The Liberty Flames’ defense faces a tall task in managing Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins this Saturday, Nov. 10 in Charlottesville.
The elusive, dual-threat quarterback has been a handful for opponents all season. Perkins, who completed 15 of his 24 passes last week vs. Pitt, has thrown for 1828 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s also second on the team in rushing with 568 yards and 6 touchdowns.
“He’s going to do what he does,” Gill said of Perkins. “He’s going to do both (pass and run). He’s going to run the ball when he needs to whether it’s a designed run or he takes off out of the pocket running. We need to have guys attack the ball and tackle well.”
If Perkins is a challenge for most opposing defenses, he could give the Flames defense fits. Liberty surrendered 777 yards to Massachusetts last week; a team most would agree is inferior to Virginia. The week before, LU allowed 41 points to FCS foe Idaho State.
On the year, Liberty ranks #112 of 130 FBS teams in total defense. The Flames’ rushing defense is #109, and LU’s pass defense clocks in at #97. If the Flames hope to avoid another offensive shootout, containment of the explosive Perkins is crucial.
“The quarterback, he starts it all,” Liberty head coach Turner Gill said of Perkins in a Tuesday afternoon presser. “Very, very talented dual-threat guy. Can run, can throw. He makes a lot of things happen with his legs as he’s making throws.”
Much of LU’s defensive struggles can be attributed to poor tackling. Unfortunately for Liberty, Perkins is elusive and well-known for making defenders miss in the open field. In week four vs. Louisville, for example, Perkins hurdled a defender en route to a 37-yard pickup.
“He breaks a lot of tackles . . . ” Gill continued. “In the pocket, he breaks a lot of tackles. Outside the pocket. So, he’s a very, very, very good player. Each and every game, you see him become more comfortable, more confident.”
Saturday’s game will be Liberty’s first matchup with Virginia on the gridiron. With Liberty slated to play UVA in 2018 and 2019, Saturday’s game may be the first of a budding rivalry between the two schools, which are separated by a 45-minute drive on Route 29.
Rivalries, of course, are only rivalries if the series is not one-sided. This Saturday presents an opportunity for the Flames to begin the Battle of Route 29 on a winning note, provided they do one thing especially well.
Stop Bryce Perkins.