CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Virginia's Malik Washington caught the ball and turned toward the goal line as multiple defenders in blue jerseys converged on him. He didn't stop and just kept his legs churning, bouncing off one tackler, then shrugging off another before pushing his way into the end zone.

He immediately raised his arms to flex his biceps in a defiant celebration.

There had been little to indicate the one-win Cavaliers were ready to seize a moment of this scale. And yet, Washington, Mike Hollins and the rest of the Cavaliers carried that determined approach all the way to a stunning takedown of No. 10 North Carolina.

Washington's TD catch was the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, while Hollins ran for three touchdowns to help Virginia upset UNC 31-27 on Saturday night, shaking up the Atlantic Coast Conference race with its first-ever road win against a top-10 opponent.

“What you saw," coach Tony Elliott said, “Is just a group that believed.”

James Jackson had the clinching interception with 26 seconds left, picking off UNC star quarterback Drake Maye as Maye was hit by Paul Akere with the Tar Heels (6-1, 3-1) reaching midfield on a drive for a winning score.

Instead, Virginia players started spilling onto the field to celebrate, while Jackson ran all the way down the field to the end zone in his own jubilation.

Since losing to Tennessee to open the season, three of Virginia’s four losses had come by three or fewer points. When they fell behind by 10 in the third quarter, the Cavaliers looked as if they were headed for another setback.

“I’ve seen this coming for several weeks,” Elliott said. “In all those games that we’ve been close, I’ve seen it coming. At some point, we had to make a decision to finish a game and not be close.”

Washington pushed the Cavaliers (2-5, 1-2) over the top, taking a short feed from Tony Muskett as Muskett evaded the rush and shrugging off those would-be tacklers with 8:51 left.

Washington's flex - coming after what Elliott called “a big-boy play” - was appropriate considering the way Virginia repeatedly ran the ball at and through the Tar Heels despite coming in as one of the nation's most anemic ground attacks.

Virginia came in averaging 99.5 yards rushing per game, worst in the ACC and 122nd in the Bowl Subdivision ranks. But Virginia ran for a season-high 228 yards, with Hollins, Muskett and Perris Jones all running for at least 60 yards.

“We knew we had the capability to do it,” Hollins said. “We just had to put it all together.”

As for the Tar Heels, it was a stunning stumble for a team that had looked as possibly the ACC's best team behind a star quarterback discussed as a Heisman Trophy candidate in Maye.

Maye threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns, including a fourth one in two games to Devontez “Tez” Walker, who had 11 catches for 146 yards. But Maye completed just half of his passes (24 for 48), missing multiple throws while his receivers also dropped numerous passes. One of his best throws for a touchdown from midfield was negated by a holding penalty.

And, the Tar Heels never found the high-scoring form amid the program's best start in 26 years.

“I'm disappointed in me,” UNC coach Mack Brown said. "I'm disappointed in us as coaches. Kids listen to us, they’re young people. It's our job to get them ready to play.”

Hollins scored twice on first-quarter runs, then added a tough 1-yard score in the third quarter that capped a critical drive after UNC had pushed ahead by 10. He very nearly had a fourth rushing score with a chance to put Virginia up two scores, but was stripped of the ball before crossing the goal line and the ball ultimately bounced straight out the back of the end zone with 4:50 left.

Yet Virginia’s defense hung in, with Maye throwing incomplete for Walker on the sideline inside the 10-yard line on fourth down to end the ensuing drive. UNC ended up with one last chance, forcing a punt to get the ball back to Maye with 1:12 left and no timeouts - only to see Jackson haul in Virginia’s cliching takeaway.

It was hard to imagine this kind of outcome, too, considering Virginia’s lone win had come against William & Mary of the Championship Subdivision ranks before last week’s open date. Not to mention UNC had scored at least 31 points in every game, while Maye and the offense had seemingly been picking up steam with Walker being cleared to play after a lengthy NCAA eligibility debate.

“I feel like all week, preparation-wise, energy-wise, I felt like we had it," Maye said. “I felt like nothing really was different.”

None of that mattered though, as Virginia finally could fully celebrate on UNC's field once the clock hit all zeroes.


Virginia: The school said the Cavaliers had lost their first 30 road games against top-10 opponents. But maybe the Cavaliers have found something with their ground game to help them going forward. They had 221 yards in the William & Mary win on Oct. 7, then topped that by running effectively all night against a UNC run defense that ranked fifth in the ACC (113.8).

UNC: The Tar Heels had been adding to what has been their best start since winning the first eight games in 1997, which was the last season in Mack Brown’s first coaching tenure at UNC before leaving for Texas. The talk has been on playing for an ACC title and maybe pushing for a College Football Playoff berth by completing that run. Things look very different now after a head-scratcher of a loss as a big favorite.


Expect UNC to tumble in Sunday's new AP Top 25 - significantly.


Virginia: The Cavaliers visit Miami on Saturday.

UNC: The Tar Heels visit Georgia Tech on Saturday after losing to the Yellow Jackets in each of the past two seasons.


AP college football: and

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