Virginia concluded the first half of Mike London's first season as coach with a grim reminder of how far the program has declined.
Inept from the first snap Saturday night, the Cavaliers lost at home to North Carolina for the first time in 29 years.
The final carnage, on homecoming, no less, was 44-10.
The crowd of 50,830 was far shy of capacity (61,500). By the final whistle, most were elsewhere.
With very good reason.
"I apologize to our fans," London said.
Surprisingly competitive in losing at Southern California last month, Virginia regressed in subsequent setbacks against Florida State and Georgia Tech.
This was worse.
Not to dismiss North Carolina. The unranked Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1 ACC) have rebounded admirably from an 0-2 start despite mass suspensions related to NCAA probes of academic fraud and improper contact with agents.
But Virginia (2-4, 0-3) made unranked North Carolina look like national-title material. The Cavaliers threw five interceptions and allowed four completions of more than 40 yards. They mounted no pass rush and failed to convert in short yardage.
So irked was London that after the game he gathered the Cavaliers at midfield, summoning several who had already retreated to the locker room. His message: Remember this feeling.
"I told them we're gonna win around here," London said. "The mindset of the team I'm going to coach isn't going to forget (this loss)."
What the Cavaliers lack in talent and depth they must counter with poise and execution. In short, they can't get sloppy.
They did early and often Saturday.
The worst offender was quarterback Marc Verica, booed and benched by game's end. His three interceptions led to 17 North Carolina points — middle linebacker Kevin Reddick returned the third 22 yards for a touchdown and 37-10 lead.
"Your fifth-year quarterback has got to do better," London understated. "We've got to do a lot of things better."
London wouldn't commit to Verica as the starter next Saturday against Eastern Michigan, but based on the performances of backups Ross Metheny and Michael Rocco (one interception each), Verica appears the best Virginia has.
And that's an indictment of former coach Al Groh and his staff.
The Cavaliers lost their final six games under Groh and now have dropped 10 straight against Bowl Subdivision opponents, nine versus ACC foes.
"We're going to take all the negative and make it a positive," said tailback Kevin Payne, the lone beacon with 107 yards rushing and a touchdown.
The negatives Saturday started on the first snap. Chase Minnifield missed a tackle, allowing Dwight Jones to turn a routine flip from T.J. Yates into an 81-yard touchdown.
On Virginia's second possession, Verica panicked under pressure, and Tim Jackson intercepted his heave at Carolina's 49. Seven plays later, Yates and Jones connected again, this for a 20-yard score on third-and-9.
Ah, Jones. You'd have thought he was Randy Moss' clone as he torched the Cavaliers for seven catches, 198 yards and those two scores.
Except he's not. Jones entered the game with 12 receptions for 104 yards this season.
Cornerback Ras-I Dowling (knee) did not play, but that doesn't excuse Yates completing 17 of 22 passes for 325 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Remember, the secondary was supposed to be one of the Cavaliers' few strengths, masking inexperience and deficiencies at linebacker.
"We got beat on the field in a manner I thought we wouldn't," London said.
Indeed, the manner was historic. Saturday was Virginia's most lopsided loss to North Carolina since 1959, and the Tar Heels hadn't scored this many points in Charlottesville since 1946.
Needless to say, that time span includes some pretty putrid Virginia squads.
"I would say it's a wake-up call," offensive tackle Oday Aboushi said.
The Cavaliers likely will appear wide awake against Eastern Michigan (1-6), one of the nation's worst teams. But what will that prove?
Truer tests await against struggling ACC outfits Duke, Maryland and Boston College.
"You can point fingers here and there," London said. "(But) it's my responsibility."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun