The first quarter didn't look promising but ultimately, UVa rolled over VMI on Saturday in Charlottesville thanks to big days from running backs Kevin Parks and Daniel Hamm. The Wahoos put up 580 yards of total offense, including 357 on the ground, in the 49-0 rout of the Keydets.
It certainly didn't seem like UVa was on its way to that kind of win during the game's first 15 minutes. Sophomore quarterback David Watford struggled early, throwing two interceptions that killed UVa drives in the opening period.
The first pick came on the team's third drive (after the first ended with a punt and the second a turnover on downs) when his pass at the goal line was intercepted by VMI's Doug Moore. The second INT came on Virginia's next possession, this time on a 1st and 10 at the Keydet 27-yard line. The tipped pass was corralled by James Fruehan, who returned it to the Wahoo 39-yard line.
But UVa's defense was stout all day, only allowing 79 yards of total offense. It showed its muscle six plays after the second interception. With VMI driving, the Hoos forced the Keydets into a turnover on downs on a 4th and 2 at the 30-yard line and on the ensuing drive, Virginia finally got its offense going.
Parks set a career high with 135 yards on 17 carries (7.9 yards per carry) and two touchdowns and posted 204 yards of total offense. He busted out the longest run of his career on UVa's first possession of the second quarter: A 61-yard TD with 12:38 left in the half. It was the longest run by a Cavalier since 2008 and it put Virginia up 7-0.
Parks found the end zone again with 3:09 left until halftime, this time on a 2-yard run that capped a 12-play, 62-yard drive. Up 14-0, it appeared that the home team was finally on the way to the blowout most expected.
With UVa's defense controlling the Keydets handily (Virginia posted the first shutout since 2008), the Wahoos broke away from the conservative play calling to that point with about 2:00 left in the half. Watford attempted a deep throw down the right sideline to Tim Smith and drew a penalty for defensive pass interference. On the next play, the two connected for a 38-yard touchdown on a beautiful deep ball throw down the middle of the field.
On a day where the defense held VMI to less that five first down for the first time since 1979, that was easily enough to secure the win. But the second half was barely underway before the Hamm show began.
First, Watford found Parks on a swing pass for 54 yards on the opening play from scrimmage. Then Hamm, a true freshman making his college debut, found the end zone from 7 yards out. He scored again later, this time on a 12-yard run with 13:52 left to play that ended up being the game's final score.
The UVa track athlete and walk-on football player finished with 21 attempts for 136 yards and gave the Cavaliers two 100-yard rushers since Jason Snelling and Wali Lundy against Temple in 2005.
"Going into the open week, we wanted to work on some things we thought we needed to do to become a better football team," London said. "Obviously, that first quarter wasn't indicative of the things we worked on. I thought the second quarter, with the three scores, the long pass, being able to put some running yards together, and then particularly playing the second half [that] those are the things...that we wanted to do and what we practiced and what we want to be."
London was very complimentary of Hamm, who he said moved up quickly the past few weeks and, with UVa having to go without running backs Taquan Mizzell and Khalek Shepherd due to injury, Hamm's number was called early and often.
"We knew that we were kind of banged up [at running back] a little bit," London explained. "[Hamm] had practiced and actually done a pretty nice job in practice...He came to us as a walk-on from track and wanted to play football. Three weeks ago, he was running with the scout team and then today, he gets over 100 yards. Ran tough, ran hard. You saw that the skill set that he has is speed and durability."
While Hamm was the workhorse, Parks carried the team early and his contributions put the game away when fans were getting somewhat anxious.
"K-P," London said smiling. "There were a couple of really tough runs that he had where he stayed on his feet, the primary tackler made contact, and he stayed on his feet and gained additional yardage. He did a great job today being a tough runner, broke some open-field runs, and caught the ball coming out of the backfield. It was a very productive game for him."
Outside of Parks and Hamm, there was more offense to be seen. Watford and the Cavaliers put together another long drive midway through the second quarter, this one an 11-play, 67-yard drive capped by Watford's TD pass to Jake McGee that put the Hoos up 35-0.
Watford, a sophomore signal caller from Hampton, also found the end zone on the ground, scoring on a 1-yard TD with 3:06 left in the third that put UVa up 42-0. He finished the day 18 of 25 passing for 206 yards passing with two TDs and those two interceptions.
Several true freshmen made their debuts for the Cavaliers in addition to Hamm. Linemen Sadiq Olanrewaju, Eric Smith, and Eric Tetlow (offense) and Donte Wilkins (defense) all saw their first college action. So too did defensive end/linebacker Max Valles and running back LaChaston Smith.
Wilkins recovered a fumble in his collegiate debut while linebacker Demeitre Brim recorded his first career fumble recover and defensive end Trent Corney posted the first sacks (two), forced fumble, and pass breakup as a Cavalier.
With the win, UVa advanced to 2-1 on the season and face their first game away from Scott Stadium next weekend when the Cavaliers travel to Pittsburgh in Virginia's ACC opener.
"You're satisfied right now," London said, "but you can't stay satisfied because now we go on our first road game here for a conference game against a good Pittsburgh team."