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Virginia football defeats William and Mary 28-10 in season opener

Benkert slings three TDs as the Hoos control the game for their first win.

NCAA Football: William & Mary at Virginia
Dowling has huge day for the Hoos.
Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Virginia football team got their first win of 2017 in the season opener against William and Mary 28-10. Kurt Benkert led the offense with three touchdowns and 262 yards while Jordan Ellis scored two touchdowns.

Virginia stalled out on their very first drive of the season, going three-and-out, but put together a substantive second drive, going 80 yards to score a one-yard touchdown from running back Jordan Ellis.

A familiar face took the field in the middle of the first quarter, with reigning NBA Rookie of the Year and former UVA basketball star Malcolm Brogdon back on Grounds.

The Hoos led William & Mary 7-0 after the first quarter, and the home team stretched their lead to 14-0 just before halftime. Virginia threatened to score midway through the second quarter, but ran some questionable plays that resulted in a missed 43-yard field goal by first year AJ Mieja.

Virginia looked to be sputtering on their next drive, looking at a fourth-and-9 from the 34-yard line. Instead of attempting another long field goal or trying to pin the Tribe deep, Coach Mendenhall decided to take a shot at the end zone. Benkert found wide receiver Andre Levrone in stride in the end zone to put the Hoos up 14-0 and give Benkert his first passing touchdown of the season.

Levrone led the Cavaliers in the first half with 56 yards on two receptions, the versatile Olamide Zaccheaus had 37 yards on three receptions, and fourth year Doni Dowling hauled in two catches for 29 yards. Benkert finished the first half 15-for-24 with 154 yards and a touchdown. Overall, Virginia out-gained the Tribe 216 to 68 yards.

Defensively, the Hoos were outstanding, limiting William and Mary to just 68 yards - including 14 yards passing - in the first half. Third year Malcolm Cook recorded his first career sack in the second quarter in his first game back after sitting out all last season with a heart condition.

William and Mary got off to a hot start in the second half, converting a 41-yard field goal to cut Virginia’s lead to 14-3. The Hoos responded authoritatively with a 56-yard touchdown drive. Joe Reed gave Virginia excellent field position with a 44-yard kickoff return, and Ellis trucked for 21 yards on the drive before Benkert found Zaccheaus for a 17-yard touchdown.

Virginia had Levrone open in the end zone in the 4th quarter, but Benkert overthrew him. William and Mary was able to put together a 71-yard scoring drive on the ensuing possession, capped off with a 3-yd touchdown run by Tribe QB Tommy McKee. McKee finished with 89 rushing yards to go with his 63 in the air.

The Hoos closed the game with Ellis’s second touchdown, a one yard reception on a swing pass.

Virginia finished the game with 354 yards of offense, 262 of which came in the air, and didn’t turn the ball over.

Next up, Virginia welcomes Indiana to town on Saturday, September 9 at 3:30pm.