Not since 1951-52 had Virginia had this long an unbeaten run -- six games. And never have the Cavaliers been to a bowl game -- the only Division I-A school in a major conference with that forlorn distinction.

But Coach George Welsh's Cavaliers accomplished the six-game streak and turned today's quite possibly key Atlantic Coast Conference match with Wake Forest into a regionally televised promotion toward moving into the bowl picture.

Superior in a 28-9 victory, Virginia built its ACC record to 2-0-1, behind idle conference leader Maryland (2-0). The Cavaliers also treated 38,671 homecoming fans in muggy Scott Stadium to a performance that comedian Bob Hope probably had no chance of rivaling in his benefit appearance at University Hall later tonight.

In honor of ABC-TV's presence, one banner hung from the stands before the game read, "Atlanta Bound Cavs," a reference to the Peach Bowl, which has scouted Virginia. Another banner read, "Any Bowl Cavs." Seven victories and a following starved for a bowl trip could bring it about; Virginia is 5-1-1. Who would have thought it after Clemson laid it to the Cavaliers in the season opener, 55-0?

Welsh said it isn't time to think it, at least not out loud. Don Majkowski, the sophomore who did an admirable job of quarterbacking, said, "I think the fans are more excited than we are. We know what happened last year." (After a 4-0 start, Virginia lost five of seven, the last by 48-0 to Virginia Tech.)

Yes, Welsh conceded, "I think this was a key game, getting a win before we have a week off." However, next come West Virginia, N.C. State, North Carolina and Maryland.

There was excitement about Majkowski, who in his second start ran the option superbly (52 yards on 10 carries) and passed for 156 yards with no sacks or interceptions; about running backs Barry Word (140 yards, two touchdowns) and Howard Petty (131 yards, two touchdowns); about the offensive line that made their deeds possible, and a defense that held Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2) to one first down in the first half.

By halftime, Virginia had overcome a 3-0 deficit in the first period and was in command, 21-3. Never mind that the Cavaliers ended with a total of "only" 533 yards from scrimmage, compared to their 600-plus in the 34-27 victory here two years ago over the Deacons or the 595 in a 38-34 loss last season in Winston-Salem. This time, there was no Gary Schofield for Wake Forest.

Virginia, with big efforts from defensive tackle Ron Mattes, linebacker Charles McDaniel and secondary blitzers Lenny Lyles, Scott Hillman and Bob Sweeney, harassed quarterback Foy White with three sacks and uncounted hurry-ups.

After Danny Nolan gave Wake a 3-0 lead with a 25-yard field goal 3:38 into the game, Virginia drove from its 40 to the Wake 26. The Cavaliers' first penalty in two games -- in last week's 20-20 tie with Georgia Tech, they became the first ACC team since 1973 to play a penalty-free game -- slowed the advance and Kenny Stadlin was wide right with a 45-yard field goal try.

But by the half, Stadlin had his 38th, 39th and school record 40th straight successful extra points.

And Hope, surprise occupant of an imitation cake marking the 10th anniversary of Virginia's pep band, could tell the crowd from the 50-yard line, "I'd offer my services to the Cavaliers for the second half, but I guess they don't need me."

Wake Forest hung tough through a scoreless third quarter, but a 12-play, 81-yard drive to Petty's second touchdown made it 28-3. Welsh thus could entertain thoughts of giving punter Kevin Ferguson, his early-season starter at quarterback, some work in relief of Majkowski.

But Wake Forest got moving a bit and Welsh said, "We were going to put the second team in, but with seven minutes left, they scored and I got a little nervous."

If there was a turning point, it may have been the second penalty on Virginia, clipping on a runback by former St. John's High player Ray Daly (seven punt returns for 57 yards, an interception). It put the Cavaliers on their 15.

Still, they went 85 yards in eight plays to a 7-3 lead as Majkowski passed to 5-foot-7 flanker Quanah Bullock for 20 yards at first quarter's end, and to tight end Geno Zimmerlink for 27 to get the ball to the 26. Petty took it from there to the end zone on carries of 13, 8 and 5 yards.

Virginia began its next drive with a five-yard penalty, then scored in two plays. Majkowski passed 14 yards to flanker to Jon Muha, then handed to Word, who ran off his left side for 43 yards and a touchdown.

After what had become by then habitual for Wake -- three downs, punt -- Daly returned Harry Newsome's 56-yarder 13 yards. Virginia moved 59 yards in 11 plays, Word going up the middle from the five for the 21-3 margin 2:36 till half time.

Welsh, though, had seen good things even while Wake Forest was extending its mark of yielding only seven points in the first quarter this season. "When you play defense like we were," he said, "good things start to happen."9 Virginia 0 21 0 7 28

WF -- FG Nolan 25

V -- Petty 5 run (Stadli