Virginia fans, no matter how many games the team wins this year, will have something to be proud of. We root for a football team that really values sportsmanship.
Through the difficult games we’ve had to watch the past couple of years, I can’t remember any UVA player or coach losing his temper on the field or the sideline. No outrageous touchdown celebrations either. Every replay of Oregon running back LeGarette Blount punching Boise State’s Bryan Hout (who shoved Blount beforehand) makes me feel lucky to cheer for a classy team like Virginia.
Unfortunately, many of the fans attending today’s game against Texas Christian weren’t feeling so warm and fuzzy. By the end of the third quarter, much of the already thin crowd had fled Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers were down 24-0 and were yet to gain 100 yards of offense. TCU tacked on two more field goals and intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter, and by then the scene looked more like a Florida Marlins game than ACC football. But the loyal fans who stayed until the end were rewarded when they witnessed the most exciting four minutes of the season so far.
Quarterback Jameel Sewell must have been exhausted by this time. He ran the ball 21 times during the game, a demanding total for even the toughest running back, but only managed to gain 33 rushing yards. He had been chased and hit hard all day by one of the toughest defensive lines in the nation.
When Sewell began a fourth quarter drive with two incomplete passes, and the score at 30-0, he could have just given up. When the offensive line gave way and he was forced out of the pocket, he could have just thrown it away. Instead, he kept his focus and launched a 40-yard pass, the longest I’ve ever seen him throw. It led his receiver Jarvaris Brown perfectly, and Brown sprinted the last 15 yards for Virginia’s first touchdown.
After making a two point conversion, the ball was kicked off to the Horned Frogs. Good defense and a holding penalty made them have to punt it back quickly, and cornerback Ras-I Dowling returned the punt 36 yards off a pitch from Ross Matheny. Starting on TCU’s 26-yard line with 2:15 left in the game, Sewell threw another perfect pass and the receiver, Tim Smith, wrenched the ball away from his defender and landed in the end zone. In back-to-back passes, Sewell threw for 82 yards and two touchdowns. I’ve seen a similar feat, but only when playing Madden ’07 against my brother.
Virginia played hard until the last tick of the clock, but the final score was 30-14 in favor of Texas Christian.
The first three quarters of the game were pretty painful to watch, but it wasn’t all because of Virginia’s mistakes. It often took five or six Virginia defenders to stop any one of TCU’s young, fast running backs. Their quarterback Andy Dalton threw with precision and led some unstoppable drives. And the Horned Frogs’ defense was as good as advertised, sacking Sewell five times. And they weren’t sacks caused by trips or a lucky push. Usually, poor Jameel was rushed by a huge, angry and incredibly fast lineman. And with no time to escape, the QB was simply flattened. But he wouldn’t let that stop him from throwing the two exquisite touchdowns at the game’s end.
Sewell simply can’t carry the ball 21 times every game. He shouldn’t even approach that number. It wasn’t effective and it can only lead to injury or serious fatigue. And Virginia can’t afford to let that happen. Sewell, with the rest of his offense, showed that they can pull of some amazing plays. But they should try to get them early in the game, or at least before they’re down by 30.
After the loss to William & Mary, scoring two touchdowns against TCU almost seems like a legitimate reason to celebrate. But the game will go down as a loss, and Virginia is now 0-2 with a three game road stretch ahead. First up is a game against 2-0 Southern Mississippi next week.