CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Dontrelle Inman and his teammates were standing on the sideline when they saw Keith Payne burst through the line and gain 15 yards, carrying several Richmond defenders with him most of the way.
Then he did it again, and again.
"We almost got a penalty," Inman said of the scene on the sideline as the Cavaliers celebrated Payne's breakout effort. "The refs told us to back up. If you go back and look at the film, almost the whole team was on the field. We were just so hyped."
Payne ran for 114 yards and four touchdowns, and Virginia ended a four-year losing streak in season openers with a 34-13 victory against Richmond on Saturday night.
Payne, who was finished with football until Al Groh was fired and Mike London replaced him after last season, downplayed his performance, saying it was a team effort.
"I was just following behind the offensive line," he said.
Inman, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and others weren't so dismissive.
Payne caused Lazor to give him a bigger role than was planned, gaining 15, 13 and 15 yards on consecutive third-quarter carries and carrying several Spiders on his back.
"The way the game was going with what we were doing, it was his kind of game," Lazor said of the 255-pound tailback. "We did what we thought fit. I think it worked out just right."
The victory allowed Virginia to accomplish one of its first goals for the season, winning its opener for the first time in five years. It came against London's former team.
Richmond, which beat Duke to start the season twice in the past five seasons, lost in the coaching debut of Latrell Scott, a former Virginia receivers coach. The Spiders pulled to 14-13 on Wil Kamin's second field goal in the third quarter, but Virginia answered with a nine-play, 74-yard drive. Payne gained 50 on five carries, including a 2-yard scoring run.
His other scoring runs covered 1, 2 and 8 yards.
"We came out on the first drive of the second half and I thought it was a pretty good drive," said Richmond quarterback Aaron Corp, who transferred from Southern Cal in January. "After that, we just couldn't seem to get a drive sustained consistently."
The game also marked the return to the Virginia lineup of quarterback Marc Verica, who started nine games in 2008 but played sparingly last season as Groh went to a spread offense.
Verica completed 24 of 35 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown.
Verica, too, was gushing about the big tailback afterward.
"We have a lot of guys on this team right now that are ready to break out," he said. "There were some plays there where he was just enforcing his will. It was special to watch."
Burd finished with seven catches for 122 yards, including a 2-yard TD.
From the opening play from scrimmage, the run-first offense that Lazor installed was effective. Perry Jones burst through the line for 38 yards on the first play, a longer run than the Cavaliers had all last season. Verica's 25-yard completion to Burd two plays later moved it to the Spiders' 13, and two runs by Payne and a penalty gave Virginia a 7-0 lead.
The Spiders tied it when Kendall Gaskins ran into, then away from, a wall of defenders, going 70 yards for a touchdown. The Spiders managed just 100 more yards in the half, but pulled within 14-10 at the break on Kamin's 36-yard field goal 1:23 before the intermission.
Kamin hit from 41 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter on a drive that Corp kept alive with a big-time play. Rolling right and nearly out of room on third-and-12, he found Gaskins running free for 32 yards to the Cavaliers 17 before Virginia's defense tightened.
Corp was 18 for 32 for 183 yards with one interception.