The story coming into the Virginia-Maryland matchup was all about how the Cavaliers were without running back Mikell "Juice" Simpson. Many Cavalier fans will remember how in 2007 at College Park, Simpson had one of the most remarkable performances by a running back in Virginia football history(271 all-purpose yards) in propelling the Cavaliers to an 18-17 victory over the 'Terps on homecoming.
Two years might have passed by, but not much has changed during that time in College Park. Another career performance by a Cavalier running back(Rashawn Jackson) and another sweet Cavalier victory.
Rashawn Jackson bruised his way through the Maryland defense to the tune of 90 rushing yards, 29 receiving yards, and one touchdown en route to leading his Cavaliers(3-3, 2-0 ACC) to a 20-9 victory over the 'Terps(2-5, 1-2 ACC) in College Park on Saturday.
The field conditions were horrendous, a rain-soaked field proved to be slippery for both teams and caused a variety of "ball security" issues for Maryland, who had four turnovers in the game.
There were no such "ball security issues" for Jackson, who was the workhorse which the UVA offense leaned on once their star QB Jameel Sewell left during the third quarter with an ankle injury.
The Cavaliers were trailing the Terrapins 9-6, when Maryland quarterback Chris Turner tossed a pass that was deflected by Virginia linebacker Darren Childs into the awaiting hands of defensive lineman Nate Collins. The 290-pounder caught the pass, scooted down the left sideline, and rumbled 32 yards for the score. The touchdown put the Cavs up 13-9 with 1:43 remaining in the third quarter.
Virginia would not relinquish their lead the rest of the way, thanks in large part to their reliable and punishing running back Rashawn Jackson. Backup quarterback Marc Verica has provided heroics before for Virginia football, but given the rainy and sloppy field conditions, Virginia's coaches were smart to put the ball in the hands of Jackson.
Jackson's punishing runs not only chewed up yardage and helped move the sticks, but also allowed Virginia to control the clock late in the game.
Virginia defensive tackle Nate Collins gets the award for Player of the Game without a doubt. He posted nine tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, and one interception returned for a touchdown. He sacked Maryland quarterback Chris Turner at a time when it was the most crucia;l late in the fourth quarter.
Maryland was trailing 13-9 with less than three minutes to play in the game, and it was 3rd-and-10 from their own nine yard line. Terrapin quarterback Chris Turner dropped back, only to be slammed to the turf at the Maryland two yard line by Collins.
That made it 4th-and-17 for the 'Terps and they turned it over on downs after an incomplete pass by Chris Turner. That allowed Virginia to feed the ball to their workhorse, running back Jackson, who punched it in the end zone to make the score, 20-9 Cavaliers.
Virginia head coach Al Groh has proven that he thrives when his back is against the wall and sure enough in the 2009 campaign, perhaps nothing could be more true. This was a Virginia Cavalier football team that many deemed to be "dead in the water" after their 26-14 nightmare of a loss to D-1AA opponent William and Mary. Their offense struggled mightily once again against TCU, but at the end of that game, something began to click for the Cavalier offense, Jameel Sewell was throwing beautiful strikes, and the Cavaliers have not looked back since.
Sure, the Cavaliers might have lost to Southern Mississippi 37-34, but it was apparent that it was a completely different football team that started the season out by losing to William and Mary, of all teams.
The Cavaliers started out with three straight losses this season, but they've rattled off three straight wins and currently sit atop the ACC Coastal standings all by themselves at 2-0. If you would've said the Cavaliers would be in this position after the William and Mary game, you surely would've been locked up in a room with padded walls and keyless entry. The Cavaliers continue to fight and continue to take on the "never say die" personality of their head coach, Al Groh, who barked after the UNC game to reporter Mike Hogewood, "We're pretty hard to stick a fork in Mike!"
Next up for the Cavaliers are the 11th ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets—fresh off an impressive 28-23 upset victory over the then fourth ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. Kickoff is slated for noon on Saturday, October 24th. The game will be televised by Raycom Sports.
MEMO TO VIRGINIA OC GREGG BRANDON : The man needs to stop his love affair with the QB draw. It's unbelievable how he didn't learn anything from the Indiana game. Brandon called one of the best offensive games seen in Scott Stadium in years against the Indiana Hoosiers when the 'Hoos rolled up over 500 total offensive yards and routed the Hoosiers 47-7. That was a little more than a week ago, but apparently Brandon seems to have a case of amnesia. His play-calling against Maryland in the first quarter was eerily reminiscent of the TCU and William and Mary games all over again.
Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell was hotter than grease on a stove on their second offensive drive in the first quarter, connecting passes in the tightest of spaces to a variety of receivers. He was simply dialed in throwing the football. So what does Brandon call when the Cavaliers get in a 3rd-and-goal situation from the 13 yard line? A delay QB draw. You've got to be kidding me. Not only is it predictable, but it's also unreasonable when your best player on offense is on fire throwing the football. Let Sewell make a play, coach. He's done it for the 'Hoos time and time again. At least give him the option.
You never want to blame a player getting injured on a coach, but if you continue to call the same, predictable, play, over and over, there's bound to be a swarm of defenders waiting for you. That's exactly what happened when a QB draw was called once again in the third quarter. Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell ran up the middle, where he was met by a slew of Maryland defenders, continued to churn his legs after contact, and was eventually bent backwards over his knees. He then left the game with an ankle injury. All I ask of Brandon is that he needs to stop his love affair with the QB draw, or else you could end up getting the franchise of Virginia football, Jameel Sewell, knocked out for the season. That will not be good for the team or your job security in Charlottesville.
KUDOS TO VIC HALL: I've said it time and time again that Virginia should use Vic Hall solely on the offensive side of the football and I stand by that statement. But you've got to give him props for the tremendous pass breakup he had near the end zone, in which he prevented a potential Maryland touchdown. The savvy veteran has improved drastically at the defensive back position and made a big-time play for the Cavalier defense. I'd still love to see Virginia utilize his athletic skill set and let him run the football more on jet sweep motions, maybe reverses, or just hand it off to him in the backfield a few more plays a game.
Hall has been remarkably impressive as a receiver the past few games. He's made some remarkable grabs for the Cavaliers and you have to give the guy credit for being a jack-of-all trades. He's arguably the second-most versatile player in Virginia football history, of course the first being "Bullet" Bill Dudley.
IT'S A BURD: Major props go to receiver Kris Burd, who made the most amazing catch of the year for Virginia football against the 'Terps. With the Cavaliers still down 9-3 in the third quarter, it was 3rd-and-8 for Virginia from their own 31 yard line, when quarterback Jameel Sewell dropped back and lofted up a prayer into double coverage. The ball was tipped by a Maryland defender, then somehow dropped in the arms of Burd, who was lying on the ground when he made the catch. He somehow managed to keep his foot in bounds, too. It was a 28-yard catch and it was huge in extending the drive and allowing Virginia to put a field goal up on the board and only trail 9-6. Simply unbelievable grab by Burd. If you want to see the grab then copy and paste the following link, go to www.virginiasportstv.com and check out the video highlights there.
BALL DISRUPTION: Kudos to the Virginia Cavalier defense, which seemed to have a knack for laying their helmets on the football and jarring it loose from the ball carrier on Saturday. Two Maryland running backs(Douglas and Meggett) had problems securing the football in the sloppy conditions. The Cavalier defense caused four turnovers on Saturday, two fumbles and two interceptions. You know that Al Groh was smiling in that locker room, because he probably only says the phrase 10,000 times over the season!
That's all for now folks, remember, "Life is best described in football terms." Look for more from me as the college football season continues! Don't be afraid to message me on Facebook or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.