Unsung DE hit high note for Cavs
Campbell made key play against Wake
BY JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Sep 29, 2003
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Many of the nearly 61,000 fans who attended Virginia's game with Wake Forest no doubt left talking about Connor Hughes' field goals or Matt Schaub's passes or Wali Lundy's runs or Jamaine Winborne's interception in the final minute, if not all of the above.
But U.Va. also had unsung heroes in its 27-24 comeback victory Saturday at Scott Stadium. None played a bigger role than a second-team defensive end from Slippery Rock, Pa.
On the play that perhaps saved the game for the Cavaliers, they had to line up without their best defensive lineman: 6-7, 282-pound end Chris Canty, who'd left earlier with an ankle injury. His replacement was 6-5, 280-pound sophomore Braden Campbell.
"Coming down the home stretch in the fourth quarter, there were a lot of guys who had to step up for us, and he was one of them," U.Va. coach Al Groh said.
Protecting a 24-21 lead, Wake opted to go for a first down on fourth and 2 from the U.Va. 8-yard line. Tailback Cornelius Birgs took a handoff and plunged ahead, but he was stopped for no gain. Linebackers Rich Bedesem and Raymond Mann were credited with the tackle, but after watching the videotape, Groh last night singled out No. 93, whose penetration blew up the Demon Deacons' play.
"Really the guy who was the main guy on that, it was Braden Campbell," Groh said.
Virginia took over on the 8. Five minutes and 17 seconds later, after two possessions that ended with Hughes field goals of 53 and 38 yards, respectively, the Cavaliers (2-0, 3-1) walked off with a victory over a Wake team that whipped N.C. State 38-24 early this month.
"I think it tells the teams in the ACC that we're not going to lie down," Winborne said.
The Wahoos also reminded the league that they have a quarterback to be feared. Schaub, the reigning ACC player of the year, played for the first since separating his shoulder Aug. 30 on the opening series against Duke. The 6-5, 240-pound senior wasn't perfect - Schaub threw three interceptions - but he completed 30 of 45 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns against Wake (1-1, 3-2).
As the Cavaliers' coaching staff reminded itself yesterday, Groh said, "we have to to keep in mind that, if you read the newspapers, it says, 'Matt Schaub, who's missed the last two Virginia games . . . ' But in effect, really, this was Matt's first game of the season, and so he's gone since last December without really full-seed, high-speed action."
The Cavaliers' offense also lost two fumbles, but their defense did its best to offset those mistakes, forcing three turnovers. On two of them, senior cornerback Almondo "Muffin" Curry came up with the ball, once on an interception and the other time on a fumble recovery.
Curry is a product of Hampton High, as is junior guard Elton Brown, who didn't play Saturday because of a concussion that was diagnosed Thursday. Brown's status for Virginia's visit to North Carolina (0-2, 0-4) this weekend is uncertain.
To Jamaine Winborne, the feeling on Virginia’s sideline last Saturday
was a familiar one.
The Cavaliers were down in the second half. They were struggling. Their fans were hushed and anxious. But the mood of the players, said UVa’s senior cornerback, was the same as it was so many times last year when they faced similar situations.
Well, maybe not exactly the same.
“There was something a little different about it,” Winborne said following Virginia’s 27-24 victory over Wake Forest. “I don’t remember us being that tight, that together as a team last year. I mean, we were a tight team last year, but [Saturday] we all came together — offense, defense, everybody. We never lost faith, not for a second.”
The Cavaliers did not have to overcome as daunting a deficit as they did at times last season, when they rallied from 17 points down to beat Wake Forest and from 21 behind to defeat North Carolina.
But after trailing the Demon Deacons by eight points in the third quarter, they exhibited much of the same resolve and tenacity that characterized last year’s team.
Matt Schaub threw for a touchdown and ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game. After Wake regained the lead with a field goal, Connor Hughes won it with two dramatic kicks of his own in the final two minutes.
