12:00 PM ET, November 16, 2002
Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Jamaine Winborne saw the ball going over his head, knew a North Carolina State receiver was there and reacted like any player would when he's suddenly responsible for his team's fate.
Virginia tailback Marquis Weeks ran for 129 yards and a score.
"I was just swinging, because it knew I had to hit his hands,'' Winborne said after slapping the ball away from Bryan Peterson in the end zone Saturday to preserve Virginia's 14-9 victory over the Wolfpack (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP).
"He had it for, like, a split-second.''
The play, a fourth-and-7 from the Virginia 15, started with 25 seconds showing on the clock, and it ended with the Cavaliers and their fans celebrating their seventh victory, one that earned them right to go to a bowl this year.
"This was huge,'' tailback Marquis Weeks said.
Virginia (7-4, 5-2 ACC) won in surprising fashion, holding the high-powered Wolfpack almost 28 points below their 36.9-point average and putting four solid quarters together.
Matt Schaub threw two touchdown passes, becoming the school's single-season record-holder with 22, but said the defense deserved the credit for shutting down the nation's ninth-best attack.
"They came together and played great as a unit today,'' he said. "To have it come down to a fourth down from the 15-yard line with our defense out there, and they stop them, that's just great for them.''
The loss was the third straight for North Carolina State (9-3, 4-3), which only a few weeks ago was being mentioned among the national title contenders. Now the Wolfpack have lost to Georgia Tech, Maryland and the Cavaliers in succession.
"It's becoming a ditto -- three weeks in a row,'' said coach Chuck Amato, whose team twice forced fourth-quarter turnovers to stop drives.
The last came when Virginia receiver Michael McGrew was hit by Greg Golden at the Wolfpack 15, and Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay recovered. North Carolina State never gave the ball back, with Philip Rivers converting four third-down passes before facing the final fourth down from the 15.
Rivers, who was 28-for-47 for 236 yards, threw toward Peterson with Winborne and Willie Davis nearby. The ball was tipped, disappeared in the crowd and then emerged on the turf, setting off a raucous celebration.
Coach Al Groh and his players, though, said they won't celebrate long. The 19th-ranked and defending ACC-champion Terrapins visit next week, and Virginia finishes the regular season at No. 13 Virginia Tech after Thanksgiving.
"We want to win nine games this season,'' said linebacker Merrill Robertson, who caused one fumble and recovered another. "If we beat Maryland, we're second in the ACC, I believe. Shoot, we'll take second in the ACC after everybody else thought we were going to be eighth.''
The Wolfpack came in having outscored its opponents 126-19 in the first quarter and 215-61 in the first half, but they fell behind 7-0 on Schaub's 21-yard touchdown pass to Ottowa Anderson with 8:08 remaining.
The Wolfpack twice drove inside the Virginia 10 in the half, but T.A. McLendon was stripped by Robertson the first time, with Winborne recovering at the Cavaliers' 3. The next time, the Wolfpack settled for a 27-yard field goal by Adam Kiker on the first play of the second quarter.
In the second half, Virginia drove 85 yards for a touchdown after taking the opening kickoff. Weeks ran for 39 yards of his 129 yards on the drive, and Schaub hit Patrick Estes from 6 yards out for the TD.
Schaub was 14-of-26 for 149 yards.
Rivers finally got the Wolfpack into the end zone later in the quarter, scoring on a 2-yard run with 1:49 left to cap a 12-play, 68-yard drive. Kiker, however, missed the extra point, leaving it 14-9.
Schaub fumbled at the Wolfpack 40 while being sacked by Shawn Price early in the fourth quarter, and McGrew fumbled to end Virginia's last drive. In between, Rivers drove his team to the Cavaliers 31 before Almondo Curry intercepted a fourth-and-2 pass at the 15 yard line.
McLendon, playing with a shoulder sprain, ran for 75 yards and caught 10 passes for 70 yards. Jerricho Cotchery added eight receptions for 108 yards.