Against the fastest defense it has faced this season, Virginia's rushing attack wasn't nearly as dominant as it had been while averaging 284 yards in the first four games. But it was good enough to beat Clemson, which is more than the Cavaliers could say last season.
Virginia's 30-10 win, while certainly dependent on strong performances by quarterback Marques Hagans and the defense, would not have been possible without 239 rushing yards. The Cavs learned the importance of a strong running game a year ago at Clemson, when they had to all but abandon a running game that gained only 53 yards and wound up with a 30-27 overtime loss.
Junior tailback Wali Lundy carried the load in the first half, gaining 62 of his 85 yards. Senior backup Alvin Pearman, again at tailback after a one-game emergency stint at wide receiver, took over after halftime with 102 of his 104 yards and both of his touchdowns.
As important as the yardage was the time it used up. Virginia shared the ball almost equally with the Tigers in establishing a 13-10 halftime lead but kept them in check by holding the ball for about 70 percent of the second half.
"That's part of the principal of running the ball, that it's a cumulative thing. Usually it adds up to a little bit more in the second half than it does in the first half," Cavaliers Coach Al Groh said. "It worked out well for us that way tonight."
Lundy surpassed Marcus Wilson, Antwoine Womack and Howard Petty to move into ninth place on Virginia's career rushing list with 2,239 yards.
U-Va. officials spent longer preparing for this game than did the Cavaliers themselves, formulating plans to minimize traffic and parking snarls in anticipation of their first weeknight home game during classes since 1997.
"There is a tremendous impact on the university," Athletic Director Craig Littlepage said. "Obviously the university is not just an athletic department and not just a football game, but there are operations and activities that take place 365 days a year, literally."
Unwilling to suspend its regular schedule -- and unable to significantly alter operations at its large medical center -- Virginia instead decided to close its parking lots to football fans until 5:30 p.m. That resulted in plenty of rush hour traffic as fans arrived in Charlottesville later than usual, many after a full day of work.
But weeks of planning seemed to make the evening run as smoothly as possible. Most of the sellout crowd was seated by kickoff.
A Recognized Effort
George Welsh, who at both Virginia and Navy won more games than any other coach in program history, was recognized at halftime for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Welsh, who retired from Virginia in 2000 after 19 seasons, did some NFL scouting the past two seasons but isn't doing much this fall. He said he wouldn't mind returning to the college game as an assistant coach.
"With the right coach and the right program, I think I could do that," Welsh said before Thursday night's game. "I didn't miss it for a couple years. I miss it now." . . .
Virginia place kicker Connor Hughes returned to form with field goals from 21, 43 and a season-high 50 yards. Hughes, who entered the season as a postseason honors contender after hitting 23 of 25 field goals last year, missed 3 of 6 attempts in the first four games while adjusting to a new holder and snapper. . . .
Fullback Jason Snelling left the stadium after the game on crutches, with a boot on his injured right ankle. His status for the game against Florida State is uncertain. . . . Wide receiver Fontel Mines (collarbone), guard Ian-Yates Cunningham (back) and tight end Jon Stupar (foot) were again in street clothes, but all three are close to getting back on the field, Groh said Wednesday.