As soon as they returned to Charlottesville, those returning players determined that 2018 would not end that way.
Bryce Perkins threw three touchdown passes to Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia's defense dominated and the Cavaliers beat SC 28-0 in the Belk Bowl on Saturday for their first bowl win since 2005. But it was the Gamecocks who ate crow. Virginia's defense ranks 14th in the nation against the pass and is allowing less than 22 points per game. Expect South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley to be the deciding factor of this game. "Bentley is coming into the game is playing his best football".
When the Belk Bowl matchup was announced, it was a trip many Virginia fans were eager to make. At first, Muschamp simply said he didn't know why Fenton didn't play, adding, "He was out the second half".
It was Coach Bronco Mendenhall's first win in a bowl game, and the Cavaliers' first win in a bowl game since 2005.
That the Virginia Cavaliers came away with a victory over SC in the Belk Bowl on Saturday may not have been a surprise to many.
That turned out to be one of the last times he saw the field in his USC career. It ended the regular season with an overtime loss to the Hokies, its 15th straight loss in the rivalry.
Riddle me this: Until Saturday, sophomore linebacker Spencer Eason-Riddle was known mostly for being named to the SEC's community service team this year.
The Cavaliers had plenty left and it showed from wire-to-wire.
"They move him around and do a really good job of presenting him in some different spots, whether it be in the backfield or at receiver", SC coach Will Muschamp said. "They came out with more intensity than we did and jumped on us real quick". It goes to a 21-0 game, it changes our approach a little bit and they go to some exotic pressures and some different things and some double edge pressure and they did a nice job of designing some things there. "I'm not going to put that on the offensive line".More news: Partial Federal Shutdown Into Ninth Day With Trump Blaming Democrats
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Virginia does not lose bowl games in Charlotte. But he was ruled down just a few chain links short of the first down, and SC had a decision to make.
SC fell to 7-6 on the season, while Virginia improved to 8-5. Meanwhile, UVA converted 11 of 17 third downs and its only fourth-down attempt.
"It wasn't just going, it was winning", Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall says, "Yeah, maybe we won't be picked last (in the preseason poll)". Fortunately for them, they have other good skill players. "They played exactly as they prepared".
Zaccheaus and senior running back Jordan Ellis had big final games for U.Va. (8-5), and the defense stifled the normally high scoring Gamecocks (7-6), twice stopping them on fourth down and holding them off the scoreboard.
"We are significantly closer (to arriving)", Mendenhall said. "And he's a guy that you appreciate as a coach, watching him play".
Virginia defensive back Bryce Hall announced he is returning for his senior season after contemplating entering the National Football League draft.
The 90-yard drive lasted 8:10, showing the Cavaliers' capability to move the ball while taking time off the clock. Virginia's incredible defense, however, came up with another huge stop as the Gamecocks threatened to score. "We're not done. This is the first step".
Virginia's eight wins overall was tied for the most in the ACC Coastal Division this year.