CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Zane Zandier returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown, part of a dominant defensive second half, as No. 21 Virginia rallied past Old Dominion 28-17 on Saturday night to remain undefeated.
Old Dominion’s failed fourth-down try in its own territory set up Virginia’s go-ahead score, a 7-yard touchdown run by Wayne Taulapapa with 10:16 to go for a 21-17 edge.
“We came here to win and that’s how we tried to play tonight,” ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. “I feel like we needed that 4th and one in the fourth quarter, we needed a spark and I don’t regret it all. That’s the type of football you need to play when you are a huge underdog on the road. You have to go for it and that’s what we tried to do.”
The Cavaliers (4-0) are off to their best start since opening 5-0 in 2004. The Monarchs (1-2) have lost two in a row, both to in-state ACC opponents. They lost to Virginia Tech two weekends ago, a year after stunning the Hokies in Norfolk.
Fueled by Virginia penalties and defensive miscues, Old Dominion jumped out to a 17-0 lead with 10:32 left in the first half. The Monarchs got an 8-yard scoring run from quarterback Stone Smartt, and a 47-yard touchdown pass from Smartt to Matt Geiger against a busted coverage in the secondary by the Cavaliers.
A 57-yard kickoff return by Joe Reed gave Virginia the ball at the Old Dominion 33-yard line, the Cavaliers finally got going in the second quarter. It took one of quarterback Bryce Perkins’ jaw-dropping runs — a 10-yard scramble that saw him dodge a rusher, outrun another defender and sidestep a third — to finally get Virginia on the board, pulling to 17-7 with 6:57 left in the first half.
The Cavaliers got their second touchdown when Smartt, under pressure, tried to force a short throw that was intercepted by Zandier and run back 22 yards for a touchdown with 10 minutes to go in the third.
Old Dominion: Smartt’s running ability will help keep Old Dominion in a lot of games. He’s a dynamic playmaker who can be used on designed runs or to make something out of nothing when plays break down. But what really helped the Monarchs get off to a fast start in this one was Smartt’s development throwing the ball. He hit on his first six throws, threw his first touchdown pass of the season and finished . His bad decision on his interception to Zandier helped turn the game, but overall, Smartt took a step forward in the throw game.
Virginia: After a shaky start, Virginia’s defense took control in the second half, holding Old Dominion to just 46 total yards while shutting out the Monarchs after the break. Led by linebackers Jordan Mack and Charles Snowden, The Cavaliers forced two three-and-outs and twice stopped Old Dominion on fourth down. Virginia finished with five sacks.
Old Dominion: The Monarchs jump into Conference USA play, hosting East Carolina and new coach Mike Houston, on Saturday night.
Virginia: The Cavaliers face their first ranked opponent when they visit Notre Dame.