BC Bounces Virginia

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Jameel Sewell started Saturday despite several injuries, and finished with 221 yards passing and 14 more rushing.

The pain was etched all over Jameel Sewell ‘s face.

For the most part, as he responded to reporters’ questions at a voice barely above a whisper, he fixated his gaze firmly on his feet, with his dreadlocks hung over his head like a wilting plant desperate for sunlight. Occasionally, he looked up, providing a teary gaze to the cameras – or at least in their general direction. Always, he gave the look of a man stunned, shattered emotionally by yet another defeat.

But his competitive spirit wasn’t the only part of Jameel Sewell that was hurting at game’s end. There was also his shoulder, his ankle, and numerous other nicks and bruises that Sewell would never admit to, but were doubtless sustained after taking repeated beatings throughout the season. Yet despite the injuries and despite practicing just once, on Thursday, during the previous two weeks before Virginia’s game against Boston College, there was Sewell, taking the snaps and more hits in the process. A late fourth-quarter drive cut short by a 4th-down measurement on a Sewell run that was a mere inches short of the first down and sealed Virginia’s 14-10 loss to the Eagles – its fourth straight loss of the season, and its last gasp at bowl eligibility – made it all that much more agonizing for the ailing quarterback.

“It hurts,” Sewell said. “It hurts a lot.”

Through Wednesday’s practice, it was back-up QB Marc Verica who received all the reps, Al Groh said, as Sewell continued to sit with multiple injuries. Verica, though, suffered a concussion, but did not report any symptoms until Wednesday night before he was ruled out of action Thursday. With Verica unavailable, Sewell practiced only in the rain on Thursday for the first time since prior to Virginia’s game against Duke two weeks ago. He finished with 221 yards in the air and 14 on the ground for the game, including 69 total yards on a drive that had all the promise of a game-winning touchdown, but came up just short.

“I thought it was one of [Sewell’s] most courageous and one of his best efforts here at Virginia,” Groh said. “To be able to do that against a defense that has tested a lot of quarterbacks, and to be able to do it essentially without practice for two weeks, says a lot about him.”

The way Sewell engineered the Hoos’ final drive was reminiscent of the Sewell of 2007 that led Virginia to five victories by two points or less. Following a Boston College touchdown, Virginia took possession with 2:12 remaining and no timeouts – every play originated from Sewell, and nearly every decision was the right one. A quick 8-yard completion to Dontrelle Inman started the drive; next came a 9-yard toss to Vic Hall. Jared Green then dropped a quick-drop-and-throw to the sideline. No matter. On the next play, Sewell made a dazzling move to get to the sideline, and managed to get out of bounds after a 12-yard gain.

“I thought we were going to be able to seal the deal with that last drive,” Sewell said. “Everything worked out. Everything was shaping out the way we thought it would.”

On the drive went as the clock ticked under a minute, and Sewell drove the Cavaliers deep into Eagle territory. Everything really seemed to be going Virginia’s way when a Boston College injury stopped the clock with 26 seconds remaining and the Cavaliers on the 12-yard line, giving Virginia more time to set up a potential 4th-and-1 play – although Groh said afterward, “We didn’t need it, we had the play called already.”

The play-call, Groh said, intended for Sewell to pass. After a quick drop, though, Sewell quickly saw a running lane and darted inside. As has so often been the case this season, Sewell was hammered – this time, right at the first-down marker. The ball was initially spotted right at the chains, but another official came in and re-spotted it a few inches shorter. An infuriated Sewell jumped up and hollered his case at the referee on hand – teammate Rashawn Jackson , with his helmet off, did the same. The ensuing measurement confirmed that the ball was spotted merely half a football short of the first down, and a subsequent official review confirmed the ruling.

On the sidelines watching was corner Ras-I Dowling, who said at game’s end, “I thought the spot could have been better.” With reporters crowding around Sewell, the quarterback did not allow a question to be asked before he opened by apologizing for his conduct after the play.

“I kind of lost it a little bit – I just want to apologize,” Sewell said. “You guys [the officials] were doing your job, and I just lost my cool. Much respect to you guys – you had been doing your job, I should have just done my job a little better.”

The Eagles’ go-ahead touchdown was no less heartbreaking for Virginia, coming on yet another controversial fourth-down spot. On 4th-and-Goal just inches from the goal line, Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie tried to sneak his way into the end zone. In the few seconds after a pile formed right on the goal line, the only arms that were raised in the air were those of a triumphant Al Groh, after an apparently monumental goal-line stand. Leading 10-7 with 7:53 to play in the fourth quarter, it appeared that Virginia was well on the path to its first win since a 20-9 win on a rainy day in College Park, a seemingly distant memory.

But, Groh’s jubilation was short-lived. Though the referees on either side of the ball sprinted to the pile of white and blue jerseys at the goal line with their arms at their sides, one of them signaled for a touchdown next to the pile a few seconds later. The play was reviewed, but again was upheld.

“They call it a game of inches,” Groh said. “For probably less than a total of six inches in the game, that was the difference in the two teams.”

Right or wrong, the referees had an enormous impact on the second half. In addition to the controversial spots in the fourth quarter, referees scattered laundry all over the field in the third quarter, totaling four penalties for both teams. The most costly penalty came against Virginia – Vic Hall received a punt at the Cavalier 38-yard line, and took it to the house, apparently earning his first career punt return for touchdown. A referee, however, had thrown a flag at the start of the return against Mike Parker for a block in the back, on a block that Groh felt was irrelevant to the play.

“It did not appear to have any importance,” Groh said. “Apparently, that was the official’s decision, so apparently he thought it was.”

The Cavaliers were also the victims of two other infractions in the penalty-ridden third quarter that could have been game-changing plays – however, keeping the Cavalier defense on the field instead worked in Virginia’s favor. On a drive midway through the third quarter, the officials first called safety Rodney McLeod for pass interference on a would-be third-down stop, which moved BC out to its 28 yard-line. Virginia seemingly had Boston College off the field once more following Bill Schautz ‘s first career sack on third down, but the Cavaliers were called for roughing the kicker on 4th-and-22.

Chris Cook provided Virginia with its only touchdown of the day.

Two plays later, though, corner Chris Cook finally made a big play that came with no yellow flags attached. Shinskie floated a pass downfield into double coverage, and Cook easily came down with it at the Cavalier 42-yard line. From there, he darted through traffic downfield to make it to the end zone. It was Cook’s third interception of the season, and the first interception returned for a touchdown in 2009 by the Cavalier secondary. The other INT returned for a score this season came from Nate Collins in the Cavaliers’ win against Maryland – like Collins’ TD, Cook’s pick seemed to save Virginia despite a struggling offense.

But, of course, it was all for naught. Cook’s interception for a TD; Dowling’s interception in the Virginia end zone in the first quarter that prevented a Boston College touchdown; another bullish outing from Jackson, who tallied 15 carries for 61 yards.

Sewell, though, left more than just good plays – his demeanor at game’s end suggested he left his spirit as well. Few Cavaliers could blame him – the man who was once the hero of a nine-win team in 2007 had put forth the same sort of effort but received just the opposite result. And now, Sewell and Co. have to find a way to get emotionally up for two more games, with the knowledge that a chance at a postseason game is no longer an option.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult to do,” Sewell said softly. “Right now, we just have to play with some pride, man, and not give in. Our hopes for getting bowl-eligible, they’re gone.”

Players were unified, though, in saying they will not give up – they will continue to play hard for two more games, no matter what they are playing for. And Sewell, no doubt, will lead them.

“Other than just an athlete, he’s just a warrior,” tight end Joe Torchia said. “He’ll give you everything he’s got. He’ll give his right leg if he needs to.”

Note: Sabre recruiting analyst Chris Horne reports that Johnathan Hankins (Sr., DT, Southeastern High in Detroit) is on an official visit to Virginia this weekend. Morgan Moses, an offensive line commitment from the previous class now at Fork Union, is on an unofficial visit.

Final Stats

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