Sidebar: Cavalier Defense Crushes Spiders
by: Raj Sagar, Virginia Athletics Media Relations
Coming into their Saturday afternoon showdown with the Richmond Spiders, things were dreary at Scott Stadium. Overcast skies, threats of downpour from Tropical Storm Hanna, and dark memories of Virginia’s contest with Southern California filled the stadium.
By the time the game kicked off, the sun was shining, and the Orange Crush defense was ready to make a statement. On a day where the offense had trouble finding a rhythm, the defense provided the spark that spurred Virginia to a 16-0 victory.
“The defense had a tremendous day, and I’m excited for all the guys,” said senior linebacker and team captain Clint Sintim. “We played tough, we made stops when we had to and we never gave up. I am very proud to be a part of this defense.”
With almost nine minutes to play in the first half and Virginia clinging to a 3-0 lead, Richmond had a third and 17 from the Virginia 31 and was threatening to put points on the board, but senior inside linebacker Jon Copper made sure their shutout stayed intact.
“Our coaches had a great play called and we were able to get more guys back there than they had to protect,” Copper said. “I was able to come free off the edge and make the play. Our guys getting pressure up the middle really let us make some plays today and we were pleased with the result.”
Going into the half Virginia had neither bent nor broke as they had not allowed a single third down conversion and held Richmond to 12 yards rushing on 13 carries and 64 yards passing.
Typically a mobile passer, Richmond junior quarterback Eric Ward, was limited to two yards rushing on five attempts in the first half as he was constantly harassed by Virginia’s front three. Six sacks for a loss of 44 yards helped Virginia in a game that turned purely into a battle for field position. Redshirt freshman defensive end Matt Conrath had a stellar day, including two sacks and seven total tackles.
“The unit stepped up and did what had to be done today,” head coach Al Groh said. “They were challenged significantly by field position and by certain schemes, but they were able to get a feel for the game as it went along.”
A number of younger players on the Virginia defense stepped up and made some game changing plays, including redshirt freshman cornerback Chase Minnifield, who made an endzone interception with four minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
“Guys like Chase (Minnifield) and Matt (Conrath) have really bought into the next-man-up philosophy,” Sintim said. “They are the guys in line to be the next leaders of this team, and today their big plays really made a difference.”
Richmond’s offense found little success all day, finishing with 19 yards rushing on 27 carries (0.7 YPC) and punting eight times.
Behind a dominant performance for the first 58 minutes of play, the Virginia defense had all but secured a victory. While it would have been easy for them to allow Richmond to move down the field for a meaningless score, the Orange Crush had other plans. With just over two minutes to play in the game and Virginia looking to hold onto a 10-point lead and close the game out, the Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” came over the loud speaker. Junior cornerback Vic Hall took heed and sent Virginia fans home more than satisfied.
Staying in perfect position, Hall was able to jump an out-route and take Ward’s pass 60 yards the other way for a Virginia score.
The Cavaliers improved to 1-1 and travel to Connecticut next week. If Virginia’s defense continues to play with such intensity the forecast looks bright.