No. 25 Virginia seeks first 3-0 start in 14 years vs FSU
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By HANK KURZ Jr.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Quarterback Bryce Perkins has been a major reason for No. 25 Virginia's climb to respectability the last two seasons.
With 29 passing touchdowns and 10 more on the ground, the dual-threat quarterback guided Virginia to an 8-5 record last season has the Cavaliers poised to start 3-0 for the first time in 14 years when they host Florida State on Saturday night.
The Seminoles (1-1, 0-0 ACC) have been inconsistent, blowing a big early lead in a 36-31 loss to No. 22 Boise State in their opener and needing a missed extra point in overtime to escape Louisiana-Monroe of the Football Bowl Subdivision 45-44 last weekend. Opponents are averaging 520 yards against Florida State, which has not played a dual-threat quarterback like Perkins - who makes Virginia feel like it has a 12-man offense.
Still, Seminoles linebacker Leonard Warner is confident the Florida State will be just fine.
"Obviously he is a pretty good runner, but I don't think we are going to have too much trouble with him," Warner said this week. "We have a good game plan built up. I think we have pretty good plan for controlling him. I think the key is going to be just being sure-tackling.
"When you get there, the first man, really being able to wrap up and stop his charge so we can swarm to the ball."
Perkins isn't into providing bulletin board material for the game, just outpointing the Seminoles' "tremendous history of just great football players."
The quarterback said the Cavaliers also are not letting their ranking impact their preparation, noting they learned a hard lesson on that front last year.
"I remember last year we were ranked going into Pitt and then we lost that game and then everything went down," he said. "... It kind of puts a target on our back and makes us have to practice harder, not even just play harder but practice harder and be more prepared so we can take that next step as a team."
Here are some other things to watch when Florida State visits Virginia:
Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall prefers to lean heavily on one running back, but has used a committee approach so far with Wayne Taulapapa, PK Kier and Mike Hollins. Hollins, a true freshman, impressed last week and could be more in the mix going forward. The Seminoles' Cam Akers ran for 193 yards last week and similar success this week could take some pressure off sophomore quarterback James Blackman, who has been sacked six times and thrown three interceptions.
Florida State has scored 35 points in the first quarter, tied for the second-highest total in the nation. A similar performance would be an effective way to take Virginia's fans out of the game early and continue an upward trend for the Seminoles. They scored just 42 points in the first quarter last season.
The Cavaliers and Seminoles have not met since 2011, when each had different coaching staffs, which Mendenhall said almost makes this meeting more like a nonconference matchup because of a lack of familiarity. Florida State runs the Gulf Coast Offense under second-year coach Willie Taggart.
It was 24 years ago that Virginia became the first ACC team to beat Florida State, topping the No. 2 Seminoles 33-28 when Warrick Dunn was stopped inches from the goal line on the game's final play. The loss was the first for coach Bobby Bowden's team in ACC play after starting with 29 consecutive victories.
Mendenhall and several of his players noticed last week when more than 48,000 fans turned out to see the Cavaliers face William & Mary on a Friday night and the student section was packed and boisterous. More of the same can only add to the culture of success the Cavaliers have enjoyed beginning with last season.
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Updated September 13, 2019