“That takes a lot of heart,” said Winborne, who set up the game-winning field goal with an interception. “That was a real good team we played and we took their best shot. That gives us a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season.”
The Cavaliers (3-1, 2-0 ACC) did not move back into the top 25 of either major poll Sunday, but they remained perfect in conference play and prevailed in their first close game of the season.
UVa coach Al Groh was happy with the effort and the end result but displeased by many of the particulars. After watching film Sunday, he said a number of defensive players performed below par and the offense, while racking up 477 yards, nearly undid its good work with five turnovers.
Fullback Kase Luzar fumbled at the 1-yard line on the opening drive and Art Thomas also lost the ball after a short catch. Wake cornerback Eric King, whom Groh called “one of the best ball hawks in the league,” forced both fumbles. Because of King, the Cavaliers stressed taking care of the ball in practice last week but didn’t do it well enough in the game.
“I thought the two fumbles were very harmful to our effort and very upsetting,” Groh said.
Schaub threw three second-half interceptions and Ottowa Anderson dropped a pass in the end zone, but those two — and the rest of the Cavaliers — ended up doing just enough right to win the game.
Schaub, making his first appearance since separating his right shoulder on the first drive of the season, completed 30 of 45 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Anderson caught a 25-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, one of 18 receptions by Virginia’s wideouts, who entered the day with 13 catches in three games.
The defense made a number of crucial stops in the fourth quarter, none bigger than a fourth-down stuff of tailback Cornelus Birgs at the UVa 8-yard line. Initially, linebackers Raymond Mann and Rich Bedesem were given credit for the tackle. But Groh said “the main guy” on the play was defensive end Braden Campbell.
“In the fourth quarter, there were a lot of step-up guys who stepped up and made some plays,” Groh said. “Braden was one of them.”
Hughes, obviously, was another. His 53-yard field goal, the longest by a Virginia kicker in Scott Stadium history, knotted the score at 24 with 1:51 remaining.
After Winborne’s interception, Hughes booted the game-winner from 38 yards out with 10 seconds left.
“I think that game showed us a lot about ourselves,” Winborne said. “I think this will really get us going for the rest of the season.”
Note. Junior guard Elton Brown missed the Wake Forest game because of a concussion. Groh said he does not know if Brown will be available to play against North Carolina (0-4, 0-2 ACC) on Saturday.
Groh not in favor of partial ACC member
By DOUG DOUGHTY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
A plan to add Notre Dame as a partial ACC football member did not appeal to Virginia football coach Al Groh any more than it did the ACC presidents who rejected it in a conference call Saturday.
"If that's what their decision is, I concur with it," said Groh on his regular Sunday teleconference. "I don't see how you can be a part-time participant in a league. You're either in or you're out.
"Otherwise, it has the same effect as only having a six- and a five-[team division]. What's the difference between six and five, and six and five and half? It still doesn't add up to 12."
When an NCAA committee this week rejected the ACC's appeal to hold a championship game with 11 teams, there was a renewed interest in an arrangement that would have allowed independent Notre Dame to play four or five conference football games during a phase-in period.
Groh said earlier this week that he would be in favor of a championship game between the winners of two six-team divisions, but he wouldn't expound Sunday on any preferences.
"Oh, I have some thoughts," he said. "Given the soap opera that accompanied the last time, I think it would be best that I keep those thoughts to myself."
ACC presidents, athletic directors, senior women's administrators and other officials will be in Charlottesville this week for what was supposed to be a discussion of divisional alignments, among other topics.
The necessity for divisions isn't as urgent without a playoff. There will be a heightened interest in expansion, but UVa athletic director Craig Littlepage said Saturday he did not think it would be possible to add a 12th team in time to have a playoff in 2004.
DEJA VU: Groh was quick to point out that Virginia's 27-24 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday ended the same way as the Cavaliers' 38-34 win at Winston-Salem, N.C., last year, with a sack by UVa outside linebacker Darryl Blackstock. In this case, it was Blackstock's first sack in four games for the Cavaliers (3-1, 2-0 ACC).
