Bryce Perkins is one of the most dangerous athletes in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Virginia quarterback leads the league in total yards, averaging 303.0 yards per game.
Twice this year he has gone over 400 yards, including 475 in last week’s win over Virginia Tech.
“I think he’s a fantastic player, dual-threat guy, can really make stuff happen with his legs and also his arm, just being able to bring that dynamic to the game,” Clemson safety Tanner Muse said. “He is really tough for any defense. Just seeing him play, it was Friday against Virginia Tech, it was really special to watch just because he’s such a dynamic player. He did a great job executing their plan.”
Perkins threw for 311 yards and ran for 164 yards in helping the Cavaliers beat Virginia Tech for the first time in 15 years last Friday in Charlottesville, Virginia. The win also gave them their first Coastal Division Championship, earning them a trip to play Muse and the third-ranked Tigers on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game.
Virginia (9-3, 6-2 ACC) will be the fifth different opponent the Tigers have faced in the ACC Championship Game the last five years. The Cavaliers have come a long way in the four years since head coach Bronco Mendenhall took over the program.
“We always talk about unbroken growth in this program,” Perkins said. “Just think about last year, how close we were to actually winning the ACC (Coastal) and beating (Virginia) Tech. We felt we had the talent and the will last year. We just had to keep it going, keep improving from the mistakes from last year to this year.
“It wasn’t perfect this year. We had a couple ugly losses. The way we fought back, the way that we were resilient, is right online with the program’s growth and the program’s culture that coach built these past years that he was here.”
Perkins played a big role in turning the culture around at Virginia. Mendenhall says they are not in the ACC Championship Game without him at quarterback, and he is right. In big games, when his team has needed a play, he always seems to make them.
Against North Carolina on Nov. 2, he had a career-high 490 total yards—378 in the air and 112 on the ground—while willing the Cavaliers to a dramatic 38-31 victory in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“It will be really tough to stop him, but we’re going to give it our best shot,” Muse said.
Perkins knows success will not come as easy against the Tigers (12-0, 8-0 ACC) on Saturday. The Clemson defense leads the country in scoring defense and passing defense and ranks second nationally in total defense and 10th in rushing defense.
Clemson has held every opponent under 300 yards this season, a first by any team since the stat started being tracked in 1996.
“They’re great at causing havoc, getting pressure. One way or another, they’ll blitz this side and then they’ll blitz this side,” Perkins said. “It’s always making teams uncomfortable, making quarterbacks uncomfortable in the backfield, turnovers like that. They do a great job of causing havoc.”
The Tigers are allowing just 10.1 points and 232.8 yards per game. Their last two opponents—Wake Forest and South Carolina—scored a combined six points.
“We’re going to have to come in prepared and ready for it. This week is going to be definitely important as far as game planning and film watching to make sure we’re in the best situation to handle different and various types of pressures that they bring,” Perkins said.
In other words, it’s going to be to be a game in which one of the ACC’s best players will try and outduel its best defense.
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