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Aug 31, 2013

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Mike London had no voice left. Linebacker Henry Coley had no doubt Virginia’s football luck has turned.

Kevin Parks ran 13 yards for a touchdown with 2:36 to play Saturday night after a tipped ball led to an interception, a lateral and 33-yard return as Virginia beat BYU 19-16 in a wild, rain-drenched season-opener that had a 2-hour weather delay.

“We wouldn’t have gotten the tip last year,” Coley said.

Parks’ run came one play after Anthony Harris intercepted Taysom Hill’s pass that glanced off Jamaal Williams’ fingers, and what followed was the kind of play that can have coaches and teammates yelling “No. No. No.” until it works out.

“I figured we needed to score in that situation,” Harris said. “The guy wrapped me up and when I turned around, I saw Henry there with his arms open, so I just trusted that he could catch it and I pitched it to him softly.”

Harris had already returned it six yards, and Coley took it another 27.

Parks did the rest, giving the Cavaliers the kind of victory that eluded them all last season when they finished 4-8.

“This win is the biggest thing we could ask for, especially in the fashion that we got it,” right guard Luke Bowanko said. “It’s good to get that confidence that no matter what the situation is, we have the ability to come through it.”

The victory left London with no voice, saying he “left it out on the field.”

BYU, which had only gotten its offense untracked earlier in the quarter, got the ball back and drove quickly from its 8 to its 41, but Hill threw four consecutive incompletions, badly overthrowing his receiver on the final one.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall said he thought his team was going to keep driving for the victory, believing he saw fatigue starting to take a toll on Virginia’s defense. The Cougars finished with 93 offensive plays, mostly triggered in a fast pace.

“I believed we were,” he said. “I saw momentum shifting, and I saw our offense starting to gain traction.”

He had reason to believe, too, since only minutes earlier, Hill seemed like the hero when he dove one yard for a go-ahead touchdown, capping a 92-yard, 11-play drive against a new-look Virginia defense that had been solid up to that point.

On the drive, Hill hit Brett Thompson for 11 yards, Skyler Ridley for 12 and got an 18-yard run by Jamaal Williams that set him up for the scoring run. Virginia cornerback DreQuan Hoskey also got called for a 15-yard pass interference penalty against Ross Apo, setting the Cougars up and the Virginia 19.

Jamaal Williams gained 144 yards on 33 carries for BYU while Hill was 13 for 40 for 175 yards with an interception. He surely would have benefited from the presence of 6-foot-4 wide receiver Cody Hoffman, the leader among all Bowl Subdivision players with 28 career touchdown passes, but Hoffman was a late scratch with a hamstring injury.

The game was delayed and the stadium was cleared for 2 hours, nine minutes at the end of the first quarter when lightning was reported in the area. The storm eventually brought a heavy downpour, too.

By halftime, as the team returned to the locker rooms, more rain began falling, building up to another heavy downpour, and many in the announced crowd of 53,310 headed for cover again. Then, perhaps realizing they were already drenched, many returned, creating one of the liveliest crowds at Virginia in years.

All the fireworks came after the delay.

David Watford, making his first start for Virginia, threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Darius Jennings to give Virginia a 10-7 lead, and a safety gave Virginia a 12-7 lead later in the third quarter.

Harris set up that score, too, when he blocked a punt, giving the Cavaliers possession at the Cougars’ 16. The Cougars had punted a play earlier, but had to kick again because of a penalty.

Watford finished 18 for 32 for 114 yards with an interception. Parks ran for 65 yards on 20 tries.

JD Falslev’s 17-yard punt return gave the Cougars the ball at Virginia’s 32 in the second quarter, and the Cougars needed just five plays to lead 7-0. Hill finished the drive with a 4-yard pass to Falslev.

Virginia countered with a 53-yard field goal by Ian Frye to end the half.

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