With representatives of four bowls among the second-largest crowd in Scott Stadium history -- 43,379 -- Virginia's young offense caught up with its veteran defense.
The Cavaliers had drives of 98, 79, 80 and 83 yards in a 45-0 victory over North Carolina State. Quarterback Don Majkowski and tailback Barry Word each ran for two touchdowns and Majkowski passed 37 yards to freshman John Ford for another. The Cavaliers have gone nine quarters without a turnover.
"Virginia will go to a bowl this year," said Ronald Dowdy of the Citrus Bowl as Virginia led, 17-0, at halftime. "The score is nowhere as lopsided as it should be. I like (Coach George) Welsh's offense. He runs left. He runs right. He runs up the middle. He passes short. He passes long. You never know what he's going to do. They're a very exciting team to watch."
Virginia, 7-1-1 and unbeaten in its last eight games, won as good teams do. It rushed 68 times for 274 yards, had a few big pass plays and came up with big defensive plays -- three interceptions, one fumble recovery, one blocked field goal.
The key defensive play was the kick blocked by safety Lester Lyles of Washington, D.C., late in the first half. It killed any chance State had of coming back.
The Cavaliers took the second-half kickoff, drove 80 yards for a touchdown and added two touchdowns -- following an interception by Ray Daly and a fumble caused by Lyles -- for a 38-0 lead with 5:34 left in the third quarter.
Virginia had lost 21 of its last 23 games with N.C. State, and had not won at home against the Wolfpack since 1905. Its first Atlantic Coast Conference shutout in 10 years and its widest margin of victory ever in a conference game virtually clinched Virginia's first bowl appearance and kept the Cavaliers (3-0-1 in the ACC) in contention to catch Maryland for the conference championship.
They play North Carolina next Saturday and Maryland Nov. 24. Winning both games would earn Virginia its first ACC title. A loss in either gives Maryland the title.
"It would be nice to go to a bowl," said cornerback Daly, of Seabrook, Md., who intercepted a pass to set up one touchdown and returned a punt 40 yards to set up a 47-yard field goal by Kenny Stadlin. "But a bigger incentive than the bowls is to win the ACC championship."
By winning at North Carolina, the Cavaliers likely would be able to name their bowl. Although bids officially cannot be made until Nov. 24, deals usually are cut beforehand. The Peach, Florida Citrus, Hall of Fame and Cherry bowls were represented here today, and the Liberty also is highly interested, according to Virginia Athletic Director Dick Schultz.
Schultz said he and Welsh will meet Sunday to discuss bowls for the first time. The speculation in Charlottesville this weekend centers on the Peach Bowl, scheduled at 3 p.m. New Year's Eve.
The margin of victory surprised even Welsh. "We're not that good, and they're not that bad," he said. "After the last two weeks they've had, it's tough pyschologically."
State (3-7, 1-4 in the ACC) actually came into this game off three emotional losses, in which it scored 83 points. The last two weeks, the Wolfpack lost to Clemson, 35-34, and to unbeaten South Carolina, 35-28. Today, the Wolfpack was held to 151 yards offense.
"We've been running with our throttle wide open," said Coach Tom Reed. "They say you can't do that, that you'll wear out. If you're looking for an excuse, maybe that's it. I'm not looking for a reason. I believe you can get up every week. You only play 11 times. Their 45 points show that we didn't play defense. And the zero lets you know we didn't play offense. That describes everything graphically."
When State had to punt on its first possession and Marty Martinussen's 44-yard kick was downed at the two, there was some concern that Virginia's problems moving the ball early might hurt the Cavaliers.
But they drove 98 yards in 16 plays. Virginia started by running behind the more experienced left side of its line ("Just to get the momentum going," said Majkowski), then started mixing up the plays.
Majkowski completed four of five passes in the drive. The only play that gained more than 10 yards was a 27-yard pass to tight end Geno Zimmerlink. Word scored the touchdown on an eight-yard run.
That drive set the tempo for the game. "We were very cautious about getting caught down," said left guard Bob Alderman. "The greatest ability this team has is to put everything on the outside and concentrate on whom we are playing."
Some players were perturbed at being unranked by the Associated Press and rated only 19th by United Press International. "Virginia's got that tradition of being a loser," said Lyles. "It (winning) is something new for us, for the media, for everyone involved in the football program. So we have to prove ourselves every week."
The defense had been in the forefront of that. "When the defense keeps getting the ball back, something's going to happen on offense," Welsh said.
Today, it did, and even Daly wasn't sure how much better the Cavaliers can get. "We're playing about the best we can right now," he said. "There's always room for a little improvement. But we can play with anybody right now."