Coach George Welsh, who two weeks ago called his Virginia football team "terrible," dug back almost 20 years in his memory bank to come up with a winning formula for his downtrodden Cavaliers.
Taking advantage of an offweek, Welsh installed a wing-T offense and quarterback Wayne Schuchts used it to set a school record of 320 yards passing today while directing the Cavaliers to their first victory under Welsh in six tries, 34-27, over Wake Forest.
The Cavaliers had lost eight in a row since beating Virginia Military, 13-10, Oct. 31 last year and had lost 11 straight Atlantic Coast Conference games since defeating Wake Forest, 24-21, Oct. 24, 1980.
"I reached way back for that," Welsh said when asked about the wing-T alignment that helped spring wingback Quentin Walker loose for 77 yards. "We used that at Penn State in 1965 when Rip Engle was there.
"We wanted to get Walker in the game with (Antonio) Rice," Welsh explained. referring to his starting tailback, who gained a season-high 129 yards in 32 carries. "We put him in the slot and it really helped us a lot."
In addition to Schuchts' record, which broke Bob Davis' mark of 312 yards set against Clemson in 1966, Virginia gained 323 yards rushing for 643 yards total offense. Still, Virginia partisans could not breathe easily until strong safety Rich Riccardi intercepted a pass with 3:41 to play and the Cavaliers killed the clock.
Schuchts, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior who has been sharing the quarterbacking duties with Mike Eck, completed 15 of 30 attempts for one touchdown, a 93-yard pass-and-run to sophomore split end Nick Merrick in the second quarter.
Schuchts also gained 53 yards on option plays and sneaks for 373 yards total offense, just three shy of Davis' school record set against Georgia Tech in 1965.
Wake Forest, 3-5 and a four-point favorite, appeared thoroughly confused by Virginia's new alignments in the first half when it fell behind, 31-14.
"I thought Coach Welsh and his staff took full advantage of their two weeks," said Deacons' coach Al Groh, one Virginia graduate in the crowd of 24,105 who did not enjoy the homecoming festivities at cool, clear Scott Stadium. "Their one back set and winged back formations gave us problems in the first half."
Virginia scored on its first two possessions, driving 74 yards in 11 plays with Rice getting the final six around right end, then getting a 23-yard field goal by Wayne Morrison after a diving interception by Billy Smith. The Cavaliers increased their lead to 17-0 on Walker's 15-yard run on a reverse at the end of a 66-yard march late in the period.
Wake Forest almost scored on the ensuing kickoff, but Marvin Young's 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty. The Deacons scored, anyway, six plays later on a one-yard plunge by Michael Ramseur, who gained 110 yards in 27 carries.
Schuchts and Merrick then stunned the Deacons with their 93-yard scoring play on first down. Schuchts avoided a blitz by the cornerback and threw to Merrick, who was open along the sidelines at the 25.
Virginia took a little longer to go the length of the field late in the second quarter, driving 90 yards in 16 plays. Schuchts completed five passes and got the final yard on a sneak. Wake Forest came back in the final seconds on a 26-yard pass from Gary Schofield to tight end Phil Denfeld, but still trailed by 17 at the half.
Virginia stayed with its running game most of the second half and its only score was a 47-yard field goal.
The passing of Schofield and the running of Ramseur kept Wake Forest in the game until an interception by strong safety Rich Riccardi gave Virginia possession on its own 48 with 3:31 to play.
Schofield, who completed 40 passes in a 52-31 loss at Maryland a week ago, completed 21 of 45 for 311 yards and three touchdowns. In the fourth quarter he threw to Denfeld at the goal line to end a 69-yard drive. That reduced Virginia's lead to 34-21 and with 5:24 to play, he threw 21 yards to split end Tim Ryan. Denfeld's conversion attempt was blocked by David Bond.
After forcing Virginia to put, Wake Forest seemed to have momemtum on its side, but Riccardi cut across the middle and intercepted Schofield's first-down pass.