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Shocker! UVA surrenders 28-point lead, then tops Central Michigan, 49-35

virginia footballWinless UVA led unbeaten Central Michigan 28-0 early in the second quarter, and it wasn’t a fluky 28-0.

The Cavs had four TDs and the Chippewas had just one first down in five series. The rout was on.

And then it wasn’t.

CMU scored two touchdowns before halftime, got a defensive touchdown on a picksix in the third quarter, then asserted control in the fourth in a 35-28 win over the Cavs.

Or anyway, that was what was supposed to happen.

Then there’s what happened. Virginia, having given up the entirety of a 28-point lead at home, took control in the fourth en route to a 49-35 win, Bronco Mendenhall’s first at UVA.

Central Michigan (3-1) had just 47 yards offense at the juncture that it trailed 28-0, but got on the board on a 1-yard Jonathan Ward run, capping a 13-play, 66-yard drive, that made it 28-7 with 4:06 to go in the first half.

The Chippewas forced a Virginia punt, then scored on a quick-strike 85-yard TD pass from Cooper Rush to Corey Willis that made it 28-14 and turned momentum in CMU’s direction.

The Cavs (1-3) moved the ball in spurts in the third quarter, but a Jackson Matteo unsportsmanlike conduct penalty snuffed out one drive, and the picksix by Amari Coleman, who jumped a wide-receiver screen, made it 28-21 with 6:21 to go in the third.

A 14-yard Willis TD reception on the first play of the fourth quarter tied the game at 28.

You knew what was going to happen at this stage. The UVA D was gassed, the offense was sputtering.

But then it all came together, first with a defensive stop at midfield, then with an 82-yard TD pass from Kurt Benkert to Olamide Zaccheaus that put Virginia back on top, 35-28, with 9:36 to go.

Benkert kept that play alive after his initial reads were covered, sprinting out to the left and throwing against his body to connect with Zaccheaus, who broke upfield as the CMU secondary focused on defending the first-down marker.

The Cavs defense got another stop, and UVA took its next drive 73 yards on eight plays, striking paydirt on a five-yard TD pass from Benkert to Albert Reid, to go up two scores.

A Kareem Gibson interception at the UVA 46 on a third-down pass with 4:17 left ended Central Michigan’s last real threat.

A Benkert-to-Taquan Mizzell 54-yard TD pass on the next play from scrimmage put the final nail in the coffin.

Central Michigan put up a meaningless score in garbage time, on a Jahray Hayes 5-yard TD run with 48 seconds left, to close out the scoring.

So, yeah, wow.

Benkert finished with 421 yards passing, completing 27 of his 43 attempts, with five touchdown passes and the one interception.

Virginia gained a season-high 569 yards of total offense.

Zaccheaus had 141 yards receiving on eight catches and two TDs. Mizzell had six catches for 89 yards and a TD, and ran for 79 yards on 10 carries and another score.

Doni Dowling had five catches for 98 yards. Keeon Johnson had 59 yards receiving on four catches.

Reid ran for 47 yards on 10 carries with a rushing touchdown, and had 10 yards on two catches and a touchdown receiving.

Quin Blanding had 12 tackles, seven solo, and one pass breakup for the Virginia defense, which gave up, ouch, babe, 495 yards to the Chippewas.

Zach Bradshaw had eight tackles, five solo, with a sack and two pass breakups.

Rush was 25-for-45 passing for 402 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.

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