RALEIGH, N.C.--The Cavaliers entered Saturday's gridiron contest with N.C. State in dire need of a win and they knew it. But, with the Cavs trailing by nine at halftime, one might have thought they forgot about the urgency of the situation.
Virginia (4-3, 3-2 ACC) came out in the third quarter and erupted for 30 unanswered points en route to a 47-26 victory against the Wolfpack (4-3, 1-3).
"To be honest it was pretty quiet," Cavalier defensive lineman Ljubomir Stamenich said of halftime. "Everybody knew what we had to do."
"I don't say anything at the half -- hardly ever," said Virginia Coach George Welsh, who set an ACC record with his 33rd Conference road win. "We just reminded them of what we said before the game about reaching down and playing each play hard."
The second-half outburst could have been the Cavs' best of the year. The defense stepped up its play, forcing three turnovers and stopping the Wolfpack in four plays on its only other drive. The defense allowed only 91 yards of total offense in the second half, 70 of which came on N.C. State's solo scoring drive after the half.
The staunch second-half defense put the Cavaliers in good shape on the other side of the ball. The Cavs took over four times inside Wolfpack territory in the second half.
The offense, which had only scored 34 points in the previous 10 quarters including two overtime periods, took full advantage. Virginia scored 37 second-half points including 21 points off of Pack turnovers.
"Those things kill us -- not only did we give them field position, but it just breaks your back," Wolfpack Coach Mike O'Cain said. "Give Virginia credit, they turned our turnovers into touchdowns and did the things they needed to do."
The Cavs not only did what they needed, they did it efficiently, especially after the half. In all, the Cavs picked up 29 first downs and posted 514 yards of total offense on 76 plays -- good for 6.8 yards-per-play.
The Cavaliers had 10 drives in the second half. Of those 10, Virginia scored on five -- all touchdowns.
"Offensively, this was our best performance this year," Virginia running back Thomas Jones said. "Against N.C. State, away, in a big Conference game that we really needed to win, we came through and put some points on the board."
Jones, in typical fashion, spearheaded the Cavalier attack rushing for 221 yards on 38 carriers. He scored three touchdowns and fell just three yards shy of tying John Papit's record 224-yard game in 1948.
But Jones' production was not the key for Virginia. The Cavs balanced the Heisman contender's rushing exploits with a solid air attack. Quarterback Dan Ellis completed 13 of 25 pass attempts for 233 yards and three touchdowns. The lone blemish on his scorecard was a second-quarter interception.
Much of his success stemmed from a steady performance from the offensive line and the receiving corps. Not only did the line free up running room from Jones, they gave Ellis time to throw. The Cavs only allowed two sacks on the day.
Meanwhile the wideouts made sure to run their patterns effectively. First-year receiver Billy McMullen hauled in four passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Receiving cohort Ahmad Hawkins nabbed four receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. Hawkins also caught a pair of two-point conversions.
After a successful outing, the Cavaliers have two weeks to prepare for the nation's No. 1 team -- Florida State. The Seminoles roll into town Oct. 30 for a Halloween weekend showdown.