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College Football: Heels make plays that elude Cavs
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
CHARLOTTESVILLE—University of Virginia football fans showed up at Scott Stadium Thursday night an enthusiastic bunch.
The crowd of 45,760 waved white towels at the start of the Cavaliers’ first Thursday night home game in six years.
But Virginia’s play on the field wasn’t what the fans anticipated in a 37–13 loss to Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina.
The setback snapped Virginia’s two-game winning streak that followed a six-game drought.
It also means the Cavaliers (4–7, 2–5 ACC) won’t reach a second consecutive bowl game, as they’ve failed to meet the minimum six-win requirement with only their season-ending contest at Virginia Tech remaining.
Virginia had multiple opportunities to make it a closer contest, but was left dismayed when it didn’t capitalize.
Third-year head coach Mike London, who clinched his second losing season with the loss, pounded on the ground in frustration after sophomore wide receiver Darius Jennings dropped a perfectly thrown bomb from quarterback Phillip Sims that would’ve led to an 88-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter with the Cavaliers trailing 27–13.
Also, Cavaliers’ sophomore running back Kevin Parks was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on a 4th-and-goal play from the 1-yard line with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Tar Heels (7–4, 4–3) then went on a 12-play, 97-yard drive that was capped by junior quarterback Bryn Renner’s 23-yard touchdown pass to running back Giovani Bernard, who was wide open after he beat Virginia linebacker Steve Greer.
The Cavaliers’ fans were left deflated after the play. And many of them exited the stadium after North Carolina wide receiver Erik Highsmith slipped past Greer for a 20-yard touchdown reception with 8:46 left in the game to provide a 34–13 margin. It was Highsmith’s second score of the game.
The Cavaliers were torched by Renner throughout. The Springfield native completed 29 of 36 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
Tar Heels’ wide receiver Quinshad Davis set a school freshman record for receptions in the first half alone with 10. He finished the game with 15 catches for 179 yards. The yardage total is also a UNC freshman record.
The Cavaliers fell behind 7–0 on Highsmith’s 9-yard touchdown reception from Renner with 6:24 left in the first quarter. After pulling within 7–3 on Drew Jarrett’s 34-yard field goal, the Cavaliers defense had another lapse.
The Tar Heels capped an eight-play 75-yard drive with running back A.J. Blue’s 3-yard touchdown run in which he bounced off Virginia defenders and into the end zone.
But after that score, Sims, who continued to split time with junior Michael Rocco, directed the Cavaliers on a 14-play, 67-yard touchdown march.
The Cavaliers kept the drive alive when Parks converted a 4th-and-1 from the 30-yard line.
Five plays later, Sims rolled to the right and fired a 9-yard scoring strike across his body to an open Jennings. Colonial Forge High School graduate Tim Scott defended Jennings on the play, but arrived too late.
The score pulled Virginia within 14–10, but after a missed field goal by North Carolina’s Thomas Moore, Rocco was intercepted by Tar Heels’ safety Tre Boston.
Boston returned the pick 36 yards for a touchdown as he ran over Rocco at the goal-line en route to the score and a 20–10 lead.
The Cavaliers received the second-half kickoff and were promptly forced to punt after three plays. But they caught a break when Bernard fumbled the punt at the Tar Heels’ 12-yard line.
Virginia wasn’t able to convert the turnover into a touchdown, but settled for Jarrett’s 28-yard field goal and a 20–13 deficit with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
However, it all unraveled from there and the Cavaliers were left out of the bowl picture for the fifth time in the past seven years.
Their 13 points came less than a week after North Carolina gave up 68 in a loss to Georgia Tech.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526