T.J. Yates threw for three touchdowns and North Carolina won for the first time since 1981 at Scott Stadium, beating Virginia 44-10 Saturday night.
The Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) had lost 14 consecutive games on the Cavaliers’ home field but dominated throughout this one. Yates hit Dwight Jones with a short slant on the first play and Jones went 81 yards for a touchdown after breaking one tackle.
Jones had a huge day, catching six passes for 188 yards and two scores in the first half. He missed a third TD when he stepped out at the half-yard line on a 54-yard reception and finished with seven catches for 198 yards. He arrived with 12 for just 104 yards this year.
Marc Verica struggled mightily for Virginia (2-4, 0-3), throwing three interceptions. Kevin Reddick returned the third one 22 yards for a touchdown and Verica was pulled.
The Tar Heels’ victory was their fourth straight; Virginia lost its third in a row.
Verica’s replacement, Ross Metheny, threw another interception on his first series, after a career-best 49-yard run by Keith Payne set the Cavaliers up at the Tar Heels’ 1-yard line.
Virginia also failed to score in four tries after getting a first down at the 5 on its next series, but already trailed 37-10 when Payne was tackled on the fourth-down play.
The victory came as North Carolina continued to get players back from a roster-depleting NCAA investigation into agent-related benefits and possible academic misconduct. It had defensive end Linwan Euwell and tailback Ryan Houston available for the first time, but only Euwell played. The investigation has left five other Tar Heels ruled out for this season.
They hardly looked shorthanded against the team first-year coach Mike London is rebuilding. The Cavaliers had pledged to get back to basics on tackling after allowing 733 rushing yards in the past two games, but the first play showed there’s still work to do.
Yates also seemed to find wide-open receivers whenever he needed one.
After Virginia pulled within four points at 7-3, Yates hit Zack Pianalto for 46 yards on the next series, leading to the first of Casey Barth’s three field goals. Lineman Tim Jackson’s interception of Verica set up a 49-yard drive capped by Jones’ sliding catch of a 20-yard scoring pass.
Jones later caught another long pass on the first play of a series that started at the Tar Heels’ 45, but was ruled to have stepped out half a yard before the end zone.
Yates hit Pianalto on the next play for the TD. He finished 17 of 22 for 325 yards.
Keith Payne carried 23 times for 107 yards and Virginia’s lone touchdown.