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Cavs race to 0-2 start / September 14, 2009
By Jay Jenkins
Charlottesville Daily Progress
Used with permission

Moments prior to kickoff, Virginia’s mascot was toppled from his usual perch on his horse.

Despite falling, the mascot got up. Several hours later, Virginia had fallen. The Cavaliers did not rise.

Virginia was trounced Saturday for the second consecutive week, losing this time to No. 16 Texas Christian 30-14 in front of 48,336 fans, the smallest crowd at Scott Stadium in a decade.

Off to its first 0-2 start since 2002, Virginia actually trailed 30-0 before a pair of touchdowns in the final four minutes against the reserves from TCU (1-0).

“Clearly, we need to play a lot better than that,” Virginia coach Al Groh said. “We need to be cohesive.

“[TCU was] the No. 7 team in the country last year, and it is pretty apparent why they’re ranked highly.”

The same can’t be said for Virginia, which managed just four first downs and 80 yards of total offense during the opening three quarters.

By that point, TCU had dropped 24 points, rattled off 20 first downs and had 220 more yards offensively.

Virginia’s late scores came with 4:14 left and with 1:48 remaining as quarterback Jameel Sewell connected with Javaris Brown and Tim Smith for touchdown passes.

Both passes marked the lone memorable times that Sewell, who played the entire contest under center, worked the ball downfield. In fact, Sewell was sacked eight times, the most registered against a Virginia signal-caller since Florida State had nine in 1997.

“I can’t sit back there and hold the ball forever,” said Sewell, placing the blame on himself. “The line is not going to be able to block forever. I have to get out of there or throw the ball away.

“[TCU] brought some pressure sometimes and sometimes some guys just slipped through … missed communication with all of us, me and the offensive line. We just have to work on that.”

After a scoreless first quarter, TCU opened the scoring in opportunistic fashion.

Facing 3rd-and-9 at the Virginia 36, TCU quarterback Andy Dalton threw a pass intended for Jimmy Young that was dropped.

Virginia safety Corey Mosley raced toward Young and lowered his shoulder moments after the ball arrived, drawing a personal foul call for the second straight week and creating a chorus of boos from a majority of the 48,336 in attendance.

Two plays later, the Horned Frogs scored on a 2-yard run by Jeremy Kerley, opening the game’s scoring.

“It is definitely frustrating. You tell the players to go hard every play and be physical and that’s what Corey did on that play,” Virginia outside linebacker Denzel Burrell said. “I kind of saw the end result of it. It is definitely a questionable call.

“You just have to let Corey know to be physical and keep being the same player, don’t slow the game down because of this. It was definitely a questionable call that turned the first half around, but we can’t harp on it.”

Groh showed his disgust for the call, pleading his case with several referees to no avail.

Later in the first half, Virginia was burned by its own miscue — junior Joe Torchia failed to convert a fake punt after the ball was directly snapped to him. He faked a handoff to another player and failed to gain a yard.

TCU scored six plays later, capping a 50-yard drive with a 1-yard scamper by Joseph Turner.

“In retrospect, I think [the fake punt] was a poor decision on my part,” Groh said. “It had the same effect as a turnover, but we weren’t out there to try to prevent losing. We were out there to try and win.

“We hadn’t generated anything close to making us think that we were going to get any points at that point offensively, so the thought was to try to generate some movement and field position to try to turn that into points.”

The Horned Frogs scored on their first two possessions of the second half, pushing their lead to 24-0 as Dalton connected with Jimmy Young for a 31-yard touchdown pass on a double post and Ross Evans drilled a 28-yard field goal.

After Virginia forced one of TCU’s six punts on the following possession, the Horned Frogs scored again in back-to-back fashion. Each time Evans connected on field goals, making them from 25- and 32-yards out.

Facing the second-team defense from TCU, Sewell then got on track. The fifth-year senior, who started for the injured Vic Hall, threw for 97 yards on 4-of-8 passing in the final frame. He finished 8 of 18 for 120 yards passing and threw an interception.

Groh was clinging to the positives from two of Sewell’s final three drives.

“I think the catches of the two young receivers late in the game, we had to be encouraged by that,” Groh said. “For them to be able to step up and make those plays and now they have the their first big plays and they both resulted in touchdowns.

“There’s certainly hope that there’s a boost of confidence that comes from that.”

For the game, TCU had a 380-177 advantage in yardage. The Horned Frogs also protected the football, committing just one turnover and helped send most in the crowd to the exits prematurely in zombie-like fashion.

“It’s definitely one of the worst feelings in the world to see the stadium empty,” Burrell said. “Both teams are out there to win and unfortunately we couldn’t get it done, but it is definitely disheartening to see the fans leaving.

“But it is understandable with how we played. We need to pick it up and we need to do it immediately. We can have a 12-hour bug with this game and then we need to get it out our system and move on to Southern Miss.”

Virginia travels to Southern Mississippi on Saturday. The game is slated to start at 3:30 p.m.

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