And running, and running, and running.
Keith Payne and Perry Jones put on a show yesterday for the Virginia faithful as they beat Richmond, 34-13.
On the first play from scrimmage Virginia running back Perry Jones ran broke off the right side and ran for 38 yards. That gain was longer than any single run the ‘Hoos had in 2009. He then ran for another five yards on the next play, meaning in the first two plays of 2010 he surpassed his rushing total for all of 2009. Quarterback Marc Verica then threw a seemingly routine pass to Kris Burd for 21 yards. When I looked at the replay later I saw that that pass was perfectly placed. Verica led Burd and put the ball where only Burd could get it. I thought, “Wow, Jameel Sewel and Vic Hall could have never made that throw.” One penalty and two Keith Payne power rushes later…7-0 ‘Hoos, and the game is only two and a half minutes old.
I’ll admit, I was excited.
On Richmond’s first play quarterback Aaron Corp completed a 30-yard pass and in one play reminded everyone why he was once the starter at USC. My excitement was tempered, but fortunately the defense held and Richmond punted. Virginia fumbled the ball away on their next possession and then the teams traded punts.
In the middle of the first quarter Richmond got the ball back. On the second play of the drive their running back, Kendall Gaskins, ran up the middle into a pile. He wasn’t tackled but his forward progress looked stopped. Looked stopped. Suddenly he pops out of the crowd and is ten yards downfield and off to the races. He outran the Virginia secondary, who were mysteriously without All-World corner Ras-I Dowling (more on that later), and scored. Tie game, 7-7.
The Cavs scored another touchdown and the Spiders added a field goal and it was 14-10 at halftime.
Richmond took the first drive of the second half down for a field goal to make the score 14-13. I thought Virginia was in trouble. As someone who witnessed their debacle against William & Mary last year I knew they were fully capable of losing to an FCS school, especially if the game was close late and confidence and momentum started to shift. The longer Richmond kept the game that close, the worse it would be for Virginia.
Keith Payne almost single handedly put all that to bed. On the next drive he had consecutive carries of 15, 13, and 15 yards, literally dragging two or three Spiders with him as he carried the ball. Richmond linebacker Eric McBride is credited with all three tackles, mostly because you can’t put “Eric McBride and damn near the entire secondary” on the stat sheet. Payne scored two more times in the fourth quarter, providing all of the scoring for the ‘Hoos in the second half.
Virginia did two important things in the second half. One, they played smart and used their physical advantages to overwhelm Richmond. The reason Keith Payne was so successful in the that half is he is simply to big and too strong for the Richmond defenders. They wore down trying to tackle him and that led to big gains. Two, they showed they can play head coach Mike London’s style of football. London, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, did away with the spread offense UVA had been trying to run in recent and years and installed a pro-style power running game. They feel if they keep pounding the ball eventually the defense is going to get tired, make mistakes, and UVA should be able to capitalize. That is exactly what happened yesterday and with their stable of four running backs, they should be able to do this all season, even against the tougher opponents.
Those tougher opponents are right around the corner. Next week the Cavaliers travel to Southern Cal to take on the Trojans. Hopefully it will be a little more competitive than the 52-7 drubbing the Trojans handed down in Charlottesville last year.
Notes…Ras-I Dowling and starting strong safety Rodney McLeod both dressed for the game but didn’t play. Dowling had a hamstring pull, according to Mike London, and McLeod is day-to-day with a left knee injury…QB Marc Verica finished 24-35 for 283 yards and a touchdown…WR’s Dontrelle Inman and Kris Burd combined to receive 220 of those yards and a touchdown…Keith Payne finished with 114 yards and four touchdowns…The ‘Hoos attempted, and missed, two 50+ yard field goals. Each was kicked by a different kicker. One was long enough, but wide left, the other was dead in the middle, but short…This is the first time in five years the Cavs have won their home opener.
About the Author
Written by Gabriel Rodriguez
Born in Germany, early childhood in NYC, raised in the D.C. area, currently reside in Charlottesville, VA. Big fan of the NY Giants and San Antonio Spurs.