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Cavs Making Great Gains

Offense Totals 549 Yards As U-Va. Improves to 2-0 : Virginia 56, North Carolina 24

By Jim Reedy
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, September 12, 2004; Page E15

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Sept. 11 -- Second game, same as the first game.

One week after throttling Temple to open the season, Virginia opened its home schedule by doing the same to North Carolina. Taking full advantage of the Tar Heels' tissue-paper defense, the 15th-ranked Cavaliers scored on their first seven possessions en route to a 56-24 win and their largest point total against an ACC opponent in nearly eight years.


Virginia's Marquis Weeks caps off his 100-yard kickoff return for the touchdown. "That was just instinct. Kind of like running from the cops," said the senior tailback. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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The Cavs piled up 549 yards, including 299 on the ground, and contained Darian Durant and the UNC offense for much of the game. Marquis Weeks returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown -- just as he did against the Tar Heels here two years ago -- and Alvin Pearman nearly matched him with a 93-yarder.

"I'm just glad this doesn't count for two losses or three," said Tar Heels Coach John Bunting, who could be heard yelling at his players in the visitors' locker room after the game.

Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans, making his first start at Scott Stadium, was again efficient, completing 10 of 12 passes for 209 yards. And he had all the help he needed from running backs Wali Lundy (73 yards) and Jason Snelling (80 yards) and the offensive line. The Cavaliers didn't even need to use their best offensive weapon, tight end Heath Miller.

"We just kept running that ball in there," left guard Brian Barthelmes said of Virginia's biggest rushing total since 1998. "I think eventually we were a little more than they could handle."

Virginia opened with a dominant, 77-yard touchdown drive fueled by the running of Lundy and Snelling. Hagans threw only one pass, but it was a screen to Lundy that went for 41 yards down the sideline thanks to a block by center Zac Yarbrough.

North Carolina went three and out on its first possession, and the Cavaliers were back at it, Lundy and Pearman chewing up yardage with ease before Lundy got his second touchdown on a four-yard run.

The Tar Heels showed signs of life with a 73-yard drive fueled by an acrobatic, 29-yard catch by Jarwarski Pollock and a pass interference penalty on cornerback Marcus Hamilton. But they failed on three goal line rushes, including a fourth-down play interrupted by linebacker Kai Parham and stopped by defensive end Chris Canty.

Virginia took over at its 3-yard line and drove the length of the field to push the lead to 21-0, sparked by Emmanuel Byers's 32-yard pass to fellow wide receiver Michael McGrew.

UNC drove 81 yards for its first score, but the Cavaliers needed only one play to get the margin back to 28-7. Receiving the kickoff a yard deep in the end zone, Weeks started up the right side, ran out of a tackle attempt by Hilee Taylor near the 25-yard line and burst to midfield, where he cut left across the field to pick up blockers who cleared the rest of the way.

"That was just instinct," Weeks said with a laugh. "Kind of like running from the cops, I guess you could say."

After a short Tar Heels field goal, Virginia sealed a terrific half with its fifth touchdown and a 35-10 lead. Pearman ran for 17 of the drive's 79 yards and made its biggest play, a 45-yard catch and run down the left sideline.

The second half featured many more highlights for the home team, beginning when Deyon Williams beat UNC cornerback Lionell Green for a 37-yard reception to set up another touchdown. Reserve tailback Michael Johnson scored his first touchdown in nearly two years; wide receiver Imhotep Durham, a former walk-on, made his first catch; safety Lance Evans grabbed his first interception; and Pearman nearly matched Weeks by returning a kickoff to the 1-yard line.

"This was a good game for us," Virginia Coach Al Groh said. "It's a positive step forward. I don't think it's a game to do jumping jacks or handsprings over. If we don't keep on moving forward, if we have a week we falter, everybody's going to forget about this game. . . . That's just what it is. It's two [wins]. But we're happy about it. . . . I'm always happy when we win."

Cavaliers Notes: The attendance of 62,790 was the second-largest in Virginia history. . . . Weeks has two of the three 100-yard kickoff returns in team history. The other belongs to former wide receiver Tavon Mason. . . . Virginia set a program record with 238 yards on kickoff returns. . . . Offensive guard Ron Darden returned after missing the season opener with an undisclosed injury, though reserve linebackers Bryan White and Marvin Richardson were not in uniform.


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