With Win, Cavaliers Resurrect Season

jason snelling - university of virginia
Jason Snelling cracks off runs of 18 and 17 yards, the second of which resulted in the game-winning touchdown, and finishes with 99 yards on 20 carries Saturday. (Steve Helber - AP)

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By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 29, 2006

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Oct. 28 -- Jameel Sewell hung his head on the sidelines, the responsibility of wasting a stellar defensive performance gnawing at him. Through 3 1/2 quarters, the Virginia quarterback had completed only nine passes for less than 100 yards, allowing North Carolina State to remain in the game.

But with the score tied late in the fourth quarter, Sewell had a chance to redeem himself.

"He's been a pressure player his whole life," said Harry Sewell, Jameel's father.

As Harry trembled in the stands, his son gathered the team in a huddle, peered in running back Jason Snelling's eyes and said, "We're going to put it on your back."

More accurately, they would carry the load together, a resilient fifth-year senior and a cool-headed freshman leading the Cavaliers on a game-winning, season-preserving 80-yard drive that delivered a 14-7 victory. With the score, a 17-yard touchdown rumble by Snelling with 1 minute 31 seconds remaining, they allowed themselves to dream what was once unthinkable: With three games left, Virginia (4-5, 3-2 ACC) needs two wins to qualify for a bowl game, a prospect the surging Cavaliers have turned from fantasy to possibility.

"The sky is the limit," said defensive end Chris Long, perhaps the player most responsible for the victory. "I feel like a lot of people didn't respect us during the season, with good reason. But this is the type of football team we want to be."

On the first play of Virginia's decisive drive, Sewell narrowly avoided a sack as he chucked the ball out of bounds. But after that escape he was magic, 3 for 3 for 35 yards throwing plus an eight-yard scamper and a one-yard first-down plunge, leading the Cavaliers to the N.C. State 35.

To that point, Snelling had run the ball only once on the drive. Sewell kneeled in the huddle and called "38 Colt," a stretch play to the left. Snelling rambled through the hole and burst to the outside, tip-toeing down the sideline for an 18-yard gain.

Sewell looked to the sideline for offensive coordinator Mike Groh's next call -- "38 Colt" again, only this time to the right. N.C. State blitzed, leaving the secondary barren, as center Jordy Lipsey pulled around through the hole. The Wolfpack defense sprinted toward the end of the line, expecting the perimeter rush.

But instead of stretching the play out toward the sideline, Snelling cut straight up the middle of the field, through a massive hole.

"Nah, never seen nothing that big," Sewell said.

Once Snelling burst past the line, he powered through the vacated secondary, dragging a pair of defensive backs in from the 2-yard line. Sewell leapt up and down as he left the field.


CONTINUED     1        >

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