Sophomore running back Wayne Taulapapa’s third rushing touchdown of the night was enough to lift No. 25 Virginia to a 31-24 victory over visiting Florida State on Saturday night after the Cavaliers made a late defensive stand.
It’s the Cavaliers’ first win over Florida State since 2011 and their first at home since 2005.
Taulapapa’s second touchdown dive should have tied the game at 24 with a little less than six minutes to play, but Brian Delaney’s extra point sailed wide left. But the defense responded with a three-and-out and the offense used a six-play, 72-yard scoring drive to take the lead for good.
Wide receiver Joe Reed took a handoff 22 yards to the 50 and Hasise Dubois turned a reception into a 45-yard jaunt deep into Florida State territory and Taulapapa capped the decisive drive with a two-yard touchdown dive. Quarterback Bryce Perkins converted a two-point conversion to give UVa a seven-point lead with 2:20 to play.
Thanks, in part, to a litany of Virginia penalties — including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on UVa head coach Bronco Mendenhall — Florida State drove to Virginia’s 16-yard line in the waning seconds, but a sack by Zane Zandier left the ‘Noles in a hole and running back Cam Akers was stopped short of the goal line as time expired.
Perkins (30-of-41, 295 yards, TD, 2 INT) completed his first 13 pass attempts of the second half, but neither offense could find its footing early.
Late in the second quarter, Florida State had negative-3 rushing yards. Virginia finished the first quarter with just 29 yards on the ground and 95 yards of total offense. Both picked up steam as halftime neared, though.
On the Seminoles’ final drive of the half, a 36-yard sprint by Khalan Laborn put the ball deep in Virginia territory and a 28-yard completion from James Blackman to tight end Tre McKitty put it on the Cavaliers’ five. Three plays later, Blackman found Akers on a three-yard scoring strike and the ‘Noles took a 14-10 lead into halftime.
The visitors also scored the game’s first touchdown thanks to a short punt by Virginia’s Nash Griffin, who was punting from the back of the end zone. The Seminoles began their drive on the Cavaliers’ 39 and Blackman needed just three plays to find fullback Gabe Nabers on a 10-yard strike for a 7-3 lead.
Virginia got on the score board first Saturday night. After a nine-play drive stalled, kicker Brian Delaney trotted out and casually knocked a career-long 49-yard field goal through the uprights. The Cavaliers also answered Florida State’s first touchdown with one of their own.
After Perkins found Terrell Jana on a 28-yard completion to move the ball into FSU territory, Taulapapa put his shoulder down and drove his way into the end zone from three yards out for a 7-3 lead with 8:58 left in the half.
Kicker Ricky Aguayo extended Florida State’s halftime lead to seven with a 53-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
Virginia began the fourth quarter by capping an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown connection from Perkins to Reed, which tied the game at 17 with a little more than 14 minutes left in regulation.
Florida State responded with an 8-play scoring drive, which was kept alive on third-and-10 from deep in Seminoles’ territory by a 15-yard completion from Blackman to Terry. A couple plays later, Blackman found Keyshawn Helton open on the seam. He broke a tackle and scored to put the ‘Noles up 24-17 with 11:42 to play.