Cedric Peerman ran for two touchdowns, which covered 79 and 60 yards respectively.
The football movie Remember The Titans features a scene near the end of the story where coach Herman Boone asked a leader on his team a simple question: “Rev! Where’s Rev? Alright listen, you ready to run?” Jerry Harris, nicknamed Rev by his teammates, answers: “Yes sir.” He delivers with a touchdown run to win the state championship.
Well, one of the Virginia football team’s own leaders – and a man of faith himself – could star in the remake. That’s because senior Cedric Peerman , a ‘yes sir’ type of player himself who became an ordained minister this summer, is always ready to run and on Saturday, his 173-yard day – including first-half touchdown runs of 79 and 60 yards – elevated the Cavaliers to a 35-20 win against East Carolina.
The Hoos have won two straight games and now own a .500 record for the season at 3-3.
“I said it before and I’ll say it again: he is the heart of the team. He makes everything go,” UVa quarterback Marc Verica said. “We had a tough first quarter there and turned the ball over twice. But we were able to come back and put a lead on them just because of him. There is a tremendous fight in him, a tremendous amount of resolve, and he just makes this team go. I couldn’t be happier to play with him.”
Peerman’s emotional and physical lift on this day came early in the first half after Virginia’s offense had gotten off to a rocky start. Rashawn Jackson bobbled a catchable pass early that led to an interception and quarterback Marc Verica air-mailed another pick later in the first quarter; in between, a fumbled snap and a three-and-out possession had the offense sputtering. ECU, however, failed to capitalize on the turmoil and led just 6-0 with 47 seconds to play in the opening quarter.
Enter Peerman, stage right.
The Cavaliers called No. 37’s number twice in a row to help stabilize the offense. On the first carry, Peerman gained 6 yards. On the second, he rescued what had been a miserable day to that point. The senior back took the ball on a shotgun hand-off and bounced out to the right side where he stepped through the diving tackle attempt of ECU’s Leon Best. Racing down the visiting sideline, two more Pirates made last-ditch diving efforts to try to knock Peerman out of bounds.
It was too little too late. Peerman burst up the sidelines for a 79-yard touchdown that gave Virginia a 7-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. It stands as the longest run of Peerman’s career and ties for the seventh longest rushing play in UVa history, ties for the fifth longest rush for TD in UVa history, and ties as the third longest TD run by a Cavalier in Scott Stadium history.
“The guy came in on the sideline and I thought he was going to knock me out, but by the grace of God I was able to say inbounds and get down the sideline,” Peerman said. “After the play, I saw it on HooVision and I thought I stepped out of bounds, but when I was actually running I was like I didn’t step out of bounds, I know I didn’t. At least, I didn’t feel like I did. There was no review so I guess the refs were pretty sure about it.”
Early in the second quarter, Peerman was at it again. After a 1-yard ECU punt gave UVa possession at its own 40-yard line with 10:13 to play in the half, Peerman once again took a handoff toward the visiting sidelines and broke free for a 60-yard touchdown sprint.
This time, tight end John Phillips lined up as a fullback to the left side of Verica with Peerman on the other side of the QB. Phillips became a lead blocker on the play with right guard B.J. Cabbell pulling to the left as well. Those two players, along with Eugene Monroe , sealed a lane for Peerman, who was off and running to the end zone.
Eugene Monroe and the offensive line blocked well in the running game.
Peerman said running for two long touchdowns in the second game was surreal, even while it was happening.
“I couldn’t believe it happened again,” Peerman said. “I never had touchdowns that long in college.”
Members of both teams credited good blocking as a key to the long plays.
“Cedric Peerman clearly stood out on those big plays. Great effort plays that showed what kind of great speed he has but when a guy gets to run that far, there are a lot of awards to pass out,” Groh said. “There were an awful lot of good blocks to get him around the end there.”
“I have to give him a lot of credit. I tried to tackle him and he did a great job of keeping his feet in bounds,” East Carolina’s Van Eskridge said. “I also give UVa a lot of credit for their blocking.”
Peerman’s second touchdown run seemed to open the offensive floodgates for the Hoos in the quarter. They recorded 213 yards of offense and 21 points in the second quarter to take a 28-6 halftime lead. Joining Peerman in the scorebook for the quarter were Mikell Simpson on a 5-yard touchdown run and Kevin Ogletree on a 30-yard touchdown reception.
The explosive quarter propelled the Cavaliers to a big game offensively for the second week in a row. After posting 31 points and 427 yards against Maryland, UVa recorded 35 points and 430 yards against ECU. In addition to Peerman’s big day (173 rushing, 26 receiving, 2 TDs), Ogletree (4 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD), Phillips (6 catches, 47 yards), Simpson (38 rushing yards, 1 TD), and Maurice Covington (4 catches, 49 yards) all had productive outings. Verica bounced back from his early INTs to complete 25 of 32 passes for 216 yards.
Antonio Appleby , who had 11 tackles, sacks ECU’s quarterback.
“It says a lot about everyone’s execution. Everyone is staying focused and concentrated, and focusing on their performances,” Verica said of the offense. “We aren’t getting penalties, and we are getting big chunks in the ground game while taking what the defense gives us in the passing game. It is really fun to see right now.”
The Hoos’ defense had a good outing as well, holding the Pirates to 20 points and 285 total yards despite the team’s turnovers early. Outside of a handful of tackling breakdowns and a 52-yard reception for Dwayne Harris, the Cavalier D contained ECU’s speed. The Cavs also made life miserable for quarterback Pat Pinkney, sacking the signal caller six times on the afternoon.
UVa’s linebackers led the way all day long. In the middle, Antonio Appleby finished with 11 tackles (1 sack), while Jon Copper had 9. On the outside, Clint Sintim registered 7 tackles (2 sacks), recovered a fumble, and broke up one pass, while Denzel Burrell added 7 tackles of his own.
“[The coaches] put us in some great schemes during the week,” Copper said. “They had some plays on us and obviously we have some things we can improve on, but overall it was a real good effort.”
“That was just a good game plan by Coach Groh. He put us in the right situation to make plays,” Sintim said. “Obviously they are a very talented team; they beat two quality teams in Virginia Tech and West Virginia. We were able to come out there and withstand some of the charges that they made and were able to come and make plays. Hats off to them, they are a great team, they have a lot of talent and I am sure that they will be better off in the next couple of weeks.”