This was supposed to be the day Virginia's football team would take its advertising slogan, "a Cavalier experience," a step further. By the fourth quarter, however, a crowd of 30,072 found itself sitting through a terribly familiar Cavalier experience, North Carolina State methodically thumping the Wahoos, 27-13.
It ws the 19th time in their last 20 meetings that N.C. State has improved its record at the expense of Virginia.
The Cav defense, which suffocated Navy last week, was constantly befuddled by the Wolfpack's smooth quarterback, Tol Avery, who hit 12 of 20 passes for 120 yards and ran for 100 yards.
Philosophical Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick said, "I won't know how this loss affects us until next week. We weren't as good as we should be today. I never like it when our defense gives up 27 points. But we're still a good team . . . we'll be back."
Virginia took tentative control of the game in the first quarter when State punter Todd Auten dropped a snap from center and was downed at his 25. Cav quarterback Todd Kirtley hit Cole Egan on the six and running back Tom Vigorito scored on the next play, giving Virginia a 7-0 lead.
That was about as much daylight as Vigorito saw all day as the Cavaliers' leading rusher was manhandled by a swarming Pack defense that held him to 68 yards on 23 carries.
Vigorito's touchdown also seemed to have an invigorating effect on the Pack as Avery started his team at his 26 and, beautifully mixing passes and runs, ate up huge chunks of AstroTurf play after play. On second and a foot at the Cav 29, Avery faked into the line and connected with Mike Quick in the corner of the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.
At the start of the second quarter, Kirtley started to move Virginia again with a 20-yard strike to end Kevin Riccio at the State 37. But then Pack cornerback Terry Williams stepped in front of Cav receiver Chad Filliman for an interception and ran the ball back 45 yards to the Cav 20. Nathan Ritter kicked a 34-yard field goal four plays later and the momentum of the game had turned.
Bestwick remarked pointedly on Williams' interception: "I think the films will show we had a man open for at least a first down. Instead of getting us to the Pack 27 but stalled when Wayne Morrison missed a 34-yard field goal.
With four minutes left in the half, State displayed its dominance as Avery again had his team flying up the field. In the 13-play, 80-yard drive, he hit Quick with three passes, the last a perfectly timed 20-yard square out to the Cav one, from where fullback Dwight Sullivan piled into the end zone for a 17-7 halftime lead.
The third quarter was a stalemate as neither offense mounted a threat. The final quarter started with Virginia moving down the field only to conk out at the 31 where Morrison came up short on a 48-yard field goal.
Avery struck back instantly. In five plays, he moved his team 45 yards to the Virginia 24. Going the rest of the way on his own, he rammed through the Cav defense to put the game out of sight at 24-7.
By this time, the Cav defense has spent a long time on the field and offered passive resistance when Avery ran his team into position for a final field goal.
Virginia managed a final touchdown with 5:52 remaining as Kirtley hit Vigorito with a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Avery said he "felt quite comfortable behind my offensive line. I had all day to pass and a lot of big holes." The Wolfpack piled up 302 yards rushing.
"I felt we should have won it," said Kirtley. "We got behind and couldn't get back in."
Kirtley didn't feel that the unfamiliar hype generated here before the game was a factor.
"We didn't cause the hype. That was all in the press," hea said. "We're not the kind of team to read our clippings and say, 'Wow, look at this.'"
N.C. State Coach Monte Kiffen said, "I was delighted that Virginia was such an improved team and there was going to be a big crowd. It's just a bigger challenge for us."
Although Virginia gave up 27 points, the offense most concerned Bestwick. "We just couldn't put it all together on one play," he said. "There was a breakdown somewhere on almost every play. Four guys would do the job and the fifth would miss an assignment."
Kirtley summed up: "We didn't predict that we'd have an 11-0 record this season. We're aiming toward a bowl bid and a lot of good teams have bad games early."