The Virginia Cavaliers shocked the ACC last night, topping UNC 31 to 27. Virginia rolled into Chapel Hill as a projected 24-point underdog against the number 10 ranked Tarheels. Against all odds, Tony Elliot and the Cavaliers secured their first road win against a top-10 team in program history.
Virginia opened up the scoring early in the first quarter. The Cavalier run game found their pace from the start. A combination of Perris Jones and Mike Hollins on the run and a big catch by TE Sackett Wood had UVA pounding down the field. An 11-yard touchdown run by Mike Hollins would finish off the drive and put UVA up by seven. The Tarheels battled back in their next offensive drive. UNC brought two big plays to cut through the Cavalier defense. A flea flicker got UNC QB Drake Maye rolling and found Devontez Walker for a 25-yard touchdown.
Knotted up at 7-7, UVA would fire back at the end of the first quarter. Virginia relied on short plays and consistent running, a good conversion on 4th down, and another great catch by Sackett Wood to get down to the UNC 5. Des Kitchings decided to go back to Mike Hollins, and it paid off as he punched it in from the 3-yard line, making the score 14-7. Carolina reminded the country why they were #10, scoring ten unanswerd points in the second quarter, shutting out Virginia in the process. Bryson Nesbit and Drake Maye connected 64 yards down the field, then UNC kicker Noah Burnette hit a 43-yard field goal. North Carolina had a 17-14 lead going into the half.
North Carolina got the ball to start the 3rd quarter. UNC continued to show off its offensive talent. Drake Maye found the endzone using his feet and extending the lead to ten points. The Cavaliers did not bend or break after giving up 17 straight points. Tony Muskett and the offense got right back to work. Virginia had another run-led drive, with Mike Hollins grabbing his 3rd touchdown of the game and closing the gap to just three points, 24-21. From this point on, the stars became the Cavalier defense. The defense forced a punt that would lead to a Will Bettridge 45-yard field goal and a tie football game.
The 4th quarter would start with a 24-24 tie and UNC with the football. The Tarheels converted points on the drive with a field goal and resume the lead. Tony Muskett and the Cavaliers now had the chance of the season to make waves. Who else would get it done but star receiver Malik Washington? Washington started with a catch up the middle of the field to get UVA in a great position, then Muskett went right back to Washington for a 17-yard touchdown pass and the 4-point lead. The Wahoo defense showed up again and shut down UNC. On the next drive, Tony Muskett showed his ability as a runner, setting up a scoring opportunity in the red zone. Mike Hollins got the handoff and made a dive for the touchdown, but fumbled just before breaking the plane. The ball bounced through the end zone and resulted in a touchback. With two minutes left in the game, UNC had a chance to win, but Virginia had other plans. The Cavaliers applied heavy pressure, forcing Drake Maye to throw a bad ball that would be intercepted by James Jackson to seal the Virginia win.
It was a truly historic win that showcased some of the best Virginia football over the last couple of seasons. The Cavaliers looked like a completely different team. The run game was miles better than anything seen so far this season. Mike Hollins had three touchdowns and 66 yards. Perris Jones averaged just under 5 yards a carry; Tony Muskett had multiple scrambles for big first downs. Not only was the run game working, but the offense got the tight end Sackett Wood involved, giving him three catches for over 60 yards.
Most importantly, UVA played a complete football game through and through, something that has not been present in 2023. Virginia started hot, scoring early, but when UNC inevitably fought back, UVA stuck around. Two 4th down conversions in scoring drives were a big part of that. The defense forced short drives for Drake Maye and his offense late in the game, which was vital to this win. This game showcased a Cavalier football team that is better than their record shows.
As noted earlier, this is Virginia’s first road win against a top-10 team in program history, not to mention the oldest rivalry in the south. The Cavaliers got a much-needed win, knocking UNC out of any playoff conversations and set far behind FSU in the ACC. Virginia will face Miami next weekend in Coral Gables. It’s another tough game that will need similar top-level football by Virginia to have a chance to win. Miami lost to Georgia Tech earlier in the year in a freakish ending, but a top-quality football team that will provide a challenge for Tony Elliot and the Wahoos.