Sports / College Football    

Hungry Cavaliers barbecue Pitt

Tight end Tom Santi crosses the goal line to score the Cavaliers’ second touchdown of the night.
Tight end Tom Santi crosses the goal line to score the Cavaliers’ second touchdown of the night. STEPHEN M. KATZ | THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

By ED MILLER, The Virginian-Pilot
© September 30, 2007


This is going to mess up the script.

Just as Virginia was establishing an identity as a plucky, opportunistic team with a popgun offense that was going to need a full 60 minutes to put anyone away, the Cavaliers unloaded on the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday night.

In a case of a surging team meeting a reeling one, Virginia hung four early touchdowns on Pittsburgh and coasted to a 44-14 win, the Cavaliers’ fourth straight, at Scott Stadium.

As nonconference games go, this one was personal for Virginia. The Cavaliers were out to prove Saturday night that they are a better team than the one that was embarrassed 38-13 in the season opener at Pittsburgh last season.

It took Virginia (4-1) all of about six minutes to do that. It took just a few more to finish the Panthers.

A team that supposedly lacked knockout power led 27-0 before the first quarter was through. The Cavaliers had not scored more than 28 points in a game this season.

“We were certainly in new territory,” coach Al Groh said.

The statistics said 110 Division I-A football teams wield more potent offenses than the one Virginia put on the field Saturday night.

The Panthers may have begged to differ, down 30-0 with 8:52 of the first half yet to play.

“Those first four drives, no matter what play was called, it was working,” tight end Jonathan Stupar said.

That was a change. For Pittsburgh, which has had offensive troubles of its own, the night offered more of the same. The Panthers (2-3) turned their offense over to true freshman quarterback Pat Bostick last week. Determined to get off to a quick start, Pittsburgh attempted an onside kick on the game’s first play.

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The move backfired. A Pittsburgh player touched the ball before it traveled the required 10 yards. Virginia took over at the Panthers’ 39 and needed just four plays to score, on a 2-yard pass from Jameel Sewell to Stupar.

After a Pittsburgh three-and-out, the energized Cavaliers moved 51 yards in five plays to make it 13-0. Deep Creek High graduate Ras-I Dowling forced a fumble on the kickoff, and a little more than two minutes later, it was 20-0.

“They made some mistakes at the beginning of the game,” U.Va. guard Branden Albert said. “We just pounced on them.”

So much for winning close. Virginia, which came in averaging 16 first downs per game, had nine by the end of the quarter alone. Sewell, who had two touchdown passes in the first four games, threw three in the quarter.

Pittsburgh (2-3) helped Virginia along by committing seven first-quarter penalties. The Panthers’ attempts at creativity – several direct snaps to tailback LeSean McCoy – produced next to nothing.

Virginia, meanwhile, showed more offensive spark and efficiency that it has all year. Even without left tackle Eugene Monroe, who injured a knee against Georgia Tech last week, the offensive line opened big holes for tailback Cedric Peerman, who ran for 87 yards.

Albert slid over to tackle and reserve Gordie Sammis replaced him at left guard. Sewell completed his first nine passes, though he cooled considerably afterward. He also ran for 64 yards, on 12 carries.

After jumping to such a huge lead, Virginia’s biggest challenge was to maintain its intensity. After Pittsburgh cut the margin it to 30-14, Virginia responded with a 59-yard drive, and, in a final flourish, a 4-yard touchdown run by Vic Hall on a fake field goal.

The Cavaliers were another week, and another win, removed from a discouraging 2007 season opener against Wyoming, and also purged the memory of last year’s Pittsburgh game.

”We knew what we were capable of,” Sewell said. “We had to come out and do it.”

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