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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) –Virginia had little to gain from playing a game against overmatched VMI, and that became especially true when it got lopsided before halftime.

But in the new attitude that prevails since Mike London came on as head coach, the Cavaliers got a lot of necessary work done in dispatching the Keydets 48-7 on Saturday.

Marc Verica threw three first-half touchdown passes, but as importantly, co-backups Ross Metheny and Michael Rocco took their first college snaps. Each threw a scoring pass, giving the Cavaliers five touchdown passes against a defense geared up to stop the run.

Wide receivers like Jared Green and Matt Snyder made their cases for being the ones that take the role of No. 3 receiver from Tim Smith, who may miss the rest of the season with an injury, and running backs Torrey Mack and Terence Fells-Danzer got their first carries.

“I think we took a step forward, but we still have to make a lot more improvement,” Verica said after going 16 for 23 for 224 yards. He was removed in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers (2-1) led 31-7 at halftime in the 82nd meeting, but first since 1991, and got increasingly stingy. VMI had 127 yards of offense in the first quarter, 20 in the second, 20 more in the third and just 12 in the fourth. It was outgained 466-179 overall.

But the Keydets (1-2) arrived coming off a 45-0 loss to William & Mary, and viewed the game more as an experience than a chance to win. They were paid $375,000, which surely will help cover to cost of the 21 buses that brought virtually the entire VMI Corps of Cadets. They were there, clad in white and 1,300 strong, but saw little to cheer.

Even the highlight, a game-tying touchdown in the first quarter, was diminished quickly as Raynard Horne returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown for Virginia.

Still, defensive end Ben Brandt said the Keydets gained plenty from the day.

“We know what our weaknesses are now,” he said. “You never want to get beat like that, but it’s definitely good if we look at it the right way and come back and bounce back.”

Virginia, which opens Atlantic Coast Conference play next weekend when it hosts Florida State, looked especially sharp in the air as it had its best-scoring first half since it also scored 31 in a 48-0 victory at Miami in the last game at the Orange Bowl in 2007.

The victory will not count toward the Cavaliers’ requirement for bowl eligibility since they already beat a Football Championship Subdivision team, Richmond, in their opener.

Verica’s touchdowns went to Dontrelle Inman from 25 and 8 yards, his first career touchdown receptions, and to Kris Burd from 27 yards. Burd caught eight for 119 yards.

Metheny came on in the third quarter and hit Green with a 15-yard scoring pass, and Rocco hit reserve tight end Colter Phillips with a 17-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter.

The Keydets, whose last victory against a Football Bowl Subdivision school came in 1981, the year of their last winning season, made it interesting for most of the first quarter.

“In order for us to make this game competitive, we were going to have to really execute our best,” VMI coach Sparky Woods said. “We had a few good things happen for us early, and thought our plan was okay, but we just didn’t execute it well as the game went on.”

Chase Minnifield muffed a punt for Virginia, setting VMI up at the Cavaliers’ 19, but their drive stalled at the 21 and Jeff Sexton was wide right on a 30-yard field goal try.

After Virginia went three-and-out, the Keydets pulled even.

Cameron Jones hit T.J. Talley for a one-handed, 36-yard reception down the Keydets sideline, then found Chaz Jones after a long scramble for 25 yards to the 2. Three plays later, he was flushed again, but flicked the ball to tight end Robbie White in the end zone.

Then Horne took the kickoff right up the center of the field and was never touched.

“That took the wind out of our sails,” Brandt said.

Minnifield atoned for his early mistake with interceptions to end the next two VMI drives, and Verica drove the Cavaliers 69 and then 25 yards for touchdowns off the picks.

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