CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Bryce Perkins loves that new playmakers are emerging for Virginia, making their best playmaker — Perkins himself — even more effective.
The senior quarterback threw for one touchdown and ran for another as the Cavaliers shut down Georgia Tech after halftime in a 33-28 victory Saturday.
"It's incredible, especially hard on defensive coordinators trying to scheme personnel-wise for players," Perkins said after throwing for 258 yards and running for 106 more, his second consecutive game with over 100 yards on the ground. "The more we can get guys going, the more difficult it's going to be."
Perkins completed 24 of 35 attempts and hit six different receivers, led by Terrell Jana with nine catches for 108 yards. Jana caught 13 passes for 146 yards a week ago in a victory against North Carolina, giving him 22 receptions in two weeks after he'd managed only 31 in the first eight games.
"He's reliable and he's always in the right spot," Perkins said. "I just have a connection with him just knowing where he's going to be at most of the time."
Perkins also hit Billy Kemp with a critical third-down pass as the Cavaliers ran the last 5:30 off the clock to ice the game.
The game was also a coming out party of sorts for Tavares Kelly, who replaced a banged up Joe Reed returning kickoffs and gained 129 yards on five returns. He brought one back 40 yards to midfield to set up the last touchdown drive of the first half and had a 38-yarder in the second half.
"TK is an explosive player so I'm glad he's getting his footing in the game," Jana said. "We've seen him do things in practice that I haven't seen anybody do so if he can keep showing that in games and keep making plays I know he can make, it's going to be an exciting season."
Wayne Taulapapa ran for two touchdowns for the Cavaliers (7-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who maintained their perch atop the Coastal Division. Virginia has a bye week ahead and then a home game against Liberty before closing the regular season at home against Virginia Tech, which has won the last 15 meetings.
James Graham threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third for the Yellow Jackets (2-7, 1-5). Jordan Mason ran for 94 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown run that pulled Georgia Tech with 33-28 with 5:30 to play, but Virginia managed a pair of third-down conversions on the ensuing drive and ran out the clock.
First-year Yellow Jackets coach Geoff Collins was emotional after the game.
"To come out and play at a really, really high level and fall short is painful," he said. "I hurt for them. I hurt for the coaching staff."
Perkins hit Joe Reed for a 9-yard touchdown and scored on a 3-yard run, giving Virginia a 24-21 lead just before halftime. The Cavaliers touchdown came on a four-play drive that included a 43-yard run by Perkins from midfield. It came immediately after Georgia Tech stopped the Cavaliers on a fourth-and-4 play and then drove 65 yards on three completions — the last a 25-yarder to Malachi Carter — to take a 21-17 lead 44 seconds before halftime.
"It was a huge play and I feel like Bryce kind of bailed me out," Mendenhall said, second-guessing his decision to try for the fourth down play.
Graham finished 15 of 22 for a career high 229 yards. Earlier, Graham hit Ahmarean Brown for a 59-yard score on the opening series of the game.
Georgia Tech: Graham came into the day having completed just 43.4% of his passes but showed far more effectiveness against the Cavaliers' depleted secondary, which has lost six players for the season to injury. Graham's 59-yard touchdown throw to Brown on the opening series represented more yardage than he managed all last week against Pittsburgh, when he was just 3 of 13 for 57 yards.
Virginia: Besides his kickoff returns, Kelly caught two passes for 46 yards, including a 35-yarder on a third-and-2 play from the Virginia 37 on a drive then ended with Brian Delaney's second field goal. Reed, who has five career kickoff return touchdowns, including two this season, remains 11 yards shy of 3,000 career kickoff return yards.
Georgia Tech begins a three-game homestand to close the regular season against Virginia Tech next Saturday.
Virginia has a bye week before facing Liberty in the middle game of the three-game homestand.
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