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Cowboys rope, brand Cavs

By Andy Bitter
Lynchburg News & Advance
September 2, 2007

LARAMIE, Wyo. - Up and down the roster, the Cavaliers swore the offense would be better this year. The line had finally jelled. Quarterback Jameel Sewell had another year under his belt in the system. The tailbacks, though inexperienced, would make up for it with their versatility.

After one game, it appears nothing has changed.

The Cavaliers' offense sank to new depths in the Al Groh era, finishing with 110 yards in a deflating 23-3 loss to Wyoming in the season opener on Saturday.

It was Virginia's worst offensive effort since a 90-yard game against Maryland in 1980. The Cavaliers (0-1) finished with 112 yards in last year's season finale at Virginia Tech, meaning UVa's two worst offensive performances of the last 27 years have come in back-to-back games.

"A lot of people put a lot into this to this point for a better result than that," said Virginia coach Al Groh, who is 2-11 in road games the last three seasons.

The final stats tell the whole story. The Cavaliers finished with five first downs to Wyoming's 27. They ran 46 plays to the Cowboys' 88. Their time of possession was under 20 minutes. Wyoming's was over 40.

Virginia ran the ball for seven yards on 17 carries, its worst effort since finishing with negative five yards against Florida State in 2003. In the third quarter, UVa gained one yard from scrimmage.

Sewell, whose offseason was littered with questions about his surgically repaired throwing wrist, looked lost. The sophomore was 11-for-23 for 87 yards and two interceptions. He repeatedly missed open receivers in the first half, overthrowing the tight end on a pair of seam routes that would have gone for big gains.

Nothing improved in the second half. His first interception was a backbreaker. Virginia trailed 13-3 in the third quarter when Andrew Pearman provided the team's lone highlight, busting a kick return up the right sideline for 67 yards.

After a one-yard run by Cedric Peerman, Sewell lost his grip on a pass over the middle. The ball fluttered out of his hand, wobbled over the receiver's head and into the arms of Wyoming cornerback Julius Stinson, who would add another pick late in the game.

"It was just terrible," Sewell said. "It wasn't what I was showing at practice during camp. It was nothing like how I had prepared."

Sewell's status as the program's quarterback of the future might be in jeopardy, too. Groh burned the redshirt season on highly-touted freshman Peter Lalich, putting him in for Virginia's final drive, when the team trailed by 20.

Was there any hesitation?

"No, not at that point," Groh said. "The mentality is we're going to do whatever it takes. We were very upbeat about what Jameel can do, but clearly we needed a better performance at that position today. And (we'll do) whatever we have to do to get it - more practice reps, more competition, more preparation."

Lalich, who was not aware he would go into the game until right before he took the field, completed his first pass over the middle to Dontrelle Inman for seven yards. He finished 3 of 5 for 16 yards in mop-up time, hardly eye-popping but enough to put the idea out there that the start of 2007 could bear a striking resemblance to the start of 2006, ripe with quarterback controversy.

"Jameel will come back," left guard Branden Albert said. "He'll be fine. He just had a bad day today."

"I let them down today," Sewell said, "but they know that's not going to happen too often."

Regardless, now that the redshirt is burned, Lalich will see the field this season.

"It looks like we might be able to get some plays from him," Groh said.

Virginia's offensive ineptitude hung its defense out to dry. The Cavaliers' defense looked gassed after spending two-thirds of the game on the field.

Wyoming (1-0) racked up 471 yards of offense, picking apart the Cavaliers' pass defense with quick, short passes and a no-huddle offense that caught UVa off guard several times. Quarterback Karsten Sween was 25-for-34 for 234 yards and a touchdown, hitting receivers on underneath routes and screens on a regular basis.

Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon combined for 199 rushing yards. Moore added the exclamation mark with a 49-yard touchdown run up the gut with six minutes left, leaving the Cavaliers with only one thing to take from their trip out west.

"It's just the first game," Lalich said. "We've got 11 more."

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Reader's Reaction
Posted on 09/02 at 03:45 PM
Grohing pains. How long does this take. Al Groh must GO.
"Grohing Pains"