Wayne Morrison, who had missed two field goal attempts in the third quarter, kicked a 20-yarder with 11:26 remaining today to earn Virginia its first victory this year, 13-10, over previously unbeaten Virginia Military Institute.
Morrison kicked a 48-yarder as time ran out in the first half. But he had a 40-yard attempt blocked and kicked a 30-yarder wide right before his game-winner, which ended a 10-game Virginia losing streak and left the Cavaliers 1-7 this year. VMI is 5-1-1.
The Cavaliers used a balanced, ball-control offense and overcame two dropped passes in the VMI end zone to leave Coach Dick Bestwick "feeling much, much better" after the game.
"I feel good about the rest of the season, the rest of the year, next year and the rest of my life," said Bestwick, whose job had been rumored to be in jeopardy.
The Cavalier defense held VMI career-rushing leader Floyd Allen to 37 yards on 20 carries and pressured quarterback Kelly Raber to throw three interceptions, matching his season total coming into the game.
The first of those interceptions set up Morrison's first field goal, which gave Virginia a 10-3 halftime lead. The third interception, with 8:16 to go in the game, ended a 31-yard VMI drive following Morrison's field goal.
"We're usually an attack defense, but we did more reading this game," said Virginia tackle Jim Hyson, who had six tackles, three totaling 12 yards in losses. "We took a step back off the line and read the motion of the linemen. Because Raber is so quick to the outside, we tried to loop outside and avoid the traffic, while letting the offside linemen run pursuit."
That strategy worked on Allen, who had 3,334 career yards coming into the game, including a 107-yard-per-game average this year. "We're small and they're big and quick," Allen said. "Sometimes they overpowered us."
The most crucial times were in the fourth quarter. Virginia's first drive began with 14:17 left and ended with Morrison's field goal nine plays and 2:51 later. Gordie Whitehead completed four passes for 50 yards during the drive, but his last one bounced off Mark Sanford's hands in the left side of the end zone.
Following an exchange of possessions, the Cavaliers got the ball back on their 48 with 5:21 left in the game. Whitehead mixed in two passes early, but Virginia's last eight plays were on the ground. VMI could stop the clock only twice, and when Derek Jenkins got a first down on fourth and one from the VMI 16, the Cavaliers used four plays and a delay of game penalty to end it.
VMI opened the scoring when Lee Wimbish kicked a 25-yard field goal with 13:10 left in the second quarter. The kick ended a 14-play, 61-yard drive that began on the Keydets' 32-yard line.
Virginia went ahead, 7-3, with 4:45 left in the half. The Cavaliers began their drive from midfield, following a 41-yard VMI punt. Whitehead passed five yards to Kevin Riccio, who made a diving catch to his left for the score. Morrison added the extra point.