"From what I've seen in practice and what I've seen in games, he's a better pass rusher than he was last year," said Groh, aware that Blackstock set an ACC freshman record when he had 10 sacks in 2002. "I think it's a little bit coincidental. Some of those sacks haven't come to him, but he's caused as many problems in some cases."
Blackstock weighs 240 pounds, up from 220-225 last year, and Groh thinks the weight gain "has made him much more explosive. He can do things now with power that he couldn't do before."
Blackstock's first sack of the season came on the same day that his fellow linebacker and 2002 signee Ahmad Brooks got his first career sack. Brooks, former USA Today national defensive player of the year, spent the 2002 football season at Hargrave Military Academy, enrolled at UVa at midyear and has been a starter since his first game.
BROWNOUT: Groh said he does not know if offensive guard Elton Brown will be cleared to play at North Carolina at 1:30 p.m. Saturday after being diagnosed with a concussion Thursday after practice. He did not play against Wake Forest.
"In looking at tape in very great detail, there was no incident that would give you any reason to believe there was a play that caused it," Groh said. "He had no reaction or symptoms during practice or after practice. This whole thing flared up [with a severe headache] about an hour after practice, which leads to speculation it comes from something back in the past."
Cavs welcome Schaub back with open arms
© September 28, 2003
Virginia committed enough mistakes to lose, but thanks to Connor Hughes’ two fourth-quarter field goals, Matt Schaub’s return to the lineup Saturday was rated an unqualified success in the Cavaliers’ locker room.
“A very gutsy performance,” said tight end Heath Miller, a favorite target of Schaub’s.
“It’s lovely to have him back,” said wide receiver Ottowa Anderson, the former Norview High star, who caught four balls from Schaub, one for a touchdown.
Added coach Al Groh, “If you want to have a tough team, you’ve got to have a tough quarterback.”
Virginia toughed out this one, overcoming Wake Forest and its own turnovers for the 27-24 victory. The outcome turned on Hughes’ 53-yard, game-tying kick with less than two minutes remaining.
Moments later, Hughes returned to the spotlight. His 38-yard field goal gave U.Va. the lead with 10 seconds on the clock, but one of the big story lines of this game revolved around Schaub and his first start since a Duke blitzer separated his left shoulder four weeks ago.
“I think,” the senior said, “I played well.”
Well? Or just well enough? That’s open to debate. What isn’t arguable is that U.Va. needed Schaub under center for every snap against a Wake team that played as if it expected to win.
“Anytime a quarterback throws three interceptions,” Groh said, “there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
Well, a little anyway. Schaub threw for two touchdowns, and should have had two more; Anderson let a pass in the end zone go through his hands, while tight end Kase Luzar fumbled at the one as he was about to convert a Schaub completion into a score. “I thought there were some decisions I could have made differently,” Schaub said. “But I thought the receivers and I were on rhythm.”
Schaub came out for this game as if he’d never been away. He completed 18 of 22 passes for 203 yards in the first half. He kept throwing the final two quarters — he’d finish 30 for 45 — but with less success.
With 326 yards through the air, Schaub enjoyed his third most productive game as a Cavalier. But whether it was because of fatigue or just a case of Wake Forest’s defense rising up, all three of Schaub’s interceptions came in the second half.
Said Wake coach Jim Grobe: “I thought he looked sore at times, but he showed leadership and gutted it out.” Hughes’ 53-yarder was the big play of the game for U.Va., but the kick never would have taken place had Schaub not found a way to convert a two-point conversion.
After Schaub hit Miller in the rear corner of the end zone for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter, U.Va. trailed by two.
On the two-point try, Schaub looked for Miller in the flats. When that wasn’t open, he shook off a defender, and began running up the middle.
“I saw a hole,” said the 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback not known for his speed. “I was going to get to it. I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me.”
He reached the end zone, and U.Va. had its tie.
“That two-point conversion was symbolic of his performance,” said Miller.
