Charlotte, N.C. — Shortly after winning the Belk Bowl and earning Virginia its first bowl victory since 2005, quarterback Bryce Perkins raised the bar.
“This is the first step toward making big strides,” Perkins said. “Next year we want the Coastal Division — and the ACC championship.”
That would mean knocking off perennial ACC power Clemson, which has won four straight conference titles.
For now though, the Cavaliers (8-5) will have to settle for savoring an impressive 28-0 win over South Carolina in the Belk Bowl, a win that snapped the longest bowl drought in the ACC.
Perkins threw three touchdown passes to Olamide Zaccheaus, the game’s Most Outstanding Player, and Virginia’s 14th-ranked pass defense dominated a South Carolina team that had averaged more than 38 points over its previous five games.
Perkins completed 22 of 31 passes for 208 yards and ran for 81 yards. Zaccheaus had 12 catches for 100 yards and Jordan Ellis ran for 106 yards and a touchdown as Virginia held more than a 24-minute edge in time of possession.
Perkins said he felt chemistry with Zaccheaus the first day he transferred in last year from Arizona Western Community College — and his favorite target agreed.
“The biggest thing with me and Bryce is we get along so well off the field — and that just carries over,” Zaccheaus said. “Even when I might not make a play or he might not make a play, it’s like, ‘Who wants it on the next play?’ We’re the same that way.”
Virginia’s defense was relentless.
It put the clamps on quarterback Jake Bentley, who had thrown for 16 touchdowns over the previous five games, including a 510-yard, five-TD performance against Clemson this month. Bentley was limited to 218 yards on 17-of-39 passing and was intercepted twice.
South Carolina was 2 of 13 on third down conversions and 2 of 5 on fourth downs.
The Gamecocks clearly weren’t the same playing without wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who bypassed the bowl game to begin preparing for the NFL draft.
Coach Will Muschamp said he was “disappointed” in the team’s performance, adding “we didn’t put on a good show and that’s on me.”
Bentley said he didn’t play well at all.
“The interceptions especially and then not executing in the red zone is a tough thing to swallow,” said Bentley, who added that he hasn’t made a decision on whether he’ll enter the NFL draft.
The Gamecocks were shut out for the first time since 2006, when they lost 18-0 to Georgia.
“That is huge,” Virginia safety Joey Blount said. “I don’t know of many teams that have done that in a bowl. That just shows our defense is for real.”
Nevada 16, Arkansas State 13, OT: At Tucson, Reagan Roberson bulldozed through one tackler and dove into the end zone on an 11-yard catch-and-run in overtime.
Nevada (8-5) labored against Arkansas State’s defensive front all game before coming to life late, going up 10-7 on Devonte Lee’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:06 left.
Arkansas State (8-5) racked up 499 yards, but was 1 for 5 in the red zone with two turnovers before marching quickly down the field at the end of regulation. Blake Grupe, who had one field goal blocked and badly missed on another, drilled a 32-yarder to tie it on the final play.
Grupe opened overtime with a 24-yard field goal, but Roberson bulled his way into the end zone to send the Wolf Pack rushing onto the field.
Nevada’s Ty Gangi had 200 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-34 passing with two interceptions.
Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen threw for 275 yards, but also had three interceptions — two in the end zone — after throwing six during the regular season. Warren Wand ran for 140 yards for the Red Wolves.
Nevada and Arkansas State came to the desert known for their quarterbacks and high-scoring ways. Neither showed up in a stuck-in-the-mud first half.
Both quarterbacks airmailed receivers multiple times, including one by Hansen that was intercepted at the Wolf Pack 20.
Gangi opened 1 for 6 and hit a few passes after that, setting up Ramiz Ahmed’s 36-yard field goal. Nevada had 72 total yards at halftime, yet only trailed 7-3.
Hansen was a bit more effective despite the pick, setting up the Red Wolves for three scoring chances. They converted one: Marcel Murray’s 2-yard TD run.
The earlier field goal fiascos seemed to have an impact on play calling the opening drive the second half. Instead of attempting a field at fourth-and-goal from the 4, the Red Wolves tried a trick play. The Wolf Pack sniffed it out and stuffed offensive lineman Lanard Bonner after he caught a back pass from Hansen.
Arkansas State again had the ball inside Nevada’s 10 the next series after an interception, but the Wolf Pack intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone.
Next two series, same thing: Arkansas State interception, Nevada interception in the end zone.