Jason Snelling: The Flag Bearer
Oct. 20, 2006
Cavaliers Blank Tar Heels
by Peter John Goergen Jr.
Charlottesville, VA — Last year he was a fullback. This year he is a warrior.
In UVa’s nationally televised win Thursday night on ESPN against North Carolina, fifth year senior Jason Snelling ran the ball 19 times for a career high 131 yards.
“Teams that can really run the ball, and tough minded teams, need somebody that does more than just carry the ball,” said Virginia head coach Al Groh. “Those kinds of teams all have a back that will carry the flag for the team, and Jason certainly carried the flag for the team tonight.”
After a slow start to the year, Snelling has averaged 101 yards rushing per game over the past four contests and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark two of the past three games.
“It feels great,” said Snelling, who has rushed for 535 yards on the year. “I’m the type of person that if they give me the ball, I’m going to embrace it. They did tonight, and I loved it, and I hope they continue to do it.”
From the beginning of the game, Snelling pounded UNC’s defense up the middle and more importantly, he found success in an area that the `Hoos have struggled running the ball this year, off tackle.
“We’ve just been working at it [running off tackle],” Snelling said. “That’s been part of UVa’s game in the past, and we’ve just been working on it, and it came through tonight.”
In addition to his 131 yards rushing, Snelling caught four passes for 44 yards in the victory over the Tar Heels.
“Those passes came off screens, which have been a big part of our offense in the past,” Snelling said. “The last couple of weeks, we’ve been putting that back in and trying to get our focus on the screens, because it’s always been a good option for us, and we were able to do that tonight.”
The senior didn’t take all the kudos for his big night, however, as he attributed much of his success to the improving UVa offensive line.
“I take my hat off to them,” Snelling said. “Week to week they’ve been getting better. We went through our growing pains, but they’re coming around. They’re going to be a successful line, and they did well tonight.”
Throughout the game, Snelling and the hard-working offensive line fed off one another, as Snelling picked up many of his 131 yards after initial contact.
“If they’re going to block for me, I’ve got to complement them by breaking a couple tackles and getting a couple extra yards for them,” Snelling said.
Jameel Sewell, Virginia’s redshirt freshman quarterback who finished the game 17 of 25 for 166 yards, was especially cognizant of Snelling’s performance.
“Oh, Jason, the workhorse Jason Snelling? We built everything up on him,” Sewell said. “Because of him, we were able to do many things passing the ball and running the ball. The offensive line did a great job of getting him through the line of scrimmage and into the open field. He had to break a couple tackles, but once he broke those tackles, he did what he had to do.”
But to the fifth year senior, more important than his career day rushing the football was the outcome of the game against UNC.
“It feels great,” Snelling said. “You just get that feeling and come in the locker room with your teammates, and feel the excitement of winning. Me being in my fifth year, I’m used to getting wins around here. Being able to come in here and get that tonight felt real great.”