CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Mikell Simpson ran for the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter while Virginia's defense turned in a dominating performance to beat North Carolina 16-3 on Saturday.
Robert Randolph kicked three field goals for the Cavaliers (1-3, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who came out of a bye week with a desperately needed win after a terrible start to the season. Simpson added 100 yards rushing, but the Cavs didn't need much offense considering the way their defense completely locked down on the Tar Heels (3-2, 0-2).
North Carolina got nothing from its rushing attack, committed three turnovers and managed just 174 total yards. And when Simpson ran it in from 8 yards out with 5:49 left, Virginia had a two-possession lead that sent most of the light blue-clad Tar Heel fans bolting for the Kenan Stadium exits.
The Tar Heels came into the season facing several questions about their offense and knowing that their defense would have to carry the load. The defense did its part for most of the day, with Robert Quinn tallying three sacks and Virginia managing just 254 total yards. But the offense turned in a bad performance for the second straight week, failing to reach the end zone against a defense that was allowing 31 points per game coming in.
It wasn't the kind of performance the Tar Heels expected from a team that was nationally ranked just two weeks ago before a 24-7 loss at Georgia Tech. But for the Cavaliers, it was exactly what they needed after a tumultuous opening month of the season that had led to speculation about coach Al Groh's future.
Virginia had lost at home to Championship Subdivision team William & Mary in the opener, then followed that with a home loss to TCU. The Cavaliers then scrapped some of the spread offense they had installed in the preseason before the Southern Mississippi game and led by 17 points halftime before falling 37-34.
Now the Cavaliers have won 10 of 12 meetings against their cross-border rivals, including all three since Butch Davis took over in Chapel Hill in 2007.