It took five turnovers by James Madison and two long scoring drives in the final quarter to do it, but Virginia remained undefeated tonight with a 21-14 victory over the Dukes, the nation's sixth-ranked Division I-AA school.
The victory, the third straight for the Cavaliers, gets them off to their best start since 1952 when they won their first four games.
The road gets a lot tougher from here on, though. The first three games were at Scott Stadium, but the next three are at North Carolina State, Maryland and Clemson.
The Cavaliers won only two games all of last season.
They also had a major loss tonight when wingback Quentin Walker, perhaps the team's best athlete, broke his left leg in the fourth period. He is not expected to play anymore this season.
"His loss is really going to hurt because we don't have anyone with his kind of quickness and speed," said Coach George Welsh.
Many of the 31,984 spectators had barely settled into their seats when James Madison's Gary Clark brought them upright again.
On the seventh play of the game, Clark, a 5-foot-11, 172-pound speedster from Dublin, Va., returned a 50-yard punt by Jeff Walker 87 yards for a touchdown.
Clark repeated the feat in the second quarter, this time scoring on an 89-yard return.
Clark, the nation's second leading punt returner last year in Division I-AA with a 14.9 yard average, returned six punts for a total of 189 yards tonight. But his two touchdowns were the only two times the Dukes got into the end zone.
They should have been there at least two other occasions.
They fumbled away the ball deep in Virginia territory twice, once at the four and once at the nine.
They also threw three pass interceptions, two coming on the goaline to stop drives.
"If they don't make those mistakes, they win," said Welsh. "But they made them."
Virginia tied the score at 14 on a seven-play, 71-yard drive two minutes into the fourth quarter and got the game winner on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Wayne Schuchts with 5:02 remaining.
The score came at the end of a 12-play, 76-yard drive that was set up when Lester Lyles intercepted a pass by Jon Roddy one yard deep in his end zone and returned it to the nine. A 15-yard personal foul penalty against James Madison on the return put the ball at the 24 and set the stage for the winning drive.
Schuchts threw only one pass on the drive, completing it to Billy Griggs for nine yards. The other 67 yards were gained on the ground as the stronger Cavalier line overcame the tiring Dukes.
"We wanted to keep them loose with the pass and then win it in the fourth quarter by wearing them down," said Schuchts.
Clark's punt returns gave the Dukes a 14-0 lead and Virginia didn't get its first points until Steve Morse scored on a 12-yard run with 4:48 left in the half.
James Madison, which upset the Cavaliers, 21-17, here last year, used its quickness and varied offense to keep the Cavaliers off balance much of the game.
"We really didn't get stopped on offense tonight," said Coach Challace McMillin. "Rather, we stopped ourselves. We got ourselves in scoring position and them kept ourselves out of the end zone."
Virginia gained 279 yards on the ground, with reserve tailback Howard Petty getting 75.
"It was one of those games where we had everything to lose and nothing to gain," he said. "We just decided, when Quentin went down, to get this game over with and so we went on down and scored."
Schuchts, who completed eight of 17 passes for 117 yards, said that even though the Cavaliers were ready for the Dukes this year, "They were still better than we thought."