- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - With its high-powered offense stymied throughout the second half and its much-maligned defense in trouble, North Carolina got rescued by a most unlikely trio of players Saturday in a stunning 28-27 victory against Virginia.

First, reserve defensive tackle Nazair Jones intercepted a screen pass and rumbled 20 yards to the Virginia 38. Then backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw a go-ahead 16-yard touchdown pass on third-and-15 with 4:05 remaining. And finally, placekicker Nick Weiler, who had missed two field goal tries earlier, kicked the decisive extra point, then executed a perfect onside kick that caught the Cavaliers off guard, allowing the Tar Heels to recover and hold on.

“What a game,” Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora exclaimed when it was over.

Trubisky’s pass came one play after Eli Harold sacked Marquise Williams for a 10-yard loss, setting up the third-and-15. Williams’ helmet came off on the hit, and Trubisky, who was sharing the job with Williams until two games ago, was forced into action by an NCAA rule mandating that Williams miss a play.

The Cavaliers made it easy, a communication error allowing T.J. Thorpe to run free down the middle for an easy touchdown.

“It was such short notice that I didn’t have time to think about it,” Trubisky said. “I just went in, got the play and executed it.”

And the Cavaliers were stunned, a feeling only made worse when the Tar Heels went with the onside kick, and recovered.

“It felt like somebody stuck a knife in your stomach,” said Cavaliers tailback Kevin Parks, who ran for 111 yards and scored two touchdowns.

North Carolina (4-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its fifth in a row in the series, and on a day when it didn’t play great. The Cavaliers (4-4, 2-2) had kept the explosive Williams and North Carolina scoreless to that point in the second half, but couldn’t stop them after the onside kick was recovered.

North Carolina did face a fourth-and-1 at the 20 with 1:17 left, and was poised to send Weiler out for a third field goal try, but Virginia was whistled for having too many players on the field, giving the Tar Heels a first down as boos cascaded down from a disbelieving crowd of 45,000, Virginia’s best this year.

“We coached poorly at the end and played poorly,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “We did not recognize things that we should have.”

The Tar Heels, victimized by the same play against Georgia Tech a week ago, watched gleefully as the surprise paid off.

“They were backing up while we were kicking the onsides,” said wide receiver Mack Hollins. “When they turned around, they had no chance.”

Until the closing minutes, Virginia had mostly kept the red-hot Williams and Tar Heels at bay, save for three quick drives in the first half, all ending in big plays. Williams came in averaging 449 yards of offense in his last two games, but finished with 308 as the Cavaliers outgained North Carolina 443-374.

The game look destined to be a shootout until Virginia’s defense stiffened after halftime, but for all the yardage, Virginia managed just one field goal in the second half, and when Greyson Lambert threw the ball into the arms of the 280-pound Jones, it proved to be one request too many of the defense.

After Virginia blew a 14-0 lead, Lambert hit Parks for a 2-yard touchdown to give Virginia the lead back at 21-14.

It lasted four plays.

Williams hit Jack Tabb for 22-yards on a third-and-8 play from his 15, then found Hollins behind safety Anthony Harris for a 63-yard scoring play. Williams released the ball as linebacker Henry Coley leveled him and had to be helped up, but Hollins made a gorgeous fingertip catch on the play.

The Cavaliers led 24-21 at halftime after Ian Frye’s 31-yard field goal with 28 seconds left.

Williams did little on the Tar Heels first two series, then did plenty, and fast.

Trailing 14-0, he kept the ball on a read option and went 52 yards untouched for the touchdown, capping a four-play, 75-yard drive that took 45 seconds. After Virginia’s first three-and-out, the Tar Heels needed just two plays, the second Williams’ 57-yard scoring pass to Mack Hollins, to make it 14-all.

The Tar Heels started their next two drives in Virginia territory, but Weiler missed a 39-yard field goal, and David Dean sacked Williams on fourth down.

The Cavaliers made North Carolina’s defense look like its ranking - 124th-worst in the FBS - on their first two possessions, driving 66 yards in nine plays to Lambert’s 31-yard scoring pass to Canaan Severin, and then 90 yards in nine plays to Kevin Parks’ 2-yard touchdown run.

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