27. Friday’s loss was the Cavaliers’ third in four November games.

“This last one was a heartbreaker down till the end,” said UVa offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who declined questions. “With that said, we need to do a better job of securing the ball.”

Perkins’ game-ending fumble was the Cavaliers’ fifth of the night, three of which they lost. Perkins was responsible for two of them and a third came on a blocked punt that Tech recovered in the end zone that gave the Hokies a 14-0 lead.

The Cavaliers came out blazing in the second half behind Perkins, who threw a pair of touchdown passes to Joe Reed in the third quarter. The Cavaliers took their first lead on a 29-yard scoring pass from Perkins to Dubois in the third quarter.

“We had the game in our hands and we let it slip away,” Dubois said.

Perkins completed 14 of 29 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns and also had 24 rushing attempts for a game-high 112 yards. It was the fourth time this season that Perkins had rushed for 100 yards or more.

There was some confusion as to whether he was trying to hand off or not on the game-ending fumble, although Jordan Ellis said he was not expecting the ball.

“He pulled it,” said Ellis, indicating that an exchange was not part of the play. “I saw someone recover it and that’s all I saw.

“It wasn’t his fault. We had plenty more chances to win the game. I just told him to keep his head up. He’s only a junior and times like this will make him stronger down the road.”

The overtime had started well for Virginia as Perkins connected with Dubois on an 11-yard completion that gave them a first down at the Hokies’ 14. One play later, the game was over.

Perkins, who either passed or ran the ball on 53 of UVa’s 67 offensive plays, looked physically drained as he headed to the team locker after the game and did not stop for questions.

“We had the game in our hands and he led us all the way,” Dubois said of Perkins. “I felt, in the first half, we were just beating ourselves. That’s what we told ourselves at halftime. We were killing ourselves with penalties and other things.”

UVa had five penalties for 52 yards in the first half, with only two penalties for 10 yards in the second half.

Until last week, the Cavaliers had played one overtime game in a 10-year span. There was no record of UVa playing back-to-back overtime games, much less losing them.

“It’s tough, it’s part of the growing pains of building an exceptional program,” UVa coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “It was a great college football game. You can’t get closer than we currently are and there’s not much else to say.”