UVA FOOTBALL: Cavs top Heels in wild one
By Jay Jenkins / firstname.lastname@example.org | 978-7250
September 16, 2007
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Virginia proved more than an ability to win on the road - it essentially won in the twilight zone.
Without a fully functioning scoreboard and thanks to an odd overturned missed field goal, the Cavaliers escaped with a wild 22-20 victory over North Carolina at Kenan Stadium.
Virginia (2-1, 2-0 ACC) snapped a four-game losing streak on the road with the victory and remains in first place in the league’s Coastal Division. UNC (1-2, 0-1 ACC) dropped its first conference game under first-year coach Butch Davis.
“It was a really weird game,” said Virginia defensive end Chris Long. “We have practiced to do almost every situation, but I don’t think anybody practices for [a game without a clock]. You can’t plan for things like that.
“It is very satisfying to get a win on the road and to play tough, play together and play a physical game and overcome some mistakes. It is a real character-building win and it also gives us another game in the ACC.”
North Carolina appeared poised to tie the contest after quarterback T.J. Yates capped an 85-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Quinn with 1 minute, 57 seconds remaining.
Trailing 22-20, UNC elected to go for a 2-point conversion, but Virginia nose tackle Nate Collins batted Yates’ pass down to the ground.
“I was trying my hardest to get into the backfield,” Collins said. “Once I realized the quarterback turned to look at the right side, I knew it was going to be somewhat of a low pass because it was on the 2-yard line.
“I just put my hands up and he threw the ball low.”
Yates, who finished 25-of-38 passing for 339 yards, praised Collins’ effort.
“I don’t think there was any problem with the pass,” Yates said. “I think whoever made that play just made a really good play. He just jumped up there and got it.”
After fielding the ensuing squib kick, the Cavaliers were still in need of a first down in order to drain the clock. As he had done the entire game, Cedric Peerman delivered, gaining 3 yards on third-and-3 at the UVa 44.
Peerman, a junior, finished with a career-best 186 yards on 30 carries.
“That was very representative of the way that the game went,” Virginia coach Al Groh said. “That was really a key for us.”
Initially, it appeared that Virginia would not need the late heroics. The Cavaliers raced out to a 16-0 lead after scoring a touchdown and kicking three field goals on their first four drives.
The touchdown, a 1-yard plunge into the end zone from Peerman, opened the game’s scoring and marked the first TD on the road for Virginia since Oct. 7, 2006.
Quarterback Jameel Sewell, who earned the start, passed for 35 yards and converted three times on third down during the 12-play, 68-yard drive.
“We had the tempo during that series and we had the fight in us,” said Sewell, who was 11-for-17 passing for 96 yards. “It was amazing to come to the sidelines and have the crowd get that quiet. To silence this crowd is an amazing feeling.”
North Carolina’s offense, which finished with 399 total yards, finally got on track late in the first half. Yates completed a 72-yard, 11-play series with a touchdown pass to wideout Hakeem Nicks just 22 seconds before halftime.
“I thought it was an enormous shot of confidence for our football team to score at the end of the second quarter,” Davis said. “Going in 16-7 was dramatically a shot in the arm instead of going in 16-0.”
Virginia extended its lead again on the first possession of the second half in stunning fashion.
After the Cavaliers moved the ball inside the red zone, Sewell was sacked on back-to-back plays and a substitution infraction on fourth down set up a 48-yard field-goal attempt for Chris Gould.
The kick appeared to have enough distance, but the officials ruled that it was unsuccessful.
Groh elected to challenge the ruling after receiving word from the team managers retrieving the ball that the kick was, in fact, through the uprights.
“Fortunately, we do have replay,” Groh said. “I just went out and said that we’d like to use our challenge here. We challenged pretty quickly.”
Much to the chagrin of the majority of the 58,000 in attendance, the call was overturned, giving Virginia a 19-7 lead.
Virginia’s players, admittedly shocked by the quick turn of events, celebrated on the field.
“I saw the ball go through and I was like, ‘Chris, you are wrong,’” Long said. “The depth or something had to be wrong. We are sitting there waiting for a call and I look over at the sidelines and the coaches were [sticking their hands in the air]. That is not a signal.
“That was crazy. Was that the first time ever?”
Gould, who finished with five field goals to tie a program record, said he had never heard of a field goal being overturned.
“That was the first time that I had seen that happen but there is a first time for everything,” Gould said.
The additional points and another field goal from Gould in the fourth quarter proved pivotal after UNC scored its final two touchdowns, including one in the third quarter on a 53-yard pass from Yates to Nicks.
For the game, Virginia finished with 350 yards of total offense and dominated time of possession in all four quarters - the Cavaliers had the ball more than 39 minutes. Virginia’s defense also registered a pair of sacks and forced three turnovers.
“I thought we did a lot of good things in all phases,” Groh said. “Obviously, offensively, we were rugged, and we were very effective in running the ball - that was a big factor in the game.
“We were very opportunistic on defense. We had to make a play at the end and our guys were there to make a play.”
Virginia plays another conference game at noon on Saturday at Scott Stadium against Georgia Tech before opening a three-game stretch against nonconference foes. The 15th-ranked Yellow Jackets beat Virginia, 24-7, last year in Atlanta.
“We’ve got a big test coming up,” Groh said. “Clearly, [Georgia Tech is] the most talented team yet that we’ve played.”