UVA opens 2017 season with 28-10 win over William & Mary

UVA football is off to a better start in Bronco Mendenhall’s second season.

The Cavs never trailed in a 28-10 win over William & Mary on a misty, chilly Saturday in Charlottesville.

A Jordan Ellis 1-yard TD run got the ‘Hoos (1-0) on the board first, capping a 13-play, 80-yard first-quarter drive.

It would remain that way until just before halftime, when Kurt Benkert connected with Andre Levrone on a fourth-and-nine play for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 1:31 to go in the second quarter to make it 14-0 Virginia at halftime.

A 41-yard Kris Hooper field goal cut the margin to 14-3 with 10:27 to go in the third. UVA responded with a quick six-play, 56-yard drive culminating in a 17-yard TD pass from Benkert to Olamide Zaccheaus that pushed the lead to 21-3 at the 7:08 mark in the third.

Two UVA drives ended in W&M territory, one because of a Benkert mental hiccup, a 15-yard grounding penalty, the second on a misfire from Benkert to Levrone on a fourth-down pass.

The Cavs also missed badly on a 42-yard field-goal attempt in the first half, the first career attempt by freshman A.J. Mejia, whose kick fell well short of the mark.

William & Mary (0-1) made it interesting in the fourth, getting a 2-yard TD run by Tommy McKee, one of the two quarterbacks that coach Jimmye Laycock used in the game, to cut into the lead.

After a Virginia three-and-out, a Chris Peace interception on a tipped pass set up the Cavs at the W&M 28, with UVA finishing out the scoring on a 1-yard TD pass from Benkert to Ellis with 55 seconds left.

Benkert was 27-for-39 passing for 262 yards and three touchdowns, and a 151 passer rating.

Ellis gained 80 yards on the ground on 20 attempts and had two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving.

Doni Dowling had six catches for 76 yards, and Zaccheaus had 56 yards receiving on five catches.

Virginia outgained William & Mary 354-240. The Tribe was able to gain 168 yards on the ground, with McKee putting up 89 yards on 15 attempts.

Outside linebacker Malcolm Cook had a team-high 13 tackles for Virginia. Preseason second-team All-America safety Quin Blanding had 12 tackles.

The win breaks a seven-game losing streak for UVA, which had last won on Oct. 1, 2016, at Duke.

Virginia had lost its 2016 season opener to another in-state FCS program, Richmond, by a 37-20 final score.

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