WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., OCT. 20 -- No one would have noticed if a dog had chased Virginia's Bruce McGonnigal late Thursday night, but it was McGonnigal who was in pursuit of a lost canine. He wound up suffering serious injuries in a freak fall down a flight of stairs, leaving the Cavaliers without their starting tight end.

McGonnigal, who needs 25 catches to tie John Ford's all-time school record, was lost indefinitely after suffering a bruised kidney, a concussion, and a bruised spleen. According to teammates and team physician Frank McCue, McGonnigal left his girlfriend's home to pursue a lost dog. He followed the dog down a dark stairwell, tripping over the first step and stumbling 10 feet to the bottom, hitting his head and landing unconscious. McGonnigal underwent a CAT scan at University of Virginia hospital and this afternoon was listed in good condition.

McCue said that if McGonnigal's injuries were just the concussion and bruised kidney, he would be available for Virginia's game with Georgia Tech on Nov. 3. But the danger associated with the spleen damage could keep him out of Virginia's four remaining regular season games.

McGonnigal was named all-ACC last season after catching 42 passes for 634 yards and six touchdowns. He has caught 17 for 239 yards and two touchdowns this season, but was held without a reception against Duke last month and to just two for 10 yards last week against N.C. State. His replacement in today's 49-14 triumph at Wake Forest, freshman Aaron Mundy, caught three passes for 29 yards. No More Idle Ire

Coach George Welsh, whose problems this season have been few, has insisted all along that his top-ranked Cavaliers have too -- specifically, two -- many weeks off.

Given a choice, Welsh said he would rather have a schedule similar to that of a year ago, when Virginia played 12 straight weeks and had its best season ever. But to Welsh's short-list of concerns can be added a growing number of injuries that renders Virginia's second idle week this month a welcome respite.

"I'm not standing on any chairs," said Welsh when asked to make himself more visible to television cameras after today's victory. "We have enough injuries."

Starting linebackers P.J. Killian and James Pearson stayed at home with lingering injuries. Killian, Virginia's leading tackler, has a pinched nerve in his neck. Pearson was held out for the second consecutive week with a shoulder injury. "Our defensive lineman have to make more plays," Welsh said. "We can't just depend on our linebackers."

Welsh stressed throughout the preseason that he wouldn't feel confident about a team unless it had a dominating defense -- an unlikely prospect, he felt, with three new linebackers. But Virginia's starting defense surrendered just one touchdown in the first four games and shut out N.C. State a week ago. The Cavaliers' defense was fifth in the nation entering today, allowing 11 points a game. . . .

Wake Forest enjoyed a brief lead, 14-9, in the second quarter, prompting emotional cornerback Tony Covington to begin preparation for a halftime condemnation similar to a lambasting given under similar circumstances against William and Mary three weeks ago. But Virginia scored 16 points late in the second quarter to take a 28-14 lead at the half. "I just told certain individuals to turn up the heat," said Covington, a native of Winston-Salem. "I didn't want my mom to go back to work and have to answer to all those Wake fans." . . .

Virginia's 7-0 start ties the school record set by the 1949 team. Welsh gave the players Sunday off, before preparation begins Monday for No. 11 Georgia Tech -- which tied North Carolina 13-13.

"After seven games, we're ready for an off week," defensive tackle Joe Hall said. "I heard a Miami player say Notre Dame was the cure of all their injuries. I'm sure Georgia Tech will cure all of ours."