RALEIGH, N.C. -- Virginia wasn't about to give up on the season.
With the season on the brink of becoming a full disaster, the Cavaliers turned in a sizzling performance in a surprisingly dominating 33-6 victory against host North Carolina State on Saturday afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium.
"Guys (were) just sticking to the plan, believing in themselves and having a chance to pick up a win," coach Mike London said.
Mixing two quarterbacks in and out of action and displaying a suddenly opportunistic defense, the Cavaliers had their way in winning for the first time in almost two months.
"We hung in there and felt that this was the most important game for us," Virginia defensive end Jake Snyder said.
Virginia (3-6, 1-4 ACC) avoided its first seven-game losing streak since a slump in the 1981 season, but it still must win its next three games to be eligible for a bowl.
N.C. State (5-4, 2-3), playing its first home game in nearly a month since upsetting then-unbeaten Florida State, crumbled on homecoming a week after a final-minute loss at rival North Carolina.
It was a special result for London, who was the defensive coordinator under N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien from 1997-2000 at Boston College.
The Cavaliers went to quarterback Michael Rocco on their third series, turning to a mixture at the position while continuing to use Phillip Sims at times. Both turned out to be effective.
"It was determination that we have two guys that are very talented players that provide different things to our team," London said. "Both of them brought things to the table, bring different things to our team."
N.C. State dodged a shutout on Mike Glennon's 2-yard pass to tight end Mario Carter with 6:30 left. Recovering the ensuing onside kick didn't help because the Wolfpack didn't pick up a first down on the possession and that led to Virginia's final touchdown.
"After the game, I stood there and looked at the scoreboard and couldn't believe it," N.C. State safety Earl Wolff said. "Couldn't believe it."
The Cavaliers entered the game holding the worst rating in the country in turnover margin, collecting four turnovers in their first eight games. They snatched three takeaways in the first half Saturday, then added Maurice Canady's fourth-quarter interception.
A fifth N.C. State turnover came on a fumble at the end of a punt return.
"Always talked about if we could just get one to happen, things would happen after that," London said. "You feed off the energy of what turnovers can provide."
The Cavaliers registered six sacks after managing a total of six all season coming into the game.
The Virginia offense was slightly revamped and there were rewards for that.
"We used the bye week a little bit to get back to basics," center Luke Bowanko said. "Work on stuff that we need to improve as an offensive unit and a defensive unit."
Virginia scored on the game's opening possession, with Sims scrambling in from 1 yard out. The 11-play march came before Rocco's 18-yard touchdown pass to Darius Jennings with 27 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Those plays meant the Wolfpack has allowed 97 first-quarter points this year. It has faced double-digit first-quarter holes four times this season, losing each of those games.
There might have been more if not for Virginia receiver Jennings' fumble inside the N.C. State 10-yard line on the Cavaliers' second possession.
Virginia's lead stood at 16-0 after defensive tackle Will Hill's sack of Glennon in the end zone.
"They came in there and went right after us and we didn't respond," Tom O'Brien said.
When Anthony Harris picked off Glennon in the first quarter, it marked only the second interception for Virginia's defense this year. Virginia's Eli Harold intercepted Glennon in the second quarter at the Cavaliers' 34-yard line, thwarting the Wolfpack's deepest penetration of the first half.
Glennon fumbled with 38 seconds left in the first half, with Jake Snyder's recover leading to Drew Jarrett's failed field goal from 22 yards out.
Virginia, though, retained momentum with Tim Smith's 38-yard touchdown reception from Sims to build a 23-0 edge.
The Cavaliers were poised to build on the advantage, but went with a fourth-down punt from shotgun formation from the N.C. State 31-yard line.
Later, Jarrett connected from 33 yards out on the second play of the fourth quarter for a 26-0 lead.
Running back Kevin Parks added a 31-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 4:28 remaining.
Notes: N.C. State dropped to 10-2 in games after a loss since the start of the 2010 season. ... N.C. State receiver Bryan Underwood caught at least one touchdown pass in the first eight games. Without one against Virginia, he fell one game shy of the ACC record of nine games in a row by former Virginia receiver Herman Moore in 1990. Underwood began the week as the only player in the country to catch a touchdown pass in each of his team's games this year. ... The other 11 ACC teams had won at least one conference game prior to this week, so now Virginia joins them.