UNC's struggles in Charlottesville continue with OT loss

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Al Groh insisted he didn't lose faith in his Virginia Cavaliers. As the fourth quarter of Virginia's game against No. 18 North Carolina began, he turned to quarterback Marc Verica.

"This is your quarter to shine," he told Verica.

Trailing 10-3 with 2:18 to play, Verica led the Cavaliers on a dramatic 82-yard scoring drive that sent the game into overtime, and Cedric Peerman, who had scored in the final minute of regulation, ran in from two yards to give Virginia a 16-13 win over the Tar Heels on Saturday, continuing North Carolina's struggles in Charlottesville.

Virginia (4-3, 2-1, Atlantic Coast Conference) watched Peerman score on a two-yard run with 47 seconds left in regulation and Robert Randolph's conversion was barely good to send the game into overtime.

"We had our best at the end," Groh said.

Casey Barth kicked a 28-yard field goal to begin OT, and North Carolina (5-2, 1-2) led 13-10.

Tight end John Phillips caught a 19-yard pass from Verica to put the ball on the Tar Heels' four. Peerman ran for two yards and then two more for the winning score.

The win extended the Cavaliers 14-game winning streak at Scott Stadium, and was their third straight win.

Thousands of fans stormed the field, but warnings from the public address announcer quickly cleared the turf.

"I'm glad to see the students enjoy themselves," Groh said.

North Carolina, which won its previous three games and was off to its best start since winning eight straight games to start 1997, was without key playmaker Brandon Tate, who suffered torn ligaments in his right knee in last week's win over Notre Dame. He was lost for the season.

Tate had five touchdowns and was leading the ACC in all-purpose yards when he was hurt.

"We made some mistakes in substitutions and formations that really hurt us, trying to shuttle as many different people in trying to replace Brandon Tate, and that's no excuse," North Carolina coach Butch Davis said.

"Brandon not being here has nothing to do with us not winning."

The Tar Heels, who haven't won in Charlottesville since Nov. 14, 1981, didn't seem to miss him at first as they crisply moved the ball downfield on their opening drive. Houston scored on a one-yard run, and North Carolina led 7-0.

It seemed as if it would be a long afternoon for Virginia, but the Cavaliers didn't allow another touchdown. The Tar Heels entered the game averaging 31.8 points.

Virginia, held to just 18 yards in the first quarter and 59 in the first half, had lots of frustrations.

"The first half couldn't have gone worse for us. I was making bad decisions, we were being penalized and we just couldn't move the ball," Verica said.

Peerman, who had 186 yards a year ago in a 22-20 win against the Tar Heels and 173 in last week's win over East Carolina, was held to 44 yards, but had the two critical scores.

"Last year was dramatic," Peerman said. "This was twice as dramatic."

The highlight of the 10-play, 83-yard drive was Cameron Sexton's 25-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks. It was intended for Richard Quinn, but it bounced out of his hands, and then just past the reach of two Cavalier defenders and into Nicks' hands.

Sophomore Shaun Draughn, who switched from safety to tailback this season, had 13 carries for 80 yards in the first quarter. He had 140 yards -- the third straight game he's rushed for more than 100.

Virginia got a fortunate break early in the third quarter. Sexton's short pass rolled right into the arms of nose tackle Nick Jenkins for an interception.

"I just turned those balls over -- and that can't happen," Sexton said. "I've got to make better decisions."

The Cavaliers took over on the Tar Heel 34, but had to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Randolph.

On North Carolina's next possession, Nicks caught a pass near midfield and fumbled. After Chase Minnifield recovered the ball on Virginia's 45, the Cavaliers were able to drive to the North Carolina 23.

Randolph attempted a 39-yard field goal, but it was blocked.

Virginia drove to the North Carolina 39, but its drive stalled, and was forced to punt. The Tar Heels took over on their own five-yard line with 9:51 to play and made three third-down plays -- two receptions by Nicks and a 10-yard run by Draughn to keep the ball away from the Cavaliers. Hicks, who leads the ACC in receiving added a 23-yarder after North Carolina called its final timeout with the ball on the Virginia 42.

Barth's 40-yard field goal with 2:22 remaining gave the Tar Heels their 10-3 lead. The Tar Heels' 15-play drive lasted 7:29.

Getting the ball back with 2:18 to play, the Cavaliers drove 82 yards in 1:35, Peerman scored on a two-yard run, and Randolph lined up for the extra point. His attempt was tipped and barely made it over the crossbar for a 10-10 tie with 47 seconds to play.

North Carolina has lost nine of its last 11 to Virginia.