When Virginia was hit by the grim reality of a losing season Thursday night, it was a team effort.
After stopping U.Va. at the 1-yard line late in the third quarter, North Carolina put together a 97-yard touchdown drive and pulled away for a 37-13 victory at Scott Stadium.
It was the Tar Heels’ second straight victory in Charlottesville after losing 14 straight here between 1983 and 2008.
U.Va. (4-7, 2-5 ACC) never led but trimmed the deficit to 20-13 before North Carolina stopped Kevin Parks for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal at the 1. The Cavaliers already converted a fourth down that took them to the Tar Heels’ 7, but four straight runs failed to produce a score.
Quarterback Bryn Renner then took UNC (7-4, 4-3) on a 12-play drive, ending in a 23-yard touchdown pass to Giovanni Bernard.
U.Va., down 27-13, had one last gasp when quarterback Phillip Sims lofted a pass to Darius Jennings, who was 5 yards behind the nearest defender when he dropped the ball in full stride at the Tar Heels’ 45.
The only momentum the Cavaliers had in the first half was short-lived.
After the Tar Heels reached the U.Va. 12, back-to-back losses pushed UNC back to its 23 before Thomas Moore missed a 40-yard field goal with 4:50 left before halftime.
Michael Rocco took over for Sims, who had thrown a touchdown pass on the previous series, and immediately was intercepted by UNC free safety Tre Boston.
Boston caught the ball at the U.Va. 36 and weaved his way for a touchdown that put UNC ahead 20-10, the margin it would take into halftime.
Rocco started the game before giving way to Sims, who scrambled before tossing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jennings.
Sims started the second half, but Rocco took over after UNC’s Giovanni Bernard fumbled at his 12-yard line, with the Cavaliers’ Ausar Walcott recovering.
Rocco was sacked for a 10-yard loss before an 11-yard pass to E.J. Scott put the Cavaliers in position for a 28-yard Drew Jarrett field goal. That made it 20-13 with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Bernard, who entered the game as the ACC’s rushing leader, had seven carries for 26 yards at the half. Renner completed 19 of 23 passes for 201 yards and one touchdown as UNC outgained the Cavaliers 265-201.
Freshman Quinshad Davis had 10 receptions for 130 yards in the first half and drew a pass-interference penalty on U.Va.’s Demetrious Nicholson right before a UNC score.
Carolina became the first team in seven games to outgain U.Va., which had issues with turnovers, penalties and the kicking game.
A 56-yard kickoff return by Khalek Shepherd was nullified by a block in the back, and he later had a fumble on a kickoff that UNC turned into a late field goal.
Moore originally missed the kick but was given second life after an offsides call on the Cavaliers.