Cavs Fall To Colorado State, 35-29, In Season Opener
Aug 22, 2002
By MATTHEW BARAKAT
Associated Press Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – On a miserably muggy night when a lot of running backs would have wilted, Cecil Sapp pounded out 178 yards and scored twice, and Colorado State held on for a 35-29 victory over Virginia on Thursday night.
The Cavaliers had a chance to win in the game’s final seconds, but reserve freshman quarterback Marques Hagans fumbled on the Rams’ 1-yard line with 10 seconds to go.
Sapp carried the ball 25 times, 14 in the second half on a night when the gametime temperature was 97 degrees. The game was the earliest season opener in Division I history.
“I was worried about him wearing down, but he was as strong in the second half as he was in the first,” Rams coach Sonny Lubick said. “I didn’t think I was going to go the whole game with one tailback.”
Jeff Babcock kicked five field goals, including a 46-yarder that put the Rams ahead for good with 4:07 to play.
With 8:16 remaining and the score tied at 29, the Rams managed what turned out to be the game-winning drive, at one point facing first-and-32 at their own 4 after a high snap and a clipping penalty.
Three plays after the field goal, Colorado State’s Dexter Wynn picked off an errant pass and returned it to the Virginia 5. Babcock kicked his fifth field goal of the game to make it 35-29 with 2:20 remaining.
Hagans, who unexpectedly shared duties with junior Matt Schaub, drove the Cavaliers 81 yards in two minutes, but fumbled while scrambling in the final seconds.
“I was pretty sure we would get in,” Hagans said of the final drive. “I’m not really disappointed. You can’t win them all, but I thought we were going to win this one.”
Hagans’ play drew praise from Virginia coach Al Groh and Lubick.
Virginia tailback Wali Lundy runs with the ball during the first quarter against Colorado State.
“He kind of caught us off balance when he came into the game,” Lubick said. “Boy, he’s quick.”
The Cavaliers, who played 10 true freshmen in the game, looked sloppy early, fumbling the ball three times, missing tackles and falling behind 19-7 at halftime.
“The most disappointing part was that, after months of emphasis, we turned the ball over five times,” Groh said.
Colorado State led 6-0 after one quarter, but Virginia jump-started its offense in the second quarter when Groh replaced Schaub with Hagans, who immediately led his team on a 44-yard touchdown drive. Hagans ran the ball four times for 28 yards on that drive, including a 1-yard TD run.
That gave the Cavaliers a 7-6 lead, but the Rams answered quickly on a 72-yard TD run by Sapp, who was stopped cold at the line of scrimmage but backed up and ran down the left sideline for the score.
The Rams capitalized on Virginia’s third turnover of the first half, driving 64 yards and scoring on a 34-yard pass after Bradlee Van Pelt faked an option run and hit Joey Cuppari in the end zone to make it 19-7 with 3:23 left in the half.
Schaub, who made no major mistakes but looked tentative in the first half, came back in the second quarter and remained in the game to lead the Cavaliers’ second-half rally.
On the Cavaliers’ first possession of the third quarter, Schaub hit Heath Miller for an 11-yard TD pass.
On the ensuing kickoff, Wynn fumbled, and the Cavaliers recovered at the Rams’ 30. Six plays later, Alvin Pearman scored the first of his two touchdowns, giving the Cavaliers a 21-19 lead with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Pearman, who gained 54 yards on nine carries, split duties with Wali Lundy, who ran 20 times for 94 yards.
Schaub finished 8-of-14 for 73 yards and a touchdown, while Hagans was 10-of-13 for 120 yards. Each led two scoring drives.
Van Pelt was 17-of-27 for 229 yards and a touchdown.
Virginia, which played the entire 2001 season with an ongoing quarterback controversy between Schaub and Bryson Spinner, likely faces a similar situation again. Groh said he expects Hagans will share duties again next week at No. 3 Florida State.