Hokies Hammer Hoos

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The senior class finished their careers with a 5-7 record in their final year.

BLACKSBURG – Virginia’s “rebuilding” season ended on a sour note Saturday afternoon as the Cavaliers were shut out 17-0 by Virginia Tech in a defensive battle at Lane Stadium.

Virginia finished the 2006 campaign with a 5-7 overall record, one win short of bowl eligibility. The last time that the Cavaliers won only five games was in 2001 when Virginia finished 5-7 during head coach Al Groh’s first season at the helm of the program.

“It was a very disappointing result but at the same token we got another glimpse at certain areas and progress that we’ve made, principally the resilience of the players,” Groh said. “The players stuck together through a challenging start and over the past five weeks we’ve gotten a real good picture of our progress and what this team can become in the future, particularly with the large number of critical players coming back next year and the addition of an entire redshirting class and what looks to be a very strong class coming in.”

Virginia Tech struck the critical blow late in a first half that saw offense at a premium. With the game scoreless and less than three minutes remaining before halftime, Virginia Tech inside linebacker Xavier Adibi broke through the right side of Virginia’s offensive line and sacked quarterback Jameel Sewell , who coughed the ball up into the air. Virginia Tech defensive end Carlton Powell fell on the ball, setting the Hokies up with a 1st-and-10 situation at Virginia’s 12-yard line. Four plays later, tailback George Bell gave Virginia Tech a 7-0 lead with a one-yard rush up the middle.

“It was real deflating,” sophomore left guard Branden Albert said. “We gave them free points.”

Given the way Virginia’s offense was playing, that one score was all the Hokies would need. The Cavaliers finished with a mere 112 offensive yards – 66 through the air and 46 on the ground. The previous low for offensive output during the Groh era was at Georgia Tech Sept. 21 when Virginia posted 166 yards of offense.

UVa’s lack of production on first down hampered the Cavaliers all day. The Hokies defense – which is the No. 1 scoring defense nationally – thrives on being aggressive when its opponent is facing long yardage situations on second and third downs.

“We didn’t get into any rhythm,” Groh said. “We had a lot of second-and-long plays that are difficult to operate. That’s when they turn them loose.”

Any hope of a Virginia comeback was quickly extinguished by Virginia Tech’s first two drives of the second half. Tailback Kenny Lewis – who finished the day as Virginia Tech’s leading rusher with 79 yards – ran the ball five straight times to start a 12-play, 74-yard drive that culminated in a 23-yard field goal by Brandon Pace. That gave the Hokies a 10-0 lead.

On its next possession, Virginia Tech stuck the dagger in Virginia’s collective heart. On 3rd-and-four at Virginia’s 49-yard line, Hokies quarterback Sean Glennon hit wide receiver Eddie Royal with a short pass down the left sideline. Virginia cornerback Chris Cook missed the tackle and Royal exploded down the sideline untouched for a 49-yard score that put Virginia Tech up 17-0.

“We just did a couple of things that let the game get away from us that were some things we had talked about very specifically – that is don’t turn the ball over and don’t let them have any long pass plays,” Groh said. “Also don’t let them kick a field goal. We weren’t able to eliminate those well enough.”

Glennon completed 12 of 18 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown. He also showed some mobility, racking up 31 net yards with his legs.

“Give him some credit,” Virginia defensive end Chris Long said of Glennon. “He made some good plays with his feet today. We have to be more cognizant of our rush lanes. We got back there and were disruptive but didn’t make nearly enough plays.”

Despite the final result, Virginia’s defense continued to show why it has been the pillar of this team this season. It surrendered only four first downs to the Hokies in the first half.

“If not for one miscue at the end of the first half, we would have been at 0-0, which would have been a great position to be in,” Groh said.

Defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald capped off a stellar freshman campaign with his second interception of the season. On Virginia Tech’s second possession of the first quarter, Glennon found himself under pressure and shoveled the ball forward. Fitzgerald picked the ball out of the air and fell to the ground at Virginia Tech’s 49-yard line.

“It created field position at that particular moment and as the game particularly showed, field position is paramount,” Groh said.

The offense, however, failed to capitalize on the situation, going three-and-out on the ensuing possession.

Virginia’s defense finally wilted a bit in the second half, allowing 217 of Virginia Tech’s 302 overall offensive yards.

“These players showed through the course of the year that they’re ready to step up and play defense with anybody,” Groh said. “Frankly, I’m pretty proud of my defensive team.”

Jameel Sewell

On the offensive side of the ball, it was clearly not redshirt freshman quarterback Jameel Sewell ‘s day. Sewell showed significant progress during the last four home games of the season but did not put forth a signature performance in any of his road appearances. Against Virginia Tech, he completed 10 of 21 passes for 61 yards. He took only two shots deep downfield all – most of his pass attempts were screens or short outs to the flats.

“People want to say how young our quarterback is but I’m not a young quarterback anymore,” Sewell said. “I’ve started more than three games. I’m considered a veteran so my play should be much better than what it is. It’s been a lot of baby steps. I had a couple of good games, but it’s been an up-and-down, roller-coaster season for myself.”

Groh hopes that Sewell’s experiences this year will benefit him in the future.

“Our quarterback got a lot of experience playing this year,” he said. “He has shown in some games what he’s very capable of doing. He’s been exposed to something else here now and we expect that he’ll profit by it.”

Virginia is now 42-33 during the six years of Groh’s tenure. Saturday’s loss marked the third straight in the annual series with the Hokies. The Cavaliers are now 10-23 on the road under Groh.

Saturday also marked the last collegiate action for Virginia’s senior class, which includes such notable players as Marcus Hamilton, Tony Franklin, Deyon Williams , Fontel Mines , and Jason Snelling.

Despite the way that the season ended, Hamilton expressed pride in what the squad was able to achieve over the last half of the year.

“We fought real hard and battled the whole last half of the season so nobody should be hanging their heads,” he said.


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