On that play and others, said Groh, Schaub “got to demonstrate his heart.”
His arm wasn’t bad, either. U.Va. needs his arm — and his leadership — if the Cavaliers are going to make something of this season.
It’s still too early to tell which direction U.Va. will go. Wake Forest had control of the fourth quarter until Grobe elected to pass up a field goal attempt at the U.Va. 8 yard line. Wake’s failed run on the fourth-and-2 run gave U.Va. the ball, and left the Cavaliers within a field goal.
That was the break Schaub needed to keep U.Va. alive on a day that was notable for a couple of comebacks — by a quarterback and a team.
UNC worried about lagging merchandise sales
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The University of North Carolina topped the list of merchandise sales by universities for the third year in a row, but changing fashions and changing fortunes for its athletic teams have some school administrators worried about whether that will continue.
UNC brought in about $3.6 million in royalties representing sales of $107 million in the last fiscal year, followed by Michigan, Tennessee, Texas and Florida.
Sales began leveling off in the last quarter, according to figures from The Collegiate Licensing Co.
"There are some dark clouds on the horizon," said Nelson Schwab, chairman of the budget and finance committee of the UNC Board of Trustees. "A combination of a poor economy and some less-than-stellar performances on the field gives us pause."
There's also the matter of fashion.
UNC's light blue color scheme has been popular, especially among teenagers, for the last several years, but its appeal may be waning.
"That light blue color has been a very hot color in terms of fashion," said Joe Hutchinson, senior director for university services with Collegiate Licensing Co., the Atlanta-based firm that helps more than 180 universities market their merchandise. "... In our business, fashion trends change."
Baseball caps, one of UNC's top sellers, also appear to be losing popularity.
"That light blue is fading away as a color, and baseball caps, as fashion, is (declining)," said Rutledge Tufts, UNC's deputy for auxiliary services. "It hits us relatively hard."
Collegiate Licensing officials say the success of athletic teams can cause a spike in merchandise sales, like in 1998 when Tennessee won the national football championship and its merchandising royalties jumped.
UNC's football team is 0-4 this year.
The school's basketball team, traditionally one of the nation's best, has failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament the past two seasons and compiled a 27-36 record over that time.
Renewed success on the basketball court - perhaps spurred by the arrival of new coach Roy Williams - could give the university a financial boost.
"Maybe the fashion is waning a little bit," Hutchinson said. "But say they do well in basketball this year, and maybe make a run to the Final Four. Then that basketball success will maybe pick up for the lag in fashion."
Tar Heels defense is scary bad
RALEIGH - North Carolina has the worst defense I have ever seen.
To be fair, I am not including high school or middle school teams. My scope is limited to college football teams in NCAA Division I, II and III. But if the NCAA had a Division IV, I would include it, too.
If you were inside Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday, you know I'm not exaggerating. If you saw the game on pay-per-view TV (that's all that was available), you should know that the small screen was not designed to capture the range and scope of North Carolina's futility.
North Carolina spent Saturday afternoon out of position. When the Tar Heels were in position, it didn't matter. If N.C. State wasn't running away from the so-slow defenders, it was busting their pitiful tackles.
The game began at 2 p.m. When Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers finally threw an incompletion, it was after 3.
The Wolfpack won 47-34. The Wolfpack gained 615 yards and averaged 8.9 yards per play.
Yes, N.C. State has a superb quarterback, innovative play calling and a great collection of fans. The Wolfpack is a tough team to play and Carter-Finley is a tough place to play it.
But here's how easy the home team had it: N.C. State opened the second half on its 20. If there was momentum, the Tar Heels had it. They scored a touchdown with seven seconds left in the first half, added a two-point conversion and trailed only 24-21 at the break.
N.C. State opened the second half by looking for wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. Now, looking for Cotchery is less than a trick play. He is the No. 4 receiver in N.C. State history. He caught 11 touchdown passes in the first four games this season. He caught 74 yards worth of passes Saturday in the first quarter. He would finish the game with 217 receiving yards.
