Virginia's formula for victory was straight forward: Give the ball to Thomas Jones and unleash the defense on the North Carolina quarterbacks.
And just for spice, add a hostile crowd that vented its displeasure every time freshman Tar Heel quarterback Ronald Curry came on the field, which wasn't very often.
Jones, the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading rusher, had 180 yards and one TD on 35 carries Saturday. The defense sacked Tar Heels quarterbacks five times, forced five fumbles recovering two, intercepted two passes and held North Carolina to 54 yards rushing en route to a 30-13 victory.
"That was a great way to end four years here with them (the crowd) going nuts," said defensive end Patrick Kerney, who had two sacks in the final home game of the season. "The crowd was amazing."
The Cavaliers (8-2, 6-2 ACC) appeared to have the game in hand early, scoring on their first two possessions, then faltered, getting only 3 points on three possessions inside the Tar Heel 35. The Cavaliers dropped one TD pass and had another called back on a holding penalty.
While the offense faltered in the first half, the defense sacked Oscar Davenport three times, twice by Darryl Sanders for two fumbles. In addition, the defense picked off a pass from Davenport and blocked a 36-yard field-goal attempt.
"I think the team did a heckuva job. The defense played especially well," Cavalier coach George Welsh said.
North Carolina (4-5, 3-3) closed to 17-10 at the half on Steve Fisher's 37-yard interception return and Josh McGee's 27-yard field goal to end the half. The Tar Heels added a 28-yard field goal in the third quarter and kept Virginia from scoring as the Cavaliers misse field goals from 41 and 37 yards.
"Even with all the mistakes that we made and the big plays we gave up, we still had a chance to win the game late in the third quarter," North Carolina coach Carl Torbush said.
| Virginia's Thomas Jones is slammed to the ground by North Carolina safety Jomo Legins (21) and Keith Newman (9). (AP) |
That didn't happen.
Aaron brooks hit Kevin Coffey on a 33-yard pass to set up Todd Braverman's 40-yard field goal in the fourth. On the next drive, Jones gained 20 yards on six carries to setup a 37-yard Braverman field goal.
Jones, who entered the game averaging 118.7 yards per game, powered the Cavalier ground game, which picked up 198 yards on 47 rushes, all but 18 yards and 12 carries by Jones.
"He's got a great feel for it now, making those cuts, and bouncing off, spinning, coming out of some ankle tackles," said Welsh.
Brooks finished off the Tar Heels with a 43-yard TD pass to Coffey with 3:06 left.
The game marked the first appearance in Virginia by Curry since recanting on his verbal commitment to Virginia. The former Virginia high school standout was used sparingly, but each time he entered the game, the fans came to their feet to boo.
Curry, the Tar Heels second-leading rusher, managed only 11 yards and was 3-for-9 for 25 yards and one interception. As the game wound down, the fans began caustically cheering, "Curry, Curry, Curry."
"It's sad for that kid to hear that stuff," said Brooks, "but that's life."
"We didn't feel like Ronald was making the plays he had been the past couple weeks," Torbush said, adding he still had "great faith" in the freshman.
Brooks finished 10-for-25 for 281 yards and one interception. Terrence Wilkins had four catches for 167 yards, including a career-best 73-yarder that set up the Cavaliers first score.
Davenport was 18-for-33 for 227 yards.
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