U.Va. Relapses Against Fla. St.
Sunday, November 5, 2006
TALLAHASSEE, Nov. 4 -- The tapes played out like horror movies all week in the Virginia film rooms. Florida State players, fast as a hummingbird's wings, intercepted passes, blocked punts and caused general mayhem for opponents at Doak Campbell Stadium. Virginia Coach Al Groh spent the week emphasizing to his players that this could not happen Saturday: no interceptions, no special teams disasters, no giving the game away.
But rather than preventing those kinds of plays, the Cavaliers re-enacted them. Before the first quarter was half over, the Seminoles had returned an interception for a touchdown and blocked a punt that set up another score, effectively putting away the game before recording a first down.
The overwhelming start sent Virginia crashing back to reality with a 33-0 loss. The Cavaliers' redshirt freshman quarterback played like a redshirt freshman quarterback, Florida State played like Florida State and the Cavaliers reverted to the hideous play that pockmarked the first month of their season.
"The script was all too familiar," Groh said. "That's a script that they've lived off of for a long time, and we weren't able to take them out of their game. Unfortunately, we followed the same script that has dynamited a number of our chances."
To become bowl eligible, Virginia (4-6, 3-3 ACC) must win its final two games, home against Miami after a bye week and the season finale at Virginia Tech. An uplifting two-game winning spurt gave Virginia hope it would make the postseason, but familiar bugaboos dimmed those chances yesterday.
Quarterback Jameel Sewell started the mess on the third play of the game. On film this week, Virginia's coaches noticed the Seminoles cornerbacks jumped routes, gambling for interceptions. The plan was to throw several short passes, baiting Florida State to attack the shallow routes before taking shots deep.
So Sewell dropped back, knowing he would look for Fontel Mines on a short hook over the middle. He stared at Mines the whole way, and cornerback Tony Carter stared back at Sewell. Before Sewell released the ball, Carter hopped in front of Mines.
"Bad pass," Sewell said.
Carter sprinted 35 yards for a touchdown to give FSU a 7-0 lead 1 minute 14 seconds into the contest. Carter's touchdown was the fifth interception returned for a touchdown this season against Virginia, a school record.
Sewell finished 17 of 32 for 125 yards with two interceptions. The poise he displayed in the games since his maiden start at Georgia Tech disappeared, replaced with indecision. Florida State (5-4, 3-4) sacked him six times -- once for a safety by Buster Davis -- not only because the Seminole defensive line was too quick for Virginia's offensive line, but also because Sewell held the ball too long.
"It shouldn't have been like this," Sewell said. "I went through it at Georgia Tech and should have learned from it. I've played too long. I've played more than five games now. I should be ready for whatever's thrown at me."
Sewell answered questions softly and quickly, staring blankly. His attitude stemmed from leading the Cavaliers to their first shutout loss since 2001, Groh's first season as coach. Virginia's 183 total yards marked the third-lowest total under Groh.
"The only explanation I can put on it is like a baseball pitcher," Groh said. "He goes out there one day and he doesn't throw any strikes and just can't ever throw it over the plate. That was the kind of a day today, whether it was missed reads, didn't throw the ball out of bounds under pressure.
"He wasn't the only out of sync. He didn't get much help."
On Virginia's first possession after the opening interception, Eli Charles streamed untouched through the middle of the Cavaliers' line and blocked Ryan Weigand's punt, and Lorenzo Booker leaped into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown on the next play. Florida State went three and out on its three other first-quarter possessions, but it led 14-0 because of exactly the disruptive plays Groh warned about.
"We fell into a trap that I've seen a lot of teams fall into down here," punt returner Mike Brown said.
The rest was cosmetic, really, an ugly reminder that Virginia is still a young and flawed team.
"It did feel a little bit like early in the season," running back Jason Snelling said. "We just didn't play good football today. Against a team like Florida State, you got to have your best game, and we didn't do that today."