He began the second half by running to his left. Rivers ran a bootleg. One receiver ran to the middle and another ran a slant. The Tar Heels defenders inexplicably rushed to the middle. They left Cotchery so open it was as if he was being shunned.
Rivers didn't shun him. He threw to Cotchery, who grabbed the ball, made one cut and ran 80 yards for a touchdown. Time elapsed: 13 seconds.
"It kills you," said North Carolina linebacker Jeff Longhany.
North Carolina coach John Bunting, a former North Carolina and NFL linebacker, didn't use those words. When he recalled the touchdown, he grabbed his neck and closed his eyes.
Rivers' second pass of the second half was 40 yards, his third pass 14. His third-quarter numbers: 7-of-8 for 182 yards and a 14-yard touchdown run.
The Tar Heels also had numbers. They amassed 550 yards.
So if you want real perspective, here it is. North Carolina's defense was so bad that it was worse than N.C. State's.
Loss to Cavaliers leaves Grobe, Deacs exhausted
Week off comes at good time for WFU, coach says
By Dan Collins
It was a bone-tired Wake Forest football team that made it back to Winston-Salem Saturday night.
The Deacons were as worn and frazzled as any horse that had ever been ridden hard and put up wet. The great prevailing gust of victory they had hoped would carry them all the way back down U.S. 29 out of the middle of Virginia had died out in the final 10 seconds of their 27-24 loss to the Cavaliers, leaving them to no recourse but to limp home bruised, battered and drained.
Gone with the wind was the giddy euphoria of their season-opening victories over Boston College and N.C. State. In its stead was a pained realization that they could easily, with a successful play here or there, be riding home at 5-0 and 2-0 in the ACC rather than 3-2 and 1-1.
Losing takes its toll, a toll Coach Jim Grobe was already paying in the post-game interviews before he and his team embarked on the four-hour bus ride home.
'For the last five weeks we've been through Murderer's Row,' Grobe said. 'Our football team is emotionally worn down.
'They held in there and fought. I felt at halftime we were fortunate to go in only down 10-7. And we battled in the second half and gave ourselves a chance to win. We didn't get it done. But I'm proud of our kids.
'We've been through five pretty tough football games.'
A team in need of a second wind sometimes needs to at first catch its breath, an opportunity the Deacons will have with a bye week before a homecoming game against Georgia Tech on Oct. 11. Grobe has several times expressed ambivalence about having a week off, saying he's never really sure whether it helps or hurts a football team.
But as of Saturday night, he wasn't complaining about this week's respite.
'You like to have an off week when you've won a football game,' Grobe said. 'But we're a pretty unhealthy football team right now, so we really need to have some time. It's kind of a Catch-22. We're so young that we need to practice a lot. But we're so beat up we need to take some time off.
'We'll come back next week and work a little bit the first part of the week, and let them have the weekend off to heal up a little bit and hopefully come back against Georgia Tech with a little healthier football team.'
The Deacons' fatigue could be heard in the post-game analysis of tackle Tyson Clabo, a senior leader who complained, emotionally, of how he and his offensive teammates have failed to capitalize on the many opportunities the defense has provided. The problem, he said, is that the offensive line has yet to jell into a solid, reliable unit able to make the right blocks against the right defensive players with the game on the line.
The line has shown signs of progress, but Clabo is looking for much more.
'It comes together, and it falls apart, and then it comes back together again,' Clabo said. 'We've just got to get consistent on offense. We can hit Jason (Anderson) deep every once in awhile and everyone gets excited. And the defense makes a great play and we go out there and we don't do anything with it.
'I can't remember doing something with a turnover that the defense has given us all year long. The defense just keeps giving us chances to score and we don't convert.'
The opportunity the Deacons won't soon forget was provided by defensive end Jerome Nichols, who returned an interception 36 yards to the Virginia 16 with 71/2 minutes remaining. Wake Forest led 24-21, and could have all but put the game away with a touchdown.
