CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Phillips Sims was left to wonder what might have been, and it hurt.
Virginia's backup quarterback came on in relief of Michael Rocco and threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and thought he might get a chance to rally Virginia to victory, but a penalty for an illegal substitution snuffed that out Saturday, and the Cavaliers lost 44-38 to Louisiana Tech.
"It was real tough. It's pretty much everyone's dream to be in a situation like that: two minutes left and the chance to help your team come out with a victory," Sims said after throwing for 166 yards and touchdowns of 3 yards to Jake McGee and 24 yards to Adrian Gamble, the latter with 2:08 to play.
"You never know what may have happened with that time left. It's a hard pill to swallow," Sims said.
The penalty was Virginia's 16th, for 145 yards, and whether coach Mike London agreed with the call or not, he said the Cavaliers burned themselves with a series of foolish infractions, many 15-yarders.
"You talk about playing smart. The second guy always gets caught," he said. "There was a lot of chippiness going on out there, a lot of talk and just stuff that we don't need to get involved with. You've got to be smart. We talked about being physical, but also playing with poise."
The poise all belonged to the Bulldogs after Virginia took a 24-10 lead.
Colby Cameron threw for one touchdown and ran for another, and Louisiana Tech scored 34 unanswered points. Ray Holley ran for two touchdowns for the Bulldogs (4-0), who trailed 24-10 midway through the second quarter. They then intercepted Rocco three times and converted each one into a touchdown on their way to their eighth consecutive road victory and 11th win in a row during the regular season.
The Cavaliers (2-3) came out seemingly intent on getting into a wide-open game and flourished into the second quarter. Tailback Perry Jones threw a 36-yard touchdown pass, and Rocco made scoring throws of 73 yards to Khalek Shepherd and 2 yards to Paul Freedman until the Bulldogs' defense made some plays.
The first came with a big assist from Virginia wideout Dominique Terrell, who got hit in the hands by a pass from Rocco, couldn't pull it in and deflected it to Quinn Giles, who returned it to Virginia's 25.
The play came right after the Cavaliers put on a goal-line stand, denying the nation's No. 3 scoring team any points after a 94-yard kickoff return by D.J. Banks had set them up at the Virginia 3.
Two plays after Giles' interception, Holley ran it in from the 16 to make it 24-17.
A field goal by Matt Nelson, one of three for him in the game, made it 24-20 at halftime.
The Bulldogs took command in the third quarter, taking the opening kickoff and driving 73 yards in hurry-up mode to Holley's 11-yard scoring run. After an exchange of punts, Dave Clark intercepted Rocco and returned it to Virginia's 43, setting up a four-play drive capped by Cameron's 14-yard scoring run.
Two plays later, Rocco hit linebacker Chip Hester, who took it 32 yards for a touchdown.
The play gave the Bulldogs 31 unanswered points on the home field of a BCS-level school for the second week in a row. They did it in beating Illinois 52-24 of the Big Ten last week in Champaign, Ill.
Rocco, who threw for 265 yards in the first half, was replaced by Alabama transfer Sims. He threw the touchdown passes to McGee and Gamble, the second with 2:08 to play, but after Virginia seemingly held and forced a likely punt, the Cavs sent their punt return team on the field during a timeout, and when the Bulldogs sent their offense back out onto the field after a timeout, the Cavaliers were called for illegal substitution, giving a game-ending first down.
It was the Cavaliers' 16th penalty for 145 yards in the game.1 comment on this story
Cameron finished 23 for 36 for 218 yards and a 3-yard first-quarter touchdown to R.P. Stuart. It was Cameron's 12th touchdown pass of the season, and he still has not thrown an interception.
Virginia's halftime lead came despite being penalized 10 times for 95 yards and giving up 10 points in the final 3:02.
The Cavaliers also tried a surprise onside kick after going ahead 14-3, but Louisiana Tech recovered, got a 15-yard personal foul penalty to set them up at Virginia's 39 and drove for a TD that made it 14-10.
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