CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The guy Andrew Pearman referred to as the “bowling ball” of Virginia’s backfield may not be ready to play against unbeaten Connecticut on Saturday. Cedric Peerman has an injured right foot and his status is questionable.
That would put the speedy Pearman and bruising Keith Payne in the limelight.
Pearman and Payne are the bookend backups in what coach Al Groh refers to as his small, medium and large backfield, with Peerman (medium) having done quite well blending Pearman’s speed and
Payne’s hard-nosed style through the first six games.
Despite gaining just 19 yards before injuring his right foot in Virginia’s 23-21 victory at Middle Tennessee last Saturday, Peerman is second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing with an average of 97.5 yards per game. He has run for 461 yards in three ACC games, leaving little time for Payne or Pearman to get turns.
That changed against the Blue Raiders as Payne carried 18 times for 70 yards and Pearman carried five times for 45 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 56 yards, including a 19-yard run with a screen pass on the game-winning drive.
“However we can tear down defenses is the best way to win games, so using him and using me at the same time, it’s a good combination,” the 234-pound Payne said.
Pearman, younger brother of former Cavaliers star Alvin Pearman, said he hopes Peerman gets back in the lineup quickly, but is ready to do his part to keep Virginia on a roll. The Cavaliers (5-1) have won five straight since an opening loss at Wyoming.
The tandem could hardly be less similar.
“He’s huge. He can be very intimidating for people on defense and he can break tackles, as well,” Pearman said of Payne, a redshirt freshman.
“I’m like half his size. I can’t really go through anybody, but I kind of bring the speed and stuff like that.
“We obviously can’t do the same things that Cedric did, but together, cumulatively, we’re going to hopefully do some good things,” the 5-foot-10, 168-pounder said.
It didn’t take long after seeing Peerman helped off the field that both realized their time had come. As Peerman was leaving, the coaches called for Payne to enter.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘You know, we’ve really got to do it. We’ve got to be a 1-2 punch. We’ve got to do what Cedric has done the best we can’,” Pearman said.
Some Wake Forest players are pulling for No. 15 Cincinnati and one of their ex-teammates, who is leading the Bearcats’ revival.
Quarterback Ben Mauk missed out on all the fun last season, when the Demon Deacons went to the Orange Bowl.
He broke his right arm and dislocated his shoulder in the opener and missed the season, and Riley Skinner took command of the job and became the ACC’s rookie of the year.
Mauk graduated from Wake Forest last spring, transferred to Cincinnati and played immediately because of a now-rescinded NCAA rule that allowed a player who completed an undergraduate degree at one school to enroll in a graduate program at another school and use his remaining eligibility.
“I absolutely love it,” said defensive end Matt Robinson, who also sat out last season with an injury. “No one’s bitter on our team about what he’s doing or that he left.”
Mauk’s current success — the unbeaten Bearcats have their highest ranking since 1954 — shows the Demon Deacons might have had a memorable 2006 even if he hadn’t been hurt.
“I’m just tickled to see that he’s got things going good,” Robinson said. “He deserved it.”
Coaches normally are quick to heap praise upon opposing players the week before games, but Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey had to pause on Tuesday when asked if Miami junior Calais Campbell is the best defensive end he has seen this season.
The reason for Gailey’s hesitation: He has already seen Virginia’s Chris Long up close. Long had nine tackles and a sack in Virginia’s 28-23 win over the Yellow Jackets on Sept. 22.
“I have a hard time saying somebody is better than Chris Long until I see him in person,” Gailey said.
Long leads the ACC with seven sacks; Campbell has four. Campbell (6-8, 280) also has an interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Gailey says the senior’s strength is not his unique size.
“Oh no, his athleticism,” Gailey said. “For a guy 6-8 that can spin move and keep his feet and make a tackle and chase from the back side on a screen and make a tackle on the far side, it’s will, it’s ability, it’s size. It’s all that. He’s going to make a lot of money.”
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden says his Tigers are as beat up as they’ve ever been in his nine seasons, with about 20 players unable to work out Tuesday.
Bowden will use much of the team’s off week to let players recover before the next game against Central Michigan on Oct. 20. But that means extra work on critical areas like the offensive line, the running game and Clemson’s special