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Getting ready for game day: Three things to know about Virginia football



MemorialStadiumTour-10

Pictured is the view of Memorial Stadium on July 25 outside the new Tobias Nutrition Center located on the second floor on the south end of the stadium.  Matt Begala Buy Photos

After last week’s 38-28 victory in Miami against Florida International University, IU’s toughest nonconference opponent awaits. Led by Coach Bronco Mendenhall, the Virginia Cavaliers are looking to improve upon last year’s 6-7 record, which ended with a loss to Navy in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman.

Here are three things you need to know about the Hoosiers’ next opponent.

New quarterback Bryce Perkins is a dual-threat playmaker.

After spending last season at Arizona Western Community College, former Arizona State quarterback Bryce Perkins showed his ability to make plays with both his arms and his legs in Virginia’s 42-13 victory over Richmond last week. After an early interception, Perkins threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns while also carrying the ball 13 times for 108 yards and another two touchdowns.

While his performance did come against an FCS opponent, it signaled Perkins' dual-threat ability at the position, which contrasts what IU saw last season from former Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert. 

Perkins’ ability to escape the pass rush with his legs, as well as push the ball downfield with his arm, poses a real threat for a Hoosier defense that struggled to stop FIU from moving the ball at times last week.

The Golden Panthers totaled 170 rushing yards against Coach Tom Allen's defense.

Virginia returns a lot of weapons on offense.

Perkins isn’t the only talented player in this offense. Senior running back Jordan Ellis returns after leading the Cavaliers in rushing a year ago. Last year’s leading receiver, senior Olamide Zaccheaus, also returns alongside junior Joe Reed. Those three combine to form an experienced group that could really rack up points against the Hoosiers.

In IU’s 34-17 victory in Charlottesville last year, the Hoosier defense was able to keep all three pretty quiet, limiting the Cavaliers to just 55 rushing yards thanks to the play of linebackers Tegray Scales and Chris Covington. But, it will be a tall task to repeat that performance this season, especially with Perkins now in the fold. 

With IU still figuring some things out on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the run game, the combination of Ellis and Perkins could be especially potent come Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

Virginia is a team on the rise under Coach Bronco Mendenhall.

In Mendenhall’s first season in charge at Virginia in 2016, the Cavaliers went 2-10 and only won one game in the ACC, against Duke.

Last year, Virginia improved to 6-7 and made the program’s first bowl game since 2011. Despite the marked improvement last season, Virginia still lost six of its last seven games, all of them by double digits, squandering a chance at what could have been a very strong season following a win at a ranked Boise State team.

With a lot of talent returning on the offensive side of the ball, and without Clemson on the schedule, Mendenhall and the Cavaliers will be looking to go one step further toward being one of the better programs in the ACC.

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