FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla.— Joe Burrow put up video game numbers on the way to demolishing just about every College Football Playoff passing record. He won a Heisman throwing for 300+ yards in all but two games this season. One of those two games came against Florida.
Jon Greenard reluctantly admitted that Burrow was the best quarterback the Gators faced this season.
“At first I didn’t want to give him credit because it’s LSU,” Greenard said. “But he’s nice. He’s really good.”
The Gators will face another really good quarterback on Monday night, but an entirely different kind of player. Bryce Perkins is the Virginia offense.
The senior is the first player in Virginia football history to have back-to-back seasons with 3,000 total yards. Perkins’ 3,960 yards account for 78% of Virginia’s 5,043 this season and he has 100 more carries than Virginia’s next leading rusher, running back Wayne Taulapapa.
“He is different. He is going to run,” defensive tackle Kyree Campbell said. “He wants to run and you can’t blame him, he is good at it. Why stop something that isn’t broken? That’s why we have to break it.”
Perkins isn’t just a running threat. He can throw the football, too. He has the mind and arm of a quarterback with the speed and vision of an elite running back. In two seasons since transferring to Virginia, the senior has already broken Virginia’s rushing record for a quarterback (1,668 yards) and ahs four games with 100 rushing and 200 passing yards. Only Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts has a state line that matches Perkins’ with 3,000 passing yards, 700 rushing yards, 10 passing touchdowns, and 10 rushing touchdowns.
“I don’t think they’ve seen anybody who has the capability of Bryce,” Virginia receiver Hasise Dubois said. “He’s just electric at all phases of football. I always tell people, the play’s never over for Bryce. I think they’re in for a lot.”
To a man the Gators’ agreed with Dubois’ statement that they haven’t played a quarterback quite like Perkins. During the Gators’ practices in Gainesville, they used freshman early enrollee Anthony Richardson as the scout team quarterback to mimic Perkins. The challenge is on Todd Grantham’s shoulders and Grantham hasn’t taken the task lightly.
“He creates an 11-on-11 game,” Grantham said. “Because of the style in which they play, which what that does is creates an extra gap defensively for you to feel because like if the quarterback is a non-runner or a non-factor, then it’s really 11-on-10 and you can play with an extra guy in coverage and things like that, whereas when it’s 11-on-11 you have an extra gap to fill so you’ve got to play it a little differently. The biggest thing that Perkins has done is been able to complete some vertical throws down the field.”
That’s the thing about Perkins and the Virginia offense. Perkins isn’t just a runner playing quarterback. He’s a legitimate passer and you have to be honest in the passing game and account for it.
This is the challenge for the Gators. Virginia has a trio of receivers with more than 600 receiving yards on the season. They have a running back with 12 touchdowns but you have to stop Perkins, first and foremost.
“The scariest one is the plays that he makes after the play has broken down,” Dan Mullen said. “You know, to sit there and say, okay, we stop the run or we stop the pass and all of a sudden he made somebody miss, he scrambled around, he got out of the pocket, he broke contain, and now you have a guy that is a great athlete in the open field making plays happen.”
Perkins is the Gators’ focus this week and will be on Monday. They need to stop him if they want to get their 11th win of the season. That, of course, if easier for me to type than it is for the Gators to accomplish.
“Just got to execute on the pass rush and try to contain him,” Greenard said. “That’s a goal and the game plan, we just look forward to executing it.”