CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Kurt Benkert threw five touchdown passes, the last three after Virginia had squandered all of a 28-0 lead, and the Cavaliers gave coach Bronco Mendenhall his 100th career victory, 49-35 over Central Michigan on Saturday.
Benkert hit Olamide Zaccheaus with a go-ahead 82-yard pass after the Cavaliers defense forced its first punt since the opening quarter. Virginia (1-3) forced another punt, and Benkert hit Albert Reid for a 5-yard touchdown, capping a 73-yard drive. Taquan Mizzell also scored twice for Virginia on runs of 4 and 53 yards.
"That's a happy group of young men in that locker room," Mendenhall said. "I'm certainly not saying we've arrived, but it's a nice start."
The Chippewas (3-1), seeking their first 4-0 start since 1985, scored on four of five possessions after going behind 28-0 less than 20 minutes into the game.
Cooper Rush for 402 yards and two touchdown passes to Corey Willis, including an 85-yarder, and Amari Coleman read a screen pass perfectly and scored on a 47-yard interception return.
Mendenhall, in his first year at Virginia, was 99-43 in 11 seasons at BYU before coming east.
Central Michigan: The Chippewas are a confident team, and showed it even when trailing by three touchdowns in a loud stadium. They used timeouts when Virginia had the ball late in the second quarter to stop the clock, and cashed in with two touchdowns in the last 4 1/2 minutes of the half to get within 28-14.
Virginia: Rush picked apart the Virginia secondary, which lost cornerback Juan Thornhill on the first play of the game. The unit also lacks speed and played off the Central Michigan receivers for much of the day, allowing several long completions that produced third-down conversions. Kareem Gibson was a frequent target, but acquitted himself with a fourth-quarter interception to set up an insurance TD.
Central Michigan: The Chippewas head into Mid-American Conference play at home against Western Michigan.
Virginia: The Cavaliers, losers of 17 in a row on the road, will try to end that skid as they open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule at Duke.