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Cavs hammer Pitt-iful Panthers
By Andy Bitter
Lynchburg News & Advance
September 30, 2007
CHARLOTTESVILLE - There was no sweating it out for Virginia on Saturday night. No gnawed fingernails. No fourth quarter gut checks. Just pure, unadulterated domination.
Virginia crushed Pittsburgh 44-14 at Scott Stadium for its fourth straight victory, the Cavaliers' longest winning streak since starting the 2004 season 5-0.
UVa (4-1) scored 27 unanswered first-quarter points to quickly turn the game into a rout. The blowout effectively returned the favor from last season's 38-13 season-opening shellacking at Pittsburgh.
"(This team is) ready to jump in with both feet," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "This isn't a stick-your-toe-in-the-water team. They were ready to go tonight."
The Cavaliers needed some fourth quarter work to pull out their first three wins against Duke, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.
Not Saturday. Pittsburgh (2-3) routinely gave Virginia short fields to work with in the first quarter and UVa responded with touchdowns on its first four possessions.
"They made crucial mistakes," said Branden Albert, who moved to left tackle in place of the injured Eugene Monroe. "We just pounced on them."
The Panthers tried to catch the Cavaliers by surprise with an onside kick to start the game, but a Pittsburgh player touched the ball before it went 10 yards, giving Virginia possession at the Panthers' 39. It was all downhill from there.
Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell threw touchdown passes on the Cavaliers' first three drives, spreading it around to tight ends Jonathan Stupar and Tom Santi and fullback Rashawn Jackson. It was the latest step forward for the sophomore, who had five passing touchdowns all of last season.
"He showed that flair he has, that confidence he has throwing the ball," Albert said.
Sewell completed his first nine passes for 86 yards. The only time the ball hit the ground was when a Pittsburgh was flagged for pass interference on a pass to Santi near the goal line. Two plays later, Cedric Peerman scored on a 1-yard run to make it 27-0 with 1:22 left in the first quarter.
It was the most points the Cavaliers had scored in a quarter since putting 30 on N.C. State in the third quarter of a 47-26 win in Raleigh in 1999.
UVa ran 19 plays in the quarter and moved the ball 122 yards against a Pittsburgh defense that ranked 11th nationally entering the game, giving up 250 yards a game.
The Scott Stadium crowd of 60,888 gave the Cavaliers a standing ovation at the quarter break.
"Those first four drives, it was like no matter what play was called, it was working," said Stupar, who caught three passes for 27 yards. "It was fun to be out there."
A 23-yard Chris Gould field goal gave Virginia a 30-0 lead before Pittsburgh finally got on the board. The Panthers took advantage of a muffed punt by Vic Hall to get a 1-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy, who ran for 86 yards in the game, often taking the direct snap out of the shot gun.
Oderick Turner hauled in a 2-yard jump ball from Pat Bostick in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut UVa's lead to 30-14.
The Cavaliers' red-hot offense had stagnated in the third quarter. Sewell didn't complete a pass and the team didn't have a first down. So on its first drive of the fourth, Virginia went back to the ground, grinding out a six-play, 59-yard drive on all runs. Peerman capped it off with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Peerman had 24 carries for 87 yards and two scores. He also caught a team-high four passes for 44 yards. Sewell ran effectively, too, with 12 carries for 64 yards.
UVa capped off its scoring with a fake field goal. Hall, the holder, showed off his ball-carrying skills, running an option keeper to the left side and finding the end zone on a 4-yard run to put Virginia up by 30. It was his first career touchdown.
Virginia's 44 points were the most the team has scored since hanging 51 on Temple in 2005. The Panthers entered the game 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 16 points per game.
"(It showed) we've got a fight in our heart," Sewell said. "We're playing with a chip on our shoulders. We're really not giving in to nobody."