CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Kurt Benkert threw three touchdown passes and Virginia began Bronco Mendenhall's second season as coach with a 28-10 victory against William & Mary in the season-opener for both teams on Saturday. The Cavaliers gave Mendenhall and their fans a much more encouraging start than a season ago, when Virginia was dominated 37-20 by Richmond, like William & Mary a member of the FCS.
Benkert hit Andre Levrone for a 34-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-9 play and Olamide Zaccheaus for a 17-yard score. Benkert finished 27 for 39 for 262 yards. Jordan Ellis ran for 80 yards and a touchdown and caught the clinching score. The Tribe, which spoiled Virginia's opener in 2009 with a 26-14 victory, trailed 21-3 before Tommy McKee scored on a 2-yard run with 6:52 to play. Virginia followed with a three-and-out, but the Tribe juggled the ensuing punt, finally recovering after a scramble at its 4.
McKee's pass then bounced off his receiver and Chris Peace intercepted. Benkert hit Ellis from a yard out with 55 seconds left. McKee completed 6 of 12 passes for 63 yards. He also led the Tribe in rushing with 89 yards on 15 attempts.
William & Mary: The Tribe is young, but will be far more competitive as it returns to FCS-level competition. McKee, the winner of a three-way QB battle, demonstrated much grit and will find receivers easier going forward and won't have to do his other job - punting - as often.
Virginia: The Cavaliers did a good job of rewarding the excitement of a crowd that fell short of 40,000 on a cold and rainy day, but it came against a young defense. They will need to protect Benkert better and continue looking for a kicker. After freshman A.J. Meija missed badly on a 42-yard attempt, Mendenhall and his staff three times went for it on fourth down. The Cavaliers made only five field goals all last season.
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