UVa. pulls away late to post 48-21 win over Eastern Michigan

It was uncomfortably close uncomfortably late – 17-14 Virginia at the half, and 24-21 midway through the third quarter after the second of two 50-plus-yard touchdown runs by Eastern Michigan running back Javonti Green.

A 70-yard kickoff-return TD by Terence Fells-Danzer changed the momentum, and another special-teams score, on a fake-punt pass by punter Jimmy Howell to Trey Womack, early in the fourth provided some much-needed breathing room as the Cavs dominated late in what turned out to be a 48-21 win Saturday night.

“It feels good to win a game and be able to celebrate with the players on what this team can do and can accomplish,” said UVa. coach Mike London, whose team posted its first win over a I-A opponent in 2010, though Eastern Michigan was hardly a formidable I-A foe, entering the game on Saturday with a 1-6 record in 2010 and a 1-18 record over the past two seasons.

Even so, the Eagles seemed poised to pull the upset after rallying from an early 14-0 deficit to tie the game on a 31-yard second-quarter keeper by quarterback Alex Gillet. A Robert Randolph 27-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the first half gave UVa. its slim 17-14 halftime margin.

Fells-Danzer scored on a three-yard pass from Marc Verica on Virginia’s first drive of the third quarter to put the Cavs up 24-14. Green responded four plays later with a 53-yard scamper down the left sideline that made it 24-21 with 7:47 to go in the third.

More UVa.-Eastern Michigan

Fells-Danzer caught the ensuing kickoff at the 30 and ran up the gut 70 yards to put the gap back at 10. The Howell-to-Womack pass, on a play similar to one that Virginia ran in September at Southern Cal that was incorrectly penalized by game officials, made it 38-21. Keith Payne scored on a 15-yard run following a Chase Minnifield interception to make it 45-21 two minutes into the fourth quarter. Randolph hit a 31-yard field goal with 2:56 left to finish out the scoring.

The story afterward: OK, yeah, it was a win, but what about all those long Eastern Michigan runs?

“Some of the things they did – getting to our legs, chopping, getting us to the ground – we weren’t using the technique we were using during practice,” London said. “The second half, we just talked about one of the things, again that we had practiced, coverages and the way we played. If we just went back to that, I thought we’d be OK.”

All told, EMU ran for 290 yards on 41 attempts, though Virginia held the Eagles to 81 yards on 20 rushes in the second half, and that was including the 53-yard run by Green.

Green had an efficient night running the ball for Eastern Michigan – toting it eight times for 155 yards and two touchdowns, including a 55-yarder in the first quarter that seemed to turn the momentum in the Eagles’ direction after the hot start by UVa.

That hot start included a four-yard TD run by Keith Payne to cap Virginia’s first drive and a 21-yard TD pass to Paul Freedman from Verica, who had a solid if not spectacular effort, throwing for 203 yards and two touchdowns a week after getting benched in a three-interception performance in Virginia’s 44-10 loss to North Carolina.

“He wasn’t worried about what people were saying or what he wasn’t doing. He just followed the game plan,” London said.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

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