LAWRENCE, KAN., SEPT. 1 -- The young and battered Virginia defense had little chance to become a liability today, and in fact proved much of an asset, as the 15th-ranked Cavaliers rolled over Kansas, 59-10, before 35,000 at Memorial Stadium.

So it came as some surprise that Coach George Welsh had little positive to say about his team. "I don't think we're any good at all," Welsh said. "They did not execute that well, otherwise it would have been a lot closer game in the first half. If they don't make mistakes, and they catch some balls. . . . it might have been 20-14 at the half."

Kansas has four more games against teams ranked in the top 25, which, judging from today's showing, makes for a grim prospect for Coach Glen Mason and his young squad. "We had about three weeks of practice and today it seemed like three weeks of playing," Mason said. "We had some opportunities early in the game . . . but couldn't convert. You have to do things like that to win."

Virginia won its first road opener since 1972, and won by its biggest margin since a 69-9 victory over James Madison in 1979. The Cavaliers next face Clemson -- 59-0 winners over Long Beach State -- Saturday in Charlottesville.

"I was very worried today," Welsh said. "We have a lot of defensive players hurt. It didn't make a difference today, but next week you play somebody better."

Welsh worried in recent practices that his players were looking past Kansas, which hasn't had a winning season since 1981 and is 5-17 the last two years under Mason, to Clemson, which has defeated Virginia all 29 times the teams have met.

Those worries were put to rest early today as a patchwork Cavaliers defense dominated from the start.

"I didn't think they were very good offensively," Virginia defensive tackle Joe Hall said. "I'd like to say it was great defense, but all they did was three-step drops."

Virginia kept starting left defensive end Chris Slade (sprained ankle) and linebacker Yusef Jackson (knee) at home nursing chronic injuries. Nose guard Ron Carey made the trip but did not play behind backup Matt Quigley, and a starting defense composed of redshirt freshmen, reserves and a former walk-on seemingly solved Welsh's biggest preseason worry.

Kansas tailback Tony Sands (1,109 yards in 1989) was held to 12 today. Quarterback Chip Hilleary, making his first collegiate start, completed 13 of 24 passes for 134 yards, but was sacked twice and threw an interception.

Ricky Peete, the son of professional golfer Calvin Peete who walked on at Virginia two years ago, started in place of Slade, causing one fumble and recovering another.

Former tailback Benson Goodwyn pressured Hilleary from right end, and the young Virginia defense coped with the 94-degree heat, which approached 130 degrees on the field. "It's a good thing we had so many guys, because we wore out a lot of guys," said Welsh, who used 62 of the 71 players who traveled here.

"I don't ever want to see that heat again in my lifetime," said Cavaliers tailback Terry Kirby, who finished with 80 yards on 11 carries.

Virginia's Shawn Moore, the nation's only Division I-A quarterback to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 500, threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns and rushed six times for 14 yards and a fourth touchdown. Backup Matt Blundin came in at the end of the third quarter. Wide receiver Herman Moore (four catches for 97 yards) caught a touchdown pass for the eighth time in his last nine games.

Kirby, the 1988 consensus high school player of the year, made his first start a memorable one, rushing five times for 44 yards and a touchdown on Virginia's opening drive.

Kansas advanced to the Cavaliers 32-yard line on its second possession of the game before Peete stripped Hilleary of the ball and redshirt freshman Marcus Washington recovered on the Virginia 48.

The Cavaliers marched 52 yards on their last possession of the first quarter, ending with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Moore to tight end Bruce McGonnigal.

Peete's fumble recovery led to a 28-yard field goal by Jake McInerney. After Kansas punted, Moore engineered an 80-yard drive, completing five of six passes and rushing for the final two, giving Virginia a 24-0 lead.

Sophomore David Ware forced Kansas's third fumble with 21 seconds remaining in the half, and Joe Hall's recovery gave the Cavaliers possession on the Kansas 13. Wide receiver Brian Satola hauled in his first career touchdown at the end of the half.

Dan Eichloff kicked a 46-yard field goal to begin the second half for Kansas. Moore's 59-yard touchdown reception and a seven-yard run by backup tailback Nikki Fisher (55 yards) gave Virginia a 45-3 lead.

"This seems to be the only way people will look at the Virginia football program," cornerback Jason Wallace said. "We've proven we can win the big games, now we've proven we can blow some people out."