All Virginia needed to get back on track was a little home cooking at its newly renovated stadium and the ball in the hands of tailback Thomas Jones. Behind Jones's effort, the Cavaliers cruised to a 35-7 victory over Wake Forest in front of a record crowd of 50,000 at Scott Stadium.
Jones rushed 24 times for 164 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Virginia offense back from its early season struggles. He also caught two passes for 36 yards.
Jones ended the Cavaliers' inability to find the end zone in the first half of games by slashing through the Demon Deacons' secondary 15 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes 59 seconds left in the first quarter. Before his tally, Virginia had managed only three points in two games during first halves.
The senior tailback's most spectacular play of the night set up his second touchdown. Receiving a swing pass from quarterback Dan Ellis, Jones juked past cornerback Keyshorn Smith on the left sideline and cut toward the middle. He continued to cut upfield, eluding tacklers before running out of bounds on the right sideline at the Wake Forest 14. Two plays later, he ran in from two yards out to put the Cavaliers up, 14-0, with 10:09 left in the second quarter.
Jones scored Virginia's last touchdown of the night on a 12-yard scramble down the left sideline with 6:04 remaining in the third quarter.
"We've faced Thomas Jones before and we certainly know what kind of damage he can do, but I'm not sure I've ever seen him as good as he was tonight," Wake Forest Coach Jim Caldwell said.
Behind Jones's 94 first-half yards, the Cavaliers put the Demon Deacons away early with 305 yards of total offense in the first half, more than double that of their opponent.
Virginia opened up the game and the playbook when wide receiver Tavon Mason ran 31 yards on a reverse for a touchdown, behind a good downfield block from Ellis, to push the lead to 21-0 with 6:14 left in the first half.
Offensive coordinator Gary Tranquil "picked exactly the right spot for the reverse," Virginia Coach George Welsh said. "It was a perfect call."
Welsh hinted that more creativity in play-calling is ahead for future games.
While the Cavaliers' offense was regaining its feet after last week's loss to Clemson, the Cavaliers' defense also rebounded, holding Wake Forest tailback Morgan Kane, who rushed for 211 yards last week, to only 65 yards. After gaining 320 yards against Army last week with an attack centered on an option offense, the Demon Deacons as a team managed only 80 tonight.
"I thought we were going to see the option more," Welsh said. "That was what worried me. We defend that power running game all spring and all preseason, so that's nothing new to us."
"I think we played with a lot more emotion," Cavaliers linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle said. "We got after people more today."
Wake Forest's only touchdown of the night came on a 25-yard pass play from Ben Sankey to split end Jammie Deese with 31 seconds remaining in the first half.
Virginia's Ellis enjoyed his smoothest game of the year, throwing to nine receivers for 220 yards. He completed 19 of 25 passes with one touchdown and one interception.