A Virginia team humbled a week ago reasserted itself Saturday, beating North Carolina 24-10.
The Cavaliers, now 8-1 overall, played what Tar Heel coach Mack Brown called a near-perfect ball game to tantalize scouts from seven different bowls. Watching with the most rapt attention were representatives from the Sugar and Fiesta bowls.What they saw showcased on the soggy turf at Kenan Stadium was arguably the most powerful offense in the country. Virginia coach George Welsh would later say that UNC's defensive effort was the best against his team all year - but even that was not good enough.
Shawn Moore, the Heisman-hopeful quarterback, completed all but six of his 22 passes for 236 yards in a workmanlike, if not spectacular, performance. Nine of those went to Herman Moore, who accounted for 99 yards and one touchdown - despite the fact that he was hobbled by a painful turf toe on each foot.
``I guess three-quarters of a practice on Thursday is probably enough for him,' said Welsh of the talented receiver. ``I'm not surprised at anything he does.'
A Cavalier defense not universally respected also managed to get in the act. Five sacks - including two each by Joe Hall and Marcus Washington - helped disrupt a schizophrenic Tar Heel offense.
Each time it appeared UNC might gain some momentum, a fumble snatched it away. The first time came at the Cavalier 18-yard line and the second at the 36, after the UNC defense had responded to the first miscue by forcing a punt.
Virginia led only 14-3 at the time, but the Tar Heel offense just couldn't get anything going. The lone UNC touchdown came late in the fourth period and was little more than a confidence booster entering this week's season-finale with Duke.
``In the first half, we moved the ball and made some good plays,' said Brown. ``But then we'd have some turnovers and some busted assignments. We kept waiting on someone to make something happen, but it never did.'
Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, Virginia has an abundance of the kind of players who make things happen.
Shawn Moore and Herman Moore hooked up three times during the Cavaliers' first drive, including the 14-yard touchdown pass. The talented receiver leaped high into the air to snare the pass at Doxie Jordan's expense, giving Moore his ninth straight game with a TD reception - an NCAA record for one season. He now has caught TD passes in 10 straight regular-season games, tying the NCAA mark over two seasons.
``He's just a dominant football player,' Brown said. ``The thing about Herman is that we had him covered but you have to time your jump just right. It's hard to do that when the guy is 6-foot-5 and he's out-jumped everyone in the state.'
Carolina answered by moving from its own 33 down to the Virginia 31 on its next possession. UNC quarterback Todd Burnett was sacked twice, but he also completed three passes for 50 of his 71 yards to pave the way for Clint Gwaltney's 47-yard field goal.
A 42-yard kickoff return by Jerrod Washington and a 42-yard Moore-to-Moore hookup paved the way for Nikki Fisher's 2-yard touchdown on Virginia's next possession. But down just 14-3, the Heels were hanging in - that is, until the fumbles started.
Virginia converted that second turnover, recovered by P.J. Killian, into a 21-3 lead. But not without some help from the Tar Heels.
Just when the UNC defense appeared to rise to the occasion, a roughing the passer penalty on third and 15 gave the Cavaliers new life. Four plays later Shawn Moore spotted Terry Kirby racing down the right sideline ahead of Eric Gash and unleashed a 42-yarder for the score.
``It was just a couple of big plays,' said Jordan, shaking his head. ``The long pass when I was covering Herman and the long pass with Gash. We were right in the game until then.
``But that's why Virginia was No. 1 for so long. They make the plays.'
And the Tar Heels didn't.