Olamide Zaccheaus

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Belk Beatdown: Virginia shuts out South Carolina to secure first bowl win since 2005

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Motivation is a big talking point when it comes to mid- and lower-tier bowl games. Which team is happy to be there? Which team isn’t? Who wants it more?

Safe to say that Virginia was properly motivated to secure their first postseason victory since 2005 on Saturday afternoon, controlling the Belk Bowl from start to finish in every phase to beat South Carolina 28-0.

Leading the way for the ‘Hoos was their terrific QB-WR combo of Bryce Perkins and Olamide Zaccheaus. The former threw for 208 yards and a trio of touchdowns passes while scrambling for another 81 yards on the ground, moving the chains quite a bit on third down to help the team dominate time of possession and more on the stat sheet. Playing in his final game with the program, Zaccheaus was not surprisingly the top target for many of those Perkins passes as he recorded 12 catches for an even 100 yards and all three of the touchdowns through the air.

Jordan Ellis was also impressive running the ball, gashing an SEC defense to the tune of 106 yards and a score.

Playing without star playmaker Deebo Samuel, South Carolina simply couldn’t get any consistency going on offense and failed to keep pace with their opponent. Signal-caller Jake Bentley was rattled constantly and completed just 17 passes for 218 yards with a pair of interceptions. Shi Smith had a nice game with 76 yards receiving but the Gamecocks were forced to be one-dimensional most of the day as Rico Dowdle managed only 21 yards rushing and the team converted on third down just twice.

The end result drops Will Muschamp’s squad to 7-6 on the year and caps off a disappointing final stretch that saw South Carolina lose three of their final five games, including an 0-3 mark against Power Five opponents in that span. While you can certainly understand the offense taking a step back without Samuel, the effort had to be disappointing on defense for their head coach as the program enters a big offseason in Columbia.

The convincing victory by the Cavaliers, meanwhile, gives UVA an eighth win for the first time since 2011 and completes an impressive turnaround in Charlottesville ever since Bronco Mendenhall was brought over from BYU. The Hoos have plenty of momentum now having improved their win total in each campaign under the new staff and will be looking for a lot more after this kind of performance in the Belk Bowl.

Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

Virginia’s big plays give Cavaliers halftime lead on No. 3 Miami, 21-14

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After winning a big game in the national spotlight a week ago, the No. 3 Miami Hurricanes were faced with the challenge of playing a noon game at home against an opponent that doesn’t bring nearly the same spotlight last week’s opponent did. And for that, Virginia took advantage early on. Miami came back to tie the game at 14-14, but a late touchdown pass has given Virgina the lead at halftime, 21-14.

Virginia used a pair of big pass plays to take a surprising 14-0 lead on the Hurricanes in the first quarter. Kurt Benkert has been nearly flawless in the first half, and two long touchdown plays to Joe Reed and Olamide Zaccheaus caught Miami off guard.

Miami quarterback Malik Rosier eventually warmed up though with a pair of touchdowns of his own. On the ensuing drive after falling behind 14-0, Rosier got Miami on the board with a 10-yard pass to Ahmonn Richards. That came after Virginia attempted a surprise onside kick on Miami, only to have ACC officials controversially rule the ball to be Miami’s when it appeared Virginia may have recovered. Miami was forced to punt on their next offensive possession, but a special teams fumble by Virginia punt returner Daniel Hamm gave the Hurricanes the ball at the 36-yard line, and Rosier went for the tie with a pass to Dayall Harris to tie the game up on the first play from scrimmage following the turnover.

In the final minute of the half, Benkert again took to the air for a big strike, this time to Andre Levrone. After officials ruled the 33-yard pass to the end zone incomplete, a quick instant replay review overturned the call and confirmed Levrone had full possession of the football before the ball came loose at the end of the play. And just like that, Virginia took the lead into halftime.

We now have quite an interesting second half coming up in Miami as far as the College Football Playoff may be concerned.