Virginia Finally Clicks, Routs Overmatched UNC
Friday, October 20, 2006
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Oct. 19 -- Mike Brown met with Joe Dailey as Virginia and North Carolina cleared the Scott Stadium field Thursday night, a thick mist hovering over them. The high school teammates reunited, Dailey as quarterback of North Carolina and Brown a U-Va. punt returner. The quarterback had a message.
Just by watching film, Dailey said, he could tell the younger Cavaliers were maturing. He told Brown to keep the freshmen and sophomores poised, because he could see plenty of talent on tape. That emerging talent, mixed with veteran moxie, provided all Virginia needed and more in its 23-0 win over North Carolina.
"Things are just growing into place right now," Brown said. "That means a lot to me, when other people on other teams can see the progression. Our last two games, we've been going pretty well."
In a game defined by miscues, Virginia committed fewer and dominated with defense. The Cavaliers were carried by the strong right foot of place kicker Chris Gould, who kicked three first-half field goals, the steady left arm of quarterback Jameel Sewell, who ran for 55 yards and a touchdown while throwing for 166 yards without committing a turnover, and the rugged legs of running back Jason Snelling, who ran for a career-high 131 yards on 19 carries.
Though the victory came against a weak opponent, it breathes a measure of life into an otherwise moribund season. Virginia (3-5, 2-2 ACC) could have reeled after its gut-wrenching loss to Maryland last week, when it led 20-0 at halftime before giving away the game and losing, 28-26. A young team beaten down by a season's worth of discouraging losses, it needed a positive result Thursday night, no matter how unsightly the means for victory may have been.
"A little rough around the edges in some areas, but that's to be expected," defensive end Chris Long said. "Things are coming together. For the first time, tonight we played just a complete team game."
Sewell, a redshirt freshman who turned 19 Thursday, wasn't quite as sharp as he was in the first half against Maryland, but he continued to give the Cavaliers reason to be optimistic for the future. Sewell's biggest play capped Virginia's first drive of the second half. On a first down from the 18, Sewell lined up in the shotgun and ran an option right, the first option that offensive coordinator Mike Groh, had called all game.
As Sewell stretched the play outside, a wide lane opened up and he darted through it. He hopped and high-stepped through the grasping arms of Tar Heel defenders on his way to the end zone, giving U-Va. its first touchdown and a 16-0 lead six minutes into the third quarter.
The nifty run offered a reprieve from an otherwise sluggish game. Virginia wide receiver Emmanuel Byers was sacked for a loss of 18 yards. North Carolina's Kareen Taylor tackled Brown as a punt hung in the air, nowhere near the returner. Starting UNC quarterback Cam Sexton had minus-one yard passing in the first quarter.
One can only assume how North Carolina's receivers would have responded to accurate throws, because its quarterbacks made few of them. With a ghastly array of wayward passes and puzzling decisions, UNC's two-headed monster of Sexton and Dailey at quarterback ensured the Tar Heels (1-6, 0-4 ACC) had little chance of winning.
The Tar Heels exhibited neither the will nor the ability to pass effectively. Sexton threw only eight passes in the first half and completed three.
Long contributed to the long night, leading a tireless pass rush, but the final straw came early in the fourth quarter, when Dailey threw to Hakeem Nicks on third and six. Cornerback Chris Cook blanketed Nicks, and then ripped away the ball from the wide receiver as he tumbled to the ground for an interception at the 19. Two plays later, Snelling scored from the 5-yard line to put U-Va. up 23-0.
Fans filed out, secure with the knowledge that, unlike last week, this lead would be perfectly safe.
"That one looked a little bit more like what Cavalier football is supposed to look like," Coach Al Groh said.