Three Virginia interceptions spoiled the Atlantic Coast Conference debut of Wake Forest freshman quarterback Mike Elkins, and the Cavaliers hung on for a 20-18 victory today at Groves Stadium.
Elkins had played only one series in his career before starting today because of injuries to Wake Forest's first two quarterbacks. He completed 19 of 37 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns in rallying the Demon Deacons from a 20-3 deficit. Both touchdown passes came in the final quarter, on eight- and 59-yard passes to sophomore wide receiver Greg Scales.
His last touchdown pass came with with 2:57 remaining, but Wake Forest could not get the ball back as Virginia quarterback Don Majkowski used his option offense to run out the clock.
"I wish we had another quarter to play today," said Elkins, brother of former University of North Carolina quarterback Rod Elkins.
Virginia ended a two-game losing streak and is 4-3 overall, including a 3-1 record in the ACC. Wake Forest dropped to 0-4 in the ACC, 3-5 overall.
Elkins' last turnover came in the middle of the final quarter when linebacker Scott Lageman intercepted at the Cavaliers' 18. Interceptions by cornerback Ryan Jackson and linebacker Charles McDaniel halted second-quarter drives.
"I thought all our interceptions were big today," said Virginia Coach George Welsh. "If there's been any time we needed to win a game in my three years here, this is it. This was our shot at a decent season."
The Cavaliers built a 13-0 lead on field goals of 38 and 34 yards by senior Kenny Stadlin in the first quarter and a six-yard run by Majkowski early in the second.
With four seconds left in the half, Wake Forest kicker Doug Illing converted a 42-yard field goal attempt to cut the lead to 13-3.
Virginia answered with a 76-yard scoring drive on its first possession of the second half, capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass from Majkowski to sophomore flanker Quanah Bullock to give Virginia a 20-3 lead with 10:27 left in the third quarter.
A fumble by Majkowski, recovered by all-ACC defensive tackle Gary Baldinger, set up Elkins' first touchdown pass to Scales. A two-point conversion on a pass from Elkins to senior fullback Topper Clemons made the score 20-11 with 13:37 remaining in the final quarter. Elkins connected with Scales on a 59-yard touchdown pass with 2:57 remaining to pull Wake Forest within 20-18.
Virginia has had problems lately scoring in the second half, managing seven points after intermission today.
"We had enough to win today," said Welsh. "We've got a problem in the second half, and all I can say is that we're not quite right on offense yet."
There was little wrong with Virginia tailback Barry Word, however. He carried 24 times for 137 yards and finished as the game's leading rusher. Clemons had 126 yards on 19 carries for Wake Forest.
Majkowski, a junior, gained 51 yards as the Cavaliers' second-leading rusher but completed only four of 11 passes for 62 yards, well under his season average of 137.3 yards per game.
"I thought our defense played very well against a team that always presents a stiff challenge with its running game," said Wake Forest Coach Al Groh, a 1967 Virginia alumnus and former Cavaliers assistant coach. "We just had enough misfortune to lose today."