Sept. 2, 2017
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - Kurt Benkert said all along that winning was the only acceptable outcome for Virginia in its season-opener against William & Mary.
Benkert was a big part of making it happen Saturday with three touchdown passes in the Cavaliers' 28-10 victory.
''One-and-oh is better than oh-and-one,'' Benkert said, comparing the victory to last season's 37-20 loss in the opener against Richmond, also a member of the FCS. ''That's where we wanted to start. We didn't care what the game looked like. We wanted to come out with a W.''
Jordan Ellis ran for 80 yards and a touchdown and scored the clincher on Benkert's final pass with 55 seconds remaining. It came minutes after Chris Peace intercepted a ricochet, setting the Cavaliers up at the Tribe's 25 and setting the stage for the final drive.
''Huge,'' center Jake Fieler said of the pick, adding ''there was no point where I felt like `Oh gosh. They might be coming back into this.'''
The Cavaliers gave coach Bronco Mendenhall and their fans a much more encouraging start than a season ago, when Virginia was dominated 37-20 by Richmond on its way to a 2-10 record, and Mendenhall demonstrated an increased faith in his team's closing ability.
''Once we got the lead, we were taking more chances, being a bit more radical on what we were doing (defensively),'' he said.
Benkert hit Andre Levrone for a 34-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-9 play with 1:31 left in the first half, giving Virginia a 14-0 lead. He later hit Olamide Zaccheaus for a 17-yard score, and found Ellis from a yard out on a fourth-and-goal play.
He was 27 for 39 for 262 yards, and the Cavaliers did not have a turnover for the first time in 43 games (Oct. 12, 2013 at Maryland).
The Tribe, who spoiled Virginia's opener in 2009 with a 26-14 victory, trailed 21-3 before Tommy McKee scored on a 2-yard run with 6:52 to play. Virginia followed with a three-and-out, but the Tribe juggled the ensuing punt, finally recovering after a scramble at its 4.
The interception by Peace came three plays later.
McKee completed 6 of 12 passes for 63 yards. He also led the Tribe in rushing with 89 yards on 15 attempts.
''I do not know if it was really pretty, but I thought it was pretty gutty,'' William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said of the junior's play. The quarterback was involved in a three-way battle for the job into the final week and only came out of the game briefly because he was cramping.
MORE ON FOURTH DOWN
Benkert was 2 for 4 on fourth-down throws, and also missed a wide open Levrone in the end zone on fourth-and-7 from the Tribe's 29.
''I love it,'' he said of having the ball on do-or-die plays. ''I think the coaches trust me, they know I'm going to take care of the football and I'm going to put us in the best situation.''
Virginia: The Cavaliers play the second of three consecutive home games when Indiana visits on Saturday.
Thompson Starts Laying GroundworkWomen's Basketball6/20/18Summer practice started Wednesday morning for the Virginia women's basketball team, which has a new head coach, Tina Thompson.Huff Looking to Make Up for Lost TimeMen's Basketball6/19/18A 7-1 forward from Durham, N.C., Jay Huff hopes to carve out a role in Virginia's frontcourt as a redshirt sophomore in 2018-19.Nus Traveling Road to RecoveryMen's Soccer6/18/18Rising senior Sergi Nus, an All-ACC defender who's recovering from a torn ACL, expects to be ready for Virginia's opener in August.
Director of News Content
A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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