College Sports

Virginia shuts out South Carolina 28-0 in Belk Bowl, snaps ACC’s longest bowl drought

South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley (19) is pressured by Virginia linebacker Chris Peace (13) during the first half of the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC, Saturday, December 29, 2018.
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley (19) is pressured by Virginia linebacker Chris Peace (13) during the first half of the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC, Saturday, December 29, 2018. tdominick@thestate.com

Virginia romped 28-0 over South Carolina in the Belk Bowl on Saturday at Bank of America, securing the school’s first postseason bowl victory since 2005. It also snapped the ACC’s longest bowl drought.

A failed fourth-down conversion on its first possession seemed to sap the life out of South Carolina. From that point on, the Gamecocks hardly possessed the ball, moved it even less frequently, and ultimately committed two turnovers trying to get back into the game.

Meanwhile, Virginia methodically controlled the ball and the game clock without offering South Carolina much chance at rebuttal. Virginia finished with 413 yards to South Carolina’s 261 and controlled the ball for over 20 minutes more than South Carolina. Virginia’s defense held the Gamecocks to 2-of-13 on third-down conversions.

By midway through the fourth quarter, Crimson-clad South Carolina fans booed their team, then quickly exited the venue whole sections at a time.

Three who mattered

Bryce Perkins: Virginia quarterback has had a few more statistically dominant games than his 289 total yards and three touchdowns, but he commanded the Cavaliers’ offense exactly as needed and didn’t turn the ball over.

Olamide Zaccheaus: Virginia running back was easily the most explosive player for either offense, as his three touchdowns were the difference Saturday.

Juan Thornhill: Virginia safety’s interception, his sixth this season, and subsequent 54-yard return early in the fourth quarter ended any hopes of a South Carolina comeback.

Observations

▪  On the game’s first possession, South Carolina worked the ball to about midfield before eventually ending up in fourth-and-1. The Gamecocks opted to go for it, but South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley rolled right and overthrew his receiver to end the drive. South Carolina didn’t have a drive longer than 50 yards in the first half.

▪  With both teams fairly equal in terms of total yards, the most overwhelming statistic for either team was time of possession. Virginia controlled the ball for 42:35, more than twice as long as South Carolina did (17:25).

▪  With their most explosive offensive weapon - wide receiver Deebo Sameul - out for Saturday’s game while he prepares for the upcoming NFL draft, South Carolina’s receivers struggled against Virginia’s secondary. Combined, South Carolina’s receivers had 10 receptions for 126 yards.

▪  Virginia halfback Olamide Zaccheaus caught eight passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in the first half, only to finish with 12 catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns for the game. He set the single-season school record for catches with 93, breaking his record of 85 from last season.

▪  The game’s first two turnovers practically cancelled each other out. South Carolina safety R.J. Roderick forced a fumble early in the fourth quarter to give the Gamecocks the ball back. But three plays later, Bentley threw an interception to give the ball right back. Considering Virginia went on to miss a 33-yard field goal that possession, neither turnover had a real consequence.

Worth mentioning

▪  Official tickets distributed for Saturday’s game were announced at 48,263. Of that crowd, the breakdown was roughly 70 percent South Carolina fans, 30 percent Virginia fans.

▪  There was only one NFL team — the Chicago Bears — that sent an NFL scout to Saturday’s game.

▪  This was South Carolina’s third time being shutout since 2000. The previous two games were losses to Arkansas in 2002 and to Georgia in 2006.

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