CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Tony Muskett threw for two touchdowns and ran for one and Virginia ended an eight-game losing streak dating to last season with a 27-13 victory against William & Mary on Saturday.
Muskett, a transfer from Monmouth, hit Malachi Fields for a 26-yard score and Malik Washington with a 27-yarder and ran 7 yards for another score for the Cavaliers (1-5). The Cavaliers, who had only achieved 100 rushing yards once previously this season, finished with 221 yards on the ground.
Muskett said urgency was emphasized during the week. Three of the Cavaliers’ five losses have come by a total of seven points.
“One of the messages Coach E (Tony Elliott) had this week where I truly felt like, you know, the guys kind of bought into it completely was we felt like the past five weeks, we wanted to win,” Muskett said. “But this week, he told us that we need to win. I think that there’s a different level of, you know, commitment and passion when you truly need to win.”
Muskett, a transfer from Monmouth, led the way, playing with an injured non-throwing shoulder he hurt in the season opener, Elliott said.
“He’s persevered and he’s given everything that he has,” the coach said. “He’s running the football, right? He’s trying to trying to win the game. So I think you saw just how tough and how much he cares about this football team.”
The Tribe (4-2) led 13-3 before Virginia’s defense tightened and its offense came to life. After arriving with one of the stiffest defenses in the Football Championship Subdivision, the Tribe had trouble stopping Virginia’s previously weak running game. Perris Jones led the Cavaliers with 134 yards on just 12 carries.
Virginia pulled within 13-10 by driving 66 yards in six plays, with Muskett keeping the ball and running for 15 yards over the last two plays for the touchdown.
A sack by Alex Washington forced a 37-yard field goal on Virginia’s next series, evening the score at 13. After a shanked punt gave the Tribe the ball at Virginia’s 34, Coen King forced a fumble by Darius Wilson at the Virginia 20 and Tayvonn Kyle recovered at the 21.
Six plays later, Muskett laid a pass into the arms of a diving Fields in the end zone with :07 on the clock, giving Virginia a 20-13 halftime lead.
“Obviously some things occurred that you don’t want to happen,” Tribe coach Mike London, who was Virginia’s coach from 2010-15, said. “I think we weren’t as efficient on third down offensively or defensively. That’s been one of our calling cards to be pretty good on third down and in total defense as well.”
Virginia was 6 for 15 on third down, but converted both of its fourth-down attempts and finished with 453 yards.
Virginia had a chance to double its lead in the third quarter, but Muskett’s pass into the end zone was tipped and intercepted. The Tribe then drove deep into Cavaliers territory, but on fourth-and-2 from the Virginia 8, Martin Lucas was stopped for a 2-yard loss.
Muskett capped a 90-yard drive with a 27-yard connection with Washington to provide some breathing room, making it 27-13 with 11:11 to play.
Muskett finished 17 for 26 for 232 yards. Washington, who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference both in receptions and yards, caught seven for 112 yards.
W&M: The Tribe came in averaging 258 rushing yards, and when Virginia was effective in slowing that down, its pressure on Wilson kept him from getting anything going in the passing game. Wilson finished 14 of 18 for just 72 yards.
Virginia: Muskett started slow, overthrowing several open receivers and losing a fumble that led to a Tribe touchdown, but when he warmed up, throwing the ball and running with it, the Cavaliers started clicking. On their last three scoring drives of the first half, they had nine plays that covered 10 yards or more.
The Tribe has a bye week before playing Towson at home.
Virginia has a bye week before facing four Top 25 teams in the next five weeks.