Peerman's guts fuel Cavaliers' rise

Start with Cedric Peerman, the oft-injured, God-fearing, tackle-breaking machine with the mean stiff-arm.

But don't stop there. Don't even think about it.

Just like its wild, month-long rise to first place in the ACC's Coastal Division, Virginia's 24-17 victory Saturday at Georgia Tech was authored by many.

There was reserve nose tackle Nate Collins playing every snap, making six tackles and recovering a fumble in place of injured starter Nick Jenkins (ankle).

And the offensive line yielding only one sack against the conference's fiercest pass rush. And Marc Verica — another Matt Schaub in the making? — shaking off three turnovers to throw two touchdown passes and exceed 200 yards for the fourth consecutive game.

Oh, and linebacker Clint Sintim recording a sack for the fifth straight game, and cornerback Vic Hall closing the deal with a textbook interception.

Wait, there's more.

The coaching staff, particularly big whistle Al Groh and defensive coordinator Bob Pruett, adjusting brilliantly after Georgia Tech scored touchdowns on its first two possessions to snare a 14-3 first-quarter lead.

And yes, offensive coordinator Mike Groh dialing up a deep post route, which Maurice Covington sold convincingly against press coverage and Verica threw perfectly for a 34-yard third-quarter score that gave the 14-point underdog Cavs their first lead.

"Another we, us and our win," Al Groh said.

Trite, maybe. Also accurate.

But Groh, like most Virginia faithful, understands the genesis is Peerman.

"I'm almost uncomfortable talking about him," Groh said. "There's nothing I would say about Cedric that would do him justice. … He's our inspirational leader. … When a player sets a standard of laying it on the line like that, everybody follows."

Peerman, a senior tailback, missed half of last season with a foot injury and was slowed early this year by a cranky knee. And if Peerman can't play, you know doctors are probably talking amputation.

Ask Jackets freshman cornerback Rashaad Reid how tough Peerman is. On Peerman's game-winning, 3-yard TD run around right end, Reid took the textbook angle, only to be driven back by a stiff-arm to the face as Peerman lunged into the end zone.

Not that Reid didn't already know. On the final play of the first quarter, Peerman carried Reid on his back for several strides to complete a 17-yard gain, keying a drive that ended with the Cavaliers' first touchdown.

Keeping in character, Peerman wanted no part of any credit for his own performance or Virginia's transformation from bungling losers at Duke to division leaders at Georgia Tech.

"I play for the Lord and my teammates," Peerman said.

His teammates are much obliged.

"That's why I know we're not out of any game," Verica said of Peerman, who's rushed for 445 yards during Virginia's four-game winning streak.

Stunning, isn't it? Since losing by four touchdowns — four touchdowns! — at Duke, the Cavaliers (5-3, 3-1 ACC) have defeated Maryland, East Carolina, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 21 Georgia Tech, all as underdogs.

But the first three were at home. Saturday was U.Va.'s first road victory against a ranked opponent since 2001 at Clemson, snapping a nine-game losing streak in such contests.

"It seems like every once in a while we surprise people," Sintim said.

Every once in a while? Try every week.

Virginia's victory and Virginia Tech's loss at Florida State puts the Cavaliers atop the Coastal Division by themselves halfway through their ACC schedule.

"Wow," Sintim said. "I didn't know that."

Sintim should also know this: After allowing 73 rushing yards on Georgia Tech's first drive, Virginia limited the league's No. 1 running attack (248 yards per game) to 83.

He should also know that the Cavaliers exhibited nearly perfect offensive balance with 39 passes and 36 runs, and punted only once — that late in the third quarter.

Translation: Neither this victory nor this winning streak is a fluke.

No, Virginia isn't and won't be ready to challenge Texas, Georgia, Florida or anyone else in the top 10. But with four regular-season games left, the Cavaliers are absolutely capable of advancing to the ACC championship game.

"As long as we don't get full of ourselves," Groh said.

"This team," Sintim said, "is on the verge of doing something great."

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or at For more from Teel, read his blog at

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