The Wolf Trap
Oct. 31, 2006
Charlottesville, VA – Narrowly missing its third ACC shutout this year, the Virginia (4-5, 3-2 ACC) defense turned in another dominating performance this Saturday in UVa’s 14-7 victory at Scott Stadium over the Wolfpack from N.C. State (3-5, 2-3 ACC).
“We were pretty good last week [against North Carolina], but today they had to go out there every series knowing the game was on the line,” said UVa Head Coach Al Groh. “I was impressed with their competitive resolve in that circumstance.”
The Cavaliers’ ability to shut down NC State sophomore tailbacks Andre Brown and Tony Baker proved to be the difference against the Wolfpack. The 6-0, 232-pound Brown entered the game with 522 yards rushing and four scores, while Baker, who goes 5-10, 228 pounds, had rushed for 354 yards and four touchdowns. The Cavaliers held Brown to 43 yards on 12 attempts, and Baker gained only 33 yards on 10 carries.
“They’re definitely two of the more power running backs in the ACC, and I think they run hard and have incredible skill,” said sophomore linebacker Clint Sintim, who finished the game with two tackles. “We were able to shut them down today, and our defense did a good job of swarming them, getting to the ball and just making plays.”
By stopping Brown and Baker, the `Hoos forced Wolfpack quarterback Daniel Evans to beat them with his arm.
“Stopping the run was critical,” said Groh. “Because we respect those two backs a great deal, we wanted to try to turn it into a one dimensional game with a young quarterback in there.”
Without an effective running game and with Chris Long in his face all game, Evans was not able to hurt the Cavaliers. The sophomore from Raleigh, N.C. completed 21 of 35 passes for 220 yards, a touchdown and a pick, but the NC State offense failed to move down the field with any consistency.
State threatened late in the first half with a drive down to the Cavalier 16, but the Virginia defense clamped down and forced a field goal. NC State kicker John Deraney missed the 33-yard attempt to cap the drive, and UVa went into the half with a 7-0 lead.
“The first three plays were the stop, and the players deserve a lot of credit for that,” said Groh. “They didn’t break when it was down there, and there was a little bit of good fortune in there too.”
“In the first half, we just came out here and shut them out,” said UVa sophomore linebacker Antonio Appleby, who led the team with 7 tackles. “We had the mentality coming into the second half that they weren’t going to score.”
The second half brought more of the same, as the Cavaliers carried a shutout until 4:19 remained on the clock in the fourth quarter. The `Hoos’ defense held the Wolfpack without a second-half first down until State’s second-to-last drive of the game.
On that drive, however, NC State marched 87 yards on 11 plays, and Evans connected with junior wideout John Dunlap for an eight-yard score to tie the game 7-7.
“It was a tough drive,” said UVa defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald, who finished the game with 4 tackles. “We had a couple mental break downs. There was another time they got down into the redzone, and we came up with a big stop, so we just felt we had to do it again, and we just came up a little bit short.”
On the ensuing possession, Virginia freshman quarterback Jameel Sewell teamed with senior tailback Jason Snelling to lead the Cavaliers down the field to reclaim the lead with an 18-yard Snelling touchdown run.
When State got the ball back with 1:12 left in the game, UVa senior safety Tony Franklin intercepted an Evans pass to seal the deal on the `Hoos’ third ACC win of the year.
In ACC play, the Cavaliers’ defensive unit came into the week leading the league in sacks and ranking second in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense.
“I just get excited playing with these guys,” said UVa junior captain Chris Long. “I haven’t been around such a group of hard working, hard nosed guys that just care about winning. We’re a very selfless bunch, and that’s how we think defense should be played. We’re going to keep working and continue to try to get better, and we can’t wait to go down to Tallahassee.”