There were nearly two minutes left to play when the 2,500 or so University of Virginia rooters started chanting "four and oh, four and oh." The other 42,000 spectators at Carter-Finley Stadium were North Carolina State fans and they sat in stunned silence.
Yes, the Virginia Cavaliers are 4-0, 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, as they passed their toughest test thus far with a 26-14 victory over the Wolfpack today. It was the first time since 1952 that Virginia has won its first four games.
In doing so, the Cavaliers beat N.C. State for the first time since 1971. They did it with a lot of things stacked against them, but they came up with a dynamic fourth-quarter drive that used eight minutes. It resulted in the last of Kenny Stadlin's four field goals, tying a school record. The kick barely carried the necessary 49 yards, but it gave the Cavaliers a 19-14 lead with 2:58 to play.
Virginia also blocked one punt and sacked the punter on another; the Cavaliers also intercepted three passes.
Their own quarterback, Wayne Schuchts, was being blitzed all day long and had to pick himself up from seven sacks. But he completed 18 of 28 passes for 223 yards, six of his completions coming on third or fourth down for 98 yards.
Virginia played without three injured starters--flanker Quentin Walker, tailback Antonio Rice and safety Rich Riccardi. In addition, the Cavaliers were playing their first road game and in daylight for the first time this season. But they made it a performance to remember.
"State was on our schedule at just the right time," said Schuchts, "just enough of a step up from the teams we had been playing."
The next step up is Maryland, next Saturday at College Park.
Coach George Welsh said he could feel the momentum change "at least six times today," but it turned for good with 12:03 remaining and State (behind, 16-14, at the time) on the Virginia eight-yard line driving for the go-ahead points. But William Frazier, a 5-foot-8 cornerback from Herndon High School, intercepted Tim Esposito's pass in the end zone.
On first down, Esposito changed the play at the line of scrimmage and lofted a pass to the far right corner of the end zone toward his favorite receiver, Ricky Wall. The pass was incomplete, but even more of a problem for State was that Frazier picked up the audible, too.
"It's just a timing pattern," he said. "The receiver does a head fake and then runs to the corner. He threw it up and I just waited for it to come down. I heard the audible and went to the right spot. The receiver had his back to the ball when the quarteback released it, but I was playing the ball all of the way."
Taking possession at its 20, Virginia consumed the game's next 9 minutes, 5 seconds with an 18-play drive that resulted in Stadlin's fourth field goal.
On the drive, the Cavaliers converted three third-down and a fourth-down play, but it still seemed they were going to come up short when Schuchts was sacked for a seven-yard loss on third down, moving the ball back to the 33.
Welsh didn't hesitate. He sent in Stadlin to try the 49-yarder.
"I wasn't worried about the distance," said Stadlin. "I didn't have a very good week in practice, but when I woke up this morning I knew it was my day."
Said Welsh: "I was going for the field goal all the way because we needed those three points. We were helped a bit because their field slops down that way. Really. Otherwise, it wouldn't have gone over."
Stadlin's other field goals were from 19, 27 and 32 yards.
Now down, 19-14, with 2:58 left, State's Dwayne Green dropped the ensuing kickoff and when he finally got hold of it, he stumbled forward four yards and fell at the eight.
Two plays later, safety Lester Lyles, from St. Albans High School in Washington, D.C., intercepted another pass by Esposito and returned it seven yards to the eight. A personal foul against the Wolfpack put the ball at the four. Two plays later Howard Petty scored on a three-yard run with 2:16 left, clinching the victory.
Virginia was leading, 3-0, when Schuchts was intercepted by Ken Loney at the State 25 for the Cavaliers' only turnover today. State drove 74 yards in nine plays for a 7-3 lead, the touchdown coming on a four-yard pass from Esposito to Ricky Isom.
The Cavaliers' first touchdown was set up when Lyles stormed through the line and sacked punter Marty Martinussen before he could get his foot on the ball. That gave Virginia possession at the 33 and five plays later, Barry Word scored on a one-yard run, one play after Schuchts and Billy Smith combined on a 35-yard pass play on fourth and 13. It was one time Schuchts read the blitz.
State got its other touchdown on a 15-yard run by Joe McIntosh with 5:34 left in the third period. That gave the Wolfpack a 14-13 lead, but a 24-yard field goal by Stadlin regained the lead for the Cavaliers with 16 seconds left in the quarter.
"They wanted the game and they believed they could win it," State Coach Tom Reed said of the Cavaliers. "We played miserable football. We got beat and appeared to enjoy getting beaten. It looked like we wanted to be somewhere else."
Virginia is right where it wants to be: four and oh.