AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - Virginia is riding a two-game winning streak and brimming with confidence.
The Cavaliers (4-6, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat Miami 41-40 on Saturday on Michael Rocco's 10-yard touchdown pass to Jake McGee with 6 seconds to play. A week earlier, they emerged from a bye week looking like a different team and manhandled North Carolina State 33-6 in Raleigh, N.C.
The winning streak has especially helped the younger players on the team regain some confidence, senior tailback Perry Jones said.
"It definitely helps give them confidence and us as a team, so we're just feeding off of it right now and we're going to try to keep it going this week," said Jones, one of five captains on the team.
The Cavaliers, who need to win their last two games to qualify for a bowl game, play North Carolina at home on Thursday night.
The Tar Heels (6-4, 3-3) will be even more motivated than usual after giving up a school-record 68 points Saturday at home in an 18-point loss to Georgia Tech.
They will find a team that is eager to get back on the field, and riding a wave.
"I think the tank's still full. I think we're full steam ahead," said Virginia middle linebacker Steve Greer, another of the senior captains. "I think we're excited and motivated and playing with confidence right now. We all kind of knew what type of team we could be if we eliminated mistakes and quit holding ourselves back. We focused on that in the bye week.
"I think that N.C. State game definitely gave guys on the team confidence. Everyone's having fun and playing together. Right now I think we're kind if looking at it as a tournament _ it's win or go home. Each week is pretty much a one-game playoff."
The Cavaliers close the season on the road at state rival Virginia Tech next weekend.
Coach Mike London said he never sensed a moment when his team figured things out. But after going into the open week on a six-game losing streak, and last in the nation in turnover margin, he felt like an early turnover against the Wolfpack made them believers in what they were doing.
The Cavaliers forced four more turnovers in that game.
"I think you always look for some sort of spark, whether it's offensively, defensively, or from just the mentality of when good things happen," London said. " ... It can become a snowball effect."
"People are ruled by the psychology of results, and you win a big game, a homecoming game on somebody else's turf, you come home, you play a very good team and you win last second _ that helps the psyche."
Since the N.C. State win, the team has been more animated. And even moreso since Saturday.
"It's been great," senior defensive tackle Will Hill said Monday. "The team's come together. We've started to play as one again and everybody is trusting one another that we'll get the job done."
The signs of success are evident in practice, and away from the field.
"You can see a lot of guys putting a lot more effort in as far as in the film room and in practice, trying to do everything right," senior linebacker LaRoy Reynolds said. "I think as a young guy, that's something that has to be learned and winning these last two games has helped them a lot."
The defense got to stand on the sidelines and watch the last 2 1/2 minutes as Rocco lead a 16-play, 87-yard drive to the winning touchdown against the Hurricanes, and Greer loved seeing it unfold.
The drive included two fourth-down conversions.
"To see the offense playing with confidence and moving the ball and just connecting and in rhythm, it was real exciting," Greer said. "Defensively, it kind of motivates you knowing those guys got your back."
Follow Hank on twitter at: http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)