Perkins’ brilliant Virginia run ends with Orange Bowl loss

NCAA Football
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP)Bryce Perkins’ last game at Virginia was a loss.

It shouldn’t be how he gets remembered.

Perkins’ college career ended Monday night, when the Cavaliers were defeated 36-28 by Florida at the Orange Bowl. His numbers were stellar, as usual – 28 of 40 passing with four touchdowns, his 323 yards through the air pushing him to 6,218 passing yards for his two seasons at the helm of Virginia’s offense.

And while that is how he walked off the field for the final time as a collegian, keep in mind all he went through to get to the Orange Bowl. How he went to Arizona State originally, didn’t play as a true freshman and then missed the subsequent year because of a broken neck that could have derailed his football career. How he got his game back at a place called Arizona Western Community College, which he led to the junior college national championship game in 2017.

“It wasn’t perfect this year,” Perkins said earlier this month. “We had a couple ugly losses. The way we fought back, the way that we were resilient, is right on line with the program’s growth and the program’s culture that coach built these past years that he was here.”

He’s right. The Cavaliers were resilient, rallying for a 4-0 record in November after dropping three games in a four-game stretch midway through the season.

They might have taken their cues from one of their leaders.

“I say he’s fiercely resilient,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said.

There’s no other way to describe him, really.

Perkins got to Virginia in January 2018. The Cavaliers have played 27 games since. He started all 27, got Virginia its first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title this season – as well as the long-awaited win over archrival Virginia Tech after 15 consecutive losses in the series.

There was no ACC title – Virginia was thumped by College Football Playoff reigning champion and current finalist Clemson – and the Orange Bowl win wasn’t to be either. But he did become Virginia’s all-time total offense leader, in just two seasons. His final pass as a collegian went for a touchdown.

And next up, he hopes, is the NFL.

After all, that’s the usual route for those in many in his family. His father Bruce played in the NFL, as did his uncle Don, and his brother Paul has appeared in 29 games over the last four seasons for the New York Giants and Detroit Lions.

“I’m getting better,” Bryce Perkins said in the days before the Orange Bowl. “I feel like I get better every year. … I feel like my ceiling is high. I haven’t reached my potential yet. And how the NFL is shifting, there’s room and there’s a place for my style of play.”

He’s a dual-threat quarterback, and points to Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson – the likely NFL MVP this season – as an example of how the pro game is changing.

Before Perkins arrived, Virginia had one quarterback in 128 years of football throw for 200 yards and rush for 100 in the same game – Bob Davis did it once, in 1965. Perkins did it five times in his two seasons with the Cavaliers, three times this November alone. And he points to his skill-set as something he thinks the NFL wants right now.

“It’s going to give a lot of guys chances, and I feel like I fit right into that,” Perkins said.

Time will tell if he’s right. It’s already clear that, at Virginia, he was the perfect fit.

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