ACC football: Virginia 16, UNC 3
By Aaron Beard
CHAPEL HILL ó It took just one game for Virginia to regain some of confidence lost during an 0-3 start. Now it’s North Carolina’s turn to figure out what’s wrong.Mikell Simpson ran for the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter while Virginia’s defense turned in a dominating performance to beat North Carolina 16-3 on Saturday.
Robert Randolph kicked three field goals for the Cavs (1-3, 1-0 ACC).
“Everything that we all do for months and weeks is to experience the five or six minutes when a team comes into that locker room and has that sense of satisfaction,” Virginia coach Al Groh said. “That’s what it’s all about. And they earned every part of it.”
Simpson added 100 yards rushing, but the Cavs didn’t need much offense considering the way their defense completely locked down the Tar Heels (3-2, 0-2).
North Carolina got nothing from its ground game, committed three turnovers and managed just 174 total yards. When Simpson scored with 5:49 left, Virginia had a two-possession lead that sent most of the light blue-clad Tar Heel fans bolting for the Kenan Stadium exits.
The ones who stayed booed the Tar Heels steadily the rest of the way.
“It’s very frustrating,” said UNC’s Robert Quinn, who had three sacks. “They’re going three-and-out and we’re back on the field or they’re turning the ball over and we’re back on the field. It’s a team game and I’m not trying to play the blame game, but the offense has got to help us some.”
Virginia had lost at home to FCS William & Mary in the opener, then followed that with a 30-14 home loss to TCU. The Cavaliers then scrapped some of the spread offense they had installed in the preseason before the Southern Mississippi game and led by 17 points at halftime before falling 37-34.
Now the Cavaliers have won 10 of 12 meetings against North Carolina, including all three since Butch Davis took over in Chapel Hill in 2007.
Chase Minnifield made a diving interception on a pass from T.J. Yates with 9:22 left to set up Simpson’s touchdown run. Nearly six minutes remained, but it was clear North Carolina’s offense was in no position to get back into the game.
The Tar Heels ran for just 39 yards ó starting tailback Shaun Draughn had 25 yards on 14 carries ó and Yates couldn’t connect with emerging receiver Erik Highsmith, who had posted consecutive 100-yard games but didn’t catch a pass until the final period.
It was the second straight week that North Carolina’s offense had turned in a clunker, prompting Yates to say, “We deserve to get boos.”