North Carolina found its pass rush today at about the same time Virginia lost quarterback Gordie Whitehead, its main offensive strength, enabling the 13th-ranked Tar Heels to escape with a 17-14 victory at Scott Stadium.
Whitehead left the game with five minutes gone in the third quarter with a severely bruised left shoulder; he is questionable for next week's game against Maryland. He had completed 18 of 31 passes for 243 yards and both Virginia touchdowns.
His replacements, Mike Eck and Todd Kirkley, were six of 17 and threw four interceptions. The first of those interceptions led to Carolina's game-winning field goal, a 34-yard kick by Brooks Barwick with 1:45 left in the third period.
Virginia (1-8, 0-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) switched from its normal I backfield to a pro set today. "We felt we couldn't make a living running on them all day," Coach Dick Bestwick said. "In the I they stuff everything. We went to the split backs so we could get on the corner with the passing game."
The Cavaliers did, holding a 14-7 halfitme lead on Whitehead's touchdown passes of 37 yards to Greg Taylor and 30 yards to Henry Johnson. And early in the third quarter, Virginia drove to the Carolina 25 before a fourth and two pass was knocked down at the line of scrimmage and the momentum shifted to the Tar Heels.
With Fiesta and Gator Bowl scouts watching, Carolina (8-2, 4-1) tied the game with a nine-play, 75-yard drive. The two biggest plays were Rod Elkins' passes to Jon Richardson for 32 yards and to Tyrone Anthony for 20. Four plays after the second pass, Anthony scored from the two.
Then Whitehead was hurt.
"That killed us," Bestwick said.
"Something hit me straight on," Whitehead said. "I felt something pop and bulge and now I can't move it."
Eck came in and his second pass was an interception, the first of three for Carolina defensive back Walt Black. On first down from his 43, Kelvin Bryant, who had 171 yards on 28 carries, broke loose for 33 to the Virginia 24.
After Anthony moved the ball to the 17 on three runs, Barwick kicked his game-winning field goal. Carolina had three more interceptions in the fourth quarter.
"I'm concerned about our pass rush," Carolina Coach Dick Crum said. "Nobody can stop them if they have all day to throw."
Eck is a freshman. Kirtley, the starter at the beginning of the year, was playing for the first time in eight weeks after breaking his right hand against Rutgers.
"He's still not strong enough to really grip the ball and zip it," Bestwick said.
Whitehead's only passing mistake led to Carolina's first touchdown. On Virginia's second possession of the game, Bill Jackson intercepted his first-down pass at the Cavalier 46. From there, Alan Burrus, Anthony and Bryant ran 10 times, Bryant scoring from the one.
Both teams had missed opportunities. Carolina lost two fumbles early in the game at the Virginia 18. The Cavaliers had a second-quarter touchdown called back because of illegal motion in its backfield. And on the previous play, Greg Taylor had dropped a pass from the Tar Heel four-yard line.
"To say that I'm disappoiinted would be the understatement of the year," Bestwick said. "I though we had a great game plan for Carolina. We really thought we could win."
North Carolina linebacker Lee Shaffer broke his right leg during the game, and Burrus had ligament damage in his left knee that Crum said probably would put him out for the rest of the year.