For the second straight game, Gould kicks the game winner
Chris Gould kicked a 19-yard field goal with 3:20 to play Saturday and mistake-prone Virginia won its sixth consecutive game and knocked Connecticut from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 17-16 victory.
“That was two real gutty teams that went to the center of the ring and punched it out all night long,” said Virginia head coach Al Groh. “All you need is a split decision in that situation, and we’re happy to come out with one more point.”
The Cavaliers (6-1) trailed 16-14 and struggled on offense all day before driving 79 yards for Gould’s second game-winner in as many weeks. Last Saturday, his 34-yarder with 8 seconds left gave Virginia a 23-21 victory at Middle Tennessee. The win was the third of the season where the Cavaliers have come from behind in the fourth quarter to win.
“I give Virginia a lot of credit. They’re a good football team,” said Connecticut Head Coach Randy Edsall. “It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t have found a way to make one more play there at the end after we had a pretty good drive going. It’s something we’ve got to learn from.”
Quarterback Jameel Sewell completed a 30-yard pass to Chris Gorham and an 8-yarder to Tom Santi on third-and-5 during the winning drive, then tried to run it in on a draw play on third-and-goal from the 7. He was tackled just shy of the goal line.
“The team did a great job blocking today and Jameel was just throwing great balls out there,” said Gorham. “So I really didn’t have to do too much work. We just played it through and I really need to thank those guys for being on top of their game.”
The Huskies (5-1) got consecutive 11-yard runs from quarterback Tyler Lorenzen after Gould’s field goal to reach Virginia’s 44, but UConn lost 21 yards when a snap in the shotgun zipped passed Lorenzen, a false start penalty that made it second-and-31 and then fumbled on the next snap, Jeffrey Fitzgerald recovering for Virginia.
“We were working the silent count. We worked [on] crowd noise all week. We didn’t have any problems in the beginning of the game and throughout the game when we were doing it,” Edsall explained. “I don’t know if the ball was snapped a little bit early. But it’s unfortunate because it gets magnified there at the end of the game.”
Chris Long shows excitement after another Cavalier defensive stop
Gould’s field goal try from 35 yards with 27 seconds to play missed wide left, giving the Huskies three chances to complete a long pass or draw a penalty. The Cavaliers defended them all and hung on to win the first meeting between the schools.
The Huskies took their first lead since early in the game midway through the fourth quarter, driving 81 yards to Tony Ciaravino’s third field goal, a 25-yarder.
The drive was helped by consecutive pass interference calls against Virginia, the first against Mike Parker and the next a 15-yarder against Vic Hall on a deep pass to Terence Jeffers. That gave the Huskies a first down at the Cavaliers’ 30, and three runs moved it to Virginia’s 6 before the defense stiffened and Ciaravino converted.
Sewell, who did not play well, had helped Connecticut make it close with a bad interception early in the second half, and Robert Vaughn returned it 32 yards to the Cavaliers’ 6. Two plays later, Lorenzen hit Steve Brouse for the touchdown.
That made it 14-13, and while Virginia’s defense didn’t let the Huskies get anything started, Connecticut also bottled up Sewell and the Cavaliers offense.
“Two major components of who wins games in tight situations are turnover margin and big plays,” said Coach Groh. “For much of the game we were in a deficit in both categories. For a long time there, we were in a deficit in both.”
Once the Huskies went ahead, though, Sewell and Virginia responded.
Keith Payne celebrates his first quarter touchdown
The Cavaliers recovered from a sloppy start, driving 59 yards in 11 plays on their fourth possession to Keith Payne ‘s 1-yard touchdown run. Payne also caught a 16-yard pass from Sewell on the march, and the touchdown was the first of his career.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Payne about the score. “I knew what I had to do to get in the end zone. I’ve been working hard for this and this is just the beginning. I look forward to helping the team however I can.”
Virginia made it 14-6 two possessions later after the Huskies tried a 52-yard field goal that missed. Sewell scrambled for 18 yards on a third-and-7 play, and cornerback Vic Hall came on as a running back and threw a 35-yard option pass to Chris Gorham .
Sewell capped the drive with an 8-yard pass to John Phillips .
“John was actually the last resort on that play. I was able to scan the field and get the ball out to him,” Sewell explained. “He was really wide open, and it was a play that had to be made.”
The Huskies converted turnovers by Virginia on its first two possessions into field goals, but probably should have gotten more, especially on the second one.
After Dahna Deleston intercepted a deflected pass and UConn drove 26 yards to a 45-yard field goal by Tony Ciaravino, Andrew Pearman fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Cody Brown recovered for the Huskies at Virginia’s 13.
Andre Dixon ran for 9 yards on the next play, but the next two went for no gain and Ciaravino kicked a 21-yard field goal.
“Those two possessions down there – it could have been 14-nothing, but instead it was six-nothing. Those were big factors,” admits Groh.
Virginia’s defense was solid all evening holding the Huskies to season lows in points (16), rushing yards (78), and total offense (254). The win was the Cavaliers six consecutive victory, their longest winning streak since a six-game streak in 2002.
Virginia will travel to College Park to face the Terrapins next Saturday. The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.
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