Sunday, October 24, 2004

DURHAM, N.C. — Alvin Pearman hit every hole and bounced off defenders for big gains, coming just short of running into the Virginia record book.

The senior dashed for a career-high 223 yards and a touchdown, leading a powerful ground attack that lifted the 14th-ranked Cavaliers past Duke 37-16 yesterday.

Pearman, who also had three catches for 44 yards, nearly matched his season rushing total and finished 1 yard shy of tying John Papit’s single-game school record set against Washington & Lee in 1948.

“He was hot,” Virginia coach Al Groh said. “He had a lot of heart today. … He put his pads down and knocked down quite a few guys.”

Wali Lundy added 82 yards and two scores for the Cavaliers (6-1, 3-1 ACC), who rebounded from a lopsided loss at Florida State last week by piling up 348 of their 511 yards on the ground. Pearman was the workhorse with 38 carries, one short of a school record.

Midway through the first quarter, he carried the ball 10 straight times for 69 yards on a drive that ended with Lundy’s 1-yard touchdown. Early in the third quarter, he carried the ball seven straight times for 42 yards.

That took the pressure off quarterback Marques Hagans, who suffered a hip injury in the 36-3 loss to the Seminoles. Hagans didn’t practice for much of the week, and Groh said the team had to change its focus after seeing that Hagans wasn’t himself just a few plays into the game.

Pearman was up to that challenge. “We’re a team. We’ve got each other back,” he said. “Whatever anybody’s lacking, somebody else is going to pick up the slack.”

Pearman came in with 256 yards rushing this season. His previous single-game high was 138 against Troy last October. But at one point late in the third quarter, Pearman had more total yards (203) than Duke (188).

By the end of the game, his offensive linemen were hollering from the sideline for the defense to get one more stop so that Pearman would have a chance to break the record.

“I really think the line wanted that record more than I did,” Pearman said.

This was hardly an opportune time for the Blue Devils (1-6, 0-4) to end a four-game losing streak to Virginia. The Cavaliers beat their first five opponents by a combined score of 212-58 but rushed for just 20 yards in last week’s humbling loss to the Seminoles.

Pearman and Lundy had little trouble erasing that performance. Virginia’s offensive line opened spacious running lanes, and the running backs patiently picked their way through them and over Duke tacklers.

“We had the loss in the back of our minds all week,” center Zac Yarbrough said. “We wanted to come back and run the ball and be as physical as we can.”

Yet Virginia had trouble putting away the pesky Blue Devils. The offense that looked so explosive in the early weeks of the season struggled much of the way until putting together consecutive fourth-quarter touchdown drives to seal it.

The Cavaliers had to settle for field goals on three first-half drives inside the 20, and Hagans — the ACC’s leader in passing efficiency and total offense — threw for just 63 yards in the first 45 minutes. Still, Pearman — as he had all day — kept the Cavaliers a step ahead.

After Duke closed to 23-16 early in the fourth quarter, Pearman led a Virginia scoring drive that prevented the Blue Devils from building momentum. He carried for 8 yards on the first play, then closed with three straight carries, the last a 3-yard touchdown for a 30-16 lead with 11:49 left.

He broke the 200-yard mark midway through the fourth quarter with a run that summed up his afternoon. He took the handoff from Hagans, bounced left to avoid a tackler then sprinted by three Duke defenders to the sideline for an 8-yard gain.

“I didn’t think they’d run him that much, but he’s a big strong back,” Duke linebacker Brendan Dewan said. “They have a really athletic O-line, and we knew coming into the game it was probably the best in the nation.”

Mike Schneider threw two touchdown passes to lead the Blue Devils, and Cedric Dargan ran for 108 yards.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide