CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Cedric Peerman ran for 173 yards and two long touchdowns, and Virginia turned back a second-half East Carolina rally for a 35-20 victory Saturday.
East Carolina converted a pair of interceptions into an early 6-0 lead. But Peerman rallied the Cavaliers (3-3) with scoring runs of 78 and 60 yards, and the rout was on.
But the Pirates (3-3) got a lift from Dwayne Harris' 59-yard return of the second-half kickoff and cut the lead to 28-20 on Jonathan Williams' 1-yard touchdown run and Patrick Pinkney's 10-yard scoring pass to Brandon Simmons.
The momentum seemed clearly in East Carolina's favor after Virginia turned the ball over on downs at the Pirates' 33. But Pinkney fumbled on a sack by Matt Conrath, and the Cavaliers' Alex Field recovered at the 24 midway through the fourth quarter.
Virginia stalled at the 12 and lined up for an apparent field goal attempt. Holder Scott Deke, a senior backup quarterback, took the snap and tossed his first career touchdown pass to a wide-open John Phillips to make it 35-20.
East Carolina's dim hopes vanished with another Pinkney fumble, recovered by Clint Sintim, with just over two minutes left.
Peerman's first TD came on the last play of the first quarter. The Cavaliers had done little on offense before he beat one defender to the edge, slipped a couple of tackles and raced down the right sideline 78 yards.
His 60-yard touchdown run came five minutes later, on the first play after a 1-yard shanked punt by East Carolina's Matt Dodge. Peerman found a gaping hole behind left tackle Eugene Monroe and was untouched to the end zone, stretching Virginia's lead to 14-6.
Before those two runs, it looked like the Cavaliers might be plagued by the same turnover problems that led to their 31-3 loss to Duke two weeks ago. Verica, who threw four interceptions in that game, was picked off on Virginia's first possession. His pass was on target, but it bounced off the hands of fullback Rashawn Jackson and into the arms of Jerek Hewett, leading to Ben Hartman's 45-yard field goal.
Two possessions later, an overthrown pass by Verica was intercepted by J.J. Millbook at the East Carolina 48. Nine plays later, Hartman's 35-yard field goal made it 6-0.