CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Bryce Perkins threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more and Virginia beat Liberty 45-24 Saturday.
Joe Reed caught both scoring throws, of 14 and six yards, and also returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown for the Cavaliers (7-3), who ensured their first winning season since the 2011 team finished 8-5. Virginia outgained the Flames just 389 to 354, but intercepted Stephen Calvert three times.
Frankie Hickson ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns and Peytton Pinkett ran for 117 yards and another score for the Flames (4-5).
Perkins finished 14 for 22 for 168 yards with one interception. He also ran for 89 yards on just nine carries.
“Phenomenal player,” Liberty coach Turner Gill said. “He’s the key to their having a lot of success offensively and staying on the field. ... He’s a very, very, very good football player and I think as he goes, they’re going to go.”
Virginia led just 24-17 at halftime after Liberty scored 10 points in 28 second late in the half, but Reed took the second half kickoff down the Virginia sideline for a touchdown. After Liberty answered with a 65-yard drive that took under three minutes, Virginia’s punt was downed at the Flames’ 5. Liberty opted to go for it facing a fourth-and-inches from its own 14, but Brenton Nelson broke up Calvert’s pass and Perkins ran it in three plays later from the 9.
“I actually admired the decision,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. The Flames had converted two earlier fourth down plays, one for a touchdown. “They came to win the game.”
Liberty: With a starting offensive line that averages 308 pounds, the Flames are looking more and more like their fellow FBS opponents. They rushed for 139 yards by halftime, nearly matching their average of 153.5 yards per game, and even stopped the Cavaliers on one of their five first-half drives when Bejour Wilson intercepted Perkins, setting up Frankie Hickson’s 7-yard scoring run on the next play. The defense needs vast improvement, but almost all their skill players on offense are underclassmen, so the offense should give them an increasing chance against better competition.
Virginia: The Cavaliers seemed surprised that the Flames featured the run game so much and allowed Peytton Pickett to gain 47 yards on his first two carries, setting up Hickson’s first touchdown for Liberty on a nothing-to-lose fourth-and-goal play from the 1. Virginia plays Georgia Tech and its triple option next week and will need to shore up its run defense significantly before then.
Liberty goes back on the road to play another Power Five conference school, Auburn.
Virginia gets back into ACC Coastal Division play on the road at Georgia Tech.
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