- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 28, 2006

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The youth movement at Virginia this season has hit its share of rough patches, but with the game on the line, redshirt freshman quarterback Jameel Sewell got help from the veterans — and the Cavaliers got a victory.

Sewell overcame a difficult day by leading a nine-play, 80-yard drive, hitting senior Fontel Mines for 13 yards early and watching Jason Snelling cover the last 35 yards in two carries as the Cavaliers beat N.C. State 14-7 yesterday.

Suddenly, after seeing the season slipping quickly away earlier, the Cavaliers (4-5, 3-2 ACC) are riding a two-game winning streak and heading into a rough three-game finishing stretch with a chance to make something of the season.

“People were writing us off, but we weren’t writing us off,” said cornerback Marcus Hamilton, one of only five seniors that plays regularly. “We felt we still had an opportunity to go out and make plays and go to a bowl and do some positive stuff.”

Snelling ran for 99 yards and burst 17 yards up the middle for the winning touchdown with 1:31 left, breaking tackles and dragging defenders along the way. On the previous play, the senior ran 18 yards around the left end on the same call.

“I saw a hole open up for me, and I was able to hit it quick,” he said.

Sewell, who was 3-for-4 for 35 yards on the drive, saw it unfold.

“When he broke the first one, I thought he was going to the house,” he said. With the crowd excited and begging for a finishing touch after Snelling was pushed out at the 17, “the offense just had another burst of energy and just went out and did it.”

Coming off a 23-0 victory against North Carolina nine days earlier, the Cavaliers were seeking consecutive shutouts for the first time since three in a row to start the 1952 season. They came up 4:48 short when Daniel Evans hit John Dunlap in the back of the end zone from 8 yards out, and John Deraney’s extra point tied it at 7-7.

Then Snelling and Virginia did what they hadn’t been able to do since the first quarter — not only driving into Wolfpack territory but coming away with points.

Snelling was grateful to the defense for keeping the game in reach.

“They’ve been playing well all season,” he said. “Now that the offense is clicking, it helps them even more, and they’re better than they were before.”

Coach Al Groh said it was a big win and another step forward for Sewell.

“That’s one of those deals that every quarterback’s got to do,” Groh said of leading a fourth-quarter drive with the game on the line. “And now he’s done one.”

The Cavaliers will need to be better the rest of the way as they play at Florida State, at home against Miami and at Virginia Tech, but they will head to Tallahassee, Fla., next weekend with confidence because they continue to show improvement.

The Wolfpack (3-5, 2-3) lost its third straight in conference play after starting with victories against Boston College and Florida State. Again, penalties were a big reason why as they drew nine whistles for 53 yards. Their only turnover came after Snelling’s go-ahead score when Evans was intercepted by senior Tony Franklin.

The three losses have come by a total of 15 points.

“Al Groh said after the game was over, ‘This is your and my type of game,’ ” Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato said. “I said, ‘Yeah, it was yours a little more than mine.’ It looked like maybe it was going to come down to an overtime game.”

A key for Amato was Sewell’s avoidance of a sack on the first play of the winning drive, when he escaped from his defenders barely enough to throw the ball away.

“We say, ‘You need to make one play,’ ” Amato said. “That’s a play that was a makeable thing. He showed his athleticism to avoid it and get away from the sack.”

Sewell finished 12-for-22 for 131 yards; Evans was 21-for-35 for 220 yards.

It didn’t start out as a defensive struggle, but the Wolfpack drove into Cavaliers territory three other times, getting as far as the 16 just before halftime before Deraney’s 33-yard field goal try sailed wide left, making it 7-0 at halftime.

The Cavaliers, who have improved markedly as Sewell has developed, looked sharp on a first quarter drive. They went 75 yards in eight plays with their third possession, with Snelling scoring from the 1. Sewell had completions of 23 yards on a dump to Snelling and 24 to Kevin Ogletree on the drive, the latter on the play before the touchdown.


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