The Deacons responded with four straight running plays, the third of which gained four yards and left Wake Forest facing a fourth-and-2. As he had in the climatic play against Purdue, Grobe called for a running play on fourth down. And as he had against Purdue, he watched the defense dominate his offensive line and stop the play cold.
Post-game criticism of Grobe centered on his decision to eschew a field goal, one that would have left the Deacons ahead 27-21 with less than 51/2 minutes remaining. Clabo defended his coach's decision.
'I wanted to go for it on fourth down,' Clabo said. 'We needed a touchdown. I thought it was a great call. He'd do it again. And I'd be happy to see him do it again.
'They just got us on that play.'
Clabo also stood by the decision to send tailback Cornelius Birgs into the line on fourth down.
'We had a good play called,' Clabo said. 'It should have worked. Somebody just made a play over there for them.
'We didn't get any crazy new defense like we hadn't seen before. It was nothing we shouldn't have been able to handle.'
Even after Connor Hughes' 53-yard field goal tied the game at 24-24, the Deacons had 31/2 minutes to drive back into range for a go-ahead touchdown. Cornerback Jamaine Winborne stopped the drive by picking off a pass by Cory Randolph to set up Hughes' game-winning field goal.
Randolph completed 17 of 31 passes for 218 yards and hit Anderson with a 47-yard scoring strike that vaulted the Deacons into a 21-13 lead. But Grobe said he also showed his inexperience by rolling left and throwing the pass back across his body that Winborne was able to intercept.
That's not to say however, that Grobe was ready to give Randolph back to Central Florida, the school that had a commitment from Randolph before he reconsidered at the last minute and signed with Wake Forest.
'He's a young quarterback,' Grobe said. 'He did so many things to help us win today. You can't get on him for one throw. And he's competing. He's a smart guy. He's got a great heart. He wants to win. And he'll get better, and better and better.
'He's a guy we can win a lot of football games with.'
|Cavalier Daily Staff
Two home games into the season, attendance at home football games has been higher than in years past.
Saturday's game drew 60,884 spectators, reportedly the fourth largest crowd in stadium history. The Aug. 30 season opener against Duke drew an even larger crowd of 61,737 fans. Last year, attendance was typically under 60,000 for home games.
Despite a renovation that was completed in 2000, recent attendance has pushed Scott Stadium slightly past its capacity of 61,500.
Officials in the athletic department attributed the increase in attendance to several factors.
"We have had tremendous response on the part of our students, typical of early season games, which are traditionally highly attended," University Athletic Director Craig Littlepage said. "Not playing at home for a month generated anxiety to see the team play, which worked in our favor."
The expected success of this season's team likely has played a role in inflating attendance as well.
"The anticipation of the quality of our team to be nationally ranked" also adds to game day attendance, Littlepage said.
With growing crowds, security and safety is a concern to University officials. The increase, however, has not yet resulted in major security or safety issues.
"Pretty much the game [Saturday] was orderly," University Police Sgt. Cassandra Carter said. "Some people were escorted out due to noncompliance with ushers, such as drinking."
Despite the minor incidences, Carter said, "It was a good game overall."
Carter emphasized that standard precautions are taken at every game to ensure the safety of spectators. A total of 120 police are assigned to specific posts for every game.
In addition, fans are not allowed to return to the stadium after leaving and bags are routinely checked upon entering the stadium.
"Maintaining safety for the people attending the game is a primary concern," Carter said.
Additional security measures are reviewed and revised before and after every game.
"Safety and security is something we monitor during the games and then evaluate and debrief after the game," Littlepage said.
Another important aspect of game day safety is preventing field rushing after a win, an activity from which University students have refrained so far this season.
"We've reached a point where winning a game is not an exception," Littlepage said. "Fans are a lot smarter. They understand the damage it can cause to the field, dangers to fans and players."
Defense wins championships
Cavalier Daily Gameday Editor
Matt Schaub might have been the pregame center of attention, but some unlikely characters stole the show to make Schaub's return a victorious one.
Sure, Schaub started out strong with 200 first-half passing yards. The gutsy Schaub also led with his injured right shoulder to run in a big two-point conversion and drove Virginia down the field when he had to in the fourth quarter. But he seemed to tire as the game went on, throwing three second-half picks.
But he had help from special teams and defense, something that wasn't always true last year. Sophomore kicker Connor Hughes quickly earned the nickname Connor "Huge" as he remained perfect on the season, hitting all four field goals he attempted, including a 53-yard game-tying bomb and the game-winner.
Hughes has stabilized what was a woeful kicking game, having made 12-of-13 field goals since taking over the placekicking duties against Penn State last season. Hughes has been outstanding, and the sophomore has the leg, potential and makeup to become an All-American before he leaves Virginia.
But what won the game yesterday for the Cavaliers was the "Orange Crush" Defense, which made three big defensive stands late in the fourth quarter, including a fourth down stop inside their own 10.
"You tend to remember those kicks and the passes that got you there," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "But there were guys at the bottom of the pole on that fourth-and-two that had as much to do with this victory as anybody."
Virginia seemed to control the Deacon attack in the first half, and then senior cornerback Almondo "Muffin" Curry picked off Wake quarterback Corey Randolph's first pass of the second half. But after forcing a punt on the next possession, things started to go downhill for Virginia.
Wake Forest scored on three straight drives, all over 50 yards. The 17 points they put on the board gave them a 24-21 lead.
So when Schaub threw an interception on the ensuing possession, with 9:46 to play, it seemed like trouble.
But the Virginia defense stepped up. Freshman sensation Ahmad Brooks made a big third down sack to force a punt.
But Schaub threw another pick, which Wake returned to the 16-yard line.
The defense had its back to the wall. After three straight runs, however, Wake faced fourth-and-two from the Cavalier eight and went for it. But the defense said "No!" Linebackers Raymond Mann and Rich Bedesem stuffed Deacon tailback Cornelius Birgs at the line.
"We kind of knew what was coming at us," Virginia defensive end Chris Canty said. "We had a sense of urgency and understood that we needed to have a stop here if we were going to have any chance to win the ball game, and we did."
After Hughes hit his 53-yard bomb to tie it, Wake Forest moved the ball up to its own 46 and seemed to be in position to get into field goal range. But, on third-and-10, Randolph was flanked out of the pocket. Under pressure, he threw across his body, and senior cornerback Jamaine Winborne picked it off.
Three great opportunities for Wake Forest. Three fourth quarter stops for Orange Crush.
"We knew we had to" step it up, Canty said. "If we wanted to win this game, the defense was going to have to be a major part of it. Wake Forest is definitely a field position team, and we gave away some of that field position, so naturally we had to fight for that back in the fourth quarter."
This is the type of closing that a defense can build on. The ACC's second-worst defense last year, Virginia's beleaguered unit started the season out right with a shutout of Duke. But then Virginia allowed 261 yards on the ground in Columbia, S.C. Since then, Orange Crush has come back with a vengeance, led by its senior cornerbacks.
This was Curry's third straight game with an interception, and Winborne has played a role in four turnovers over the past two weeks.
"Those guys have been tremendous playmakers," Canty said of Curry and Winborne. "There's nothing else I could say about those guys. They're leaders."
And they have to lead, because other than the secondary, in which junior Jermaine Hardy starts at safety, this is a very young defense. Brooks is starting as a true freshman, and two sophomores -- Darryl Blackstock and Brennan Schmidt -- join him in the starting lineup. Freshman Kai Parham sees significant time, and sophomore end Kwakou Robinson had two big tackles inside Virginia's own 10.
The victory yesterday was a team effort. But no one would have cared about Hughes' kicks or Schaub's return or Wali Lundy's career-high rushing total if Orange Crush didn't clamp down when it had to.
Offense may win games, but defense wins championships.