CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Underdog Idaho went for the win instead of forcing a second overtime, and Brian Reader’s two-point conversion pass fell incomplete as error-prone Virginia escaped with a 21-20 victory Saturday.
Virginia (3-2) overcame a blocked punt for a touchdown, an interception, two fumbles and a slew of mental errors to win a game they desperately needed before they head into the meat of their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
The freshman combination of quarterback David Watford and receiver Dominique Terrell clicked for Virginia in overtime. After a facemask penalty pushed the Cavaliers back to the 27, Watford hit Terrell in the right flat. Terrell broke a tackle and outran the secondary to the end zone.
It was a bit of redemption for Terrell, who was replaced as the punt returner in the fourth quarter after letting several Idaho (1-4) punts hit the ground and roll, putting the Cavaliers in difficult field position.
The Vandals responded with a 23-yard pass to a diving Armauni Johnson in the back of the end zone.
But rather than kick the point-after, Idaho went for the win on the road. Reader dropped back and was flushed from the pocket, and he lofted a pass that was swatted down just inside the end zone.
Idaho forced the overtime when Daniel Micheletti scooped up a blocked punt and ran it in from 4 yards out, and Reader hit Marsel Posey for the two-point conversion with 3:11 left in the game.
It wasn’t expected to be this tough for the Cavaliers, and for a while it looked like it wouldn’t be. Perry Jones, getting more time at running back because of an injury to Kevin Parks, scored two first-quarter touchdowns on a 10-yard run and a 6-yard pass from starting quarterback Michael Rocco.
But mistakes by the Cavaliers allowed the Vandals to hang around. Jones, who finished with 110 yards on 21 carries, and Clifton Richardson lost fumbles and Watford’s first series ended when his deep pass on second-and-1 was intercepted.
All the Vandals could manage offensively, however, were field goals of 19 and 42 yards by Trey Farquhar.
Virginia’s coaches were not immune from the lapses. The Cavaliers responded to Farquhar’s second field goal by moving from their 28 to the Idaho 21 in four plays, but with six seconds left in the half they skipped a field goal attempt. Rocco scrambled and was tackled inside the 10 as time expired, and boos cascaded down from the sparse crowd of 39,827.
Neither team could get anything going in the third quarter, and the fourth quarter started with the first of two missed field goal attempts by Virginia’s Robert Randolph. Idaho responded with a quick march deep into Virginia territory, highlighted by a nifty reverse-field 20-yard run by Princeton McCarty and a 44-yard pass from Reader to Mike Scott to the Cavaliers 7.
Two plays later, Dom Joseph intercepted a Reader pass in the end zone.
Virginia’s Chase Minnifield also intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to set the Cavaliers up at the Idaho 46, but that opportunity ended with another Randolph miss from 36.
The Cavaliers finished with 496 yards of total offense to 296 for Idaho, and Virginia wideout Kris Burd had a career-high 123 yards receiving on eight catches.
McCarty had 90 yards on 14 carries for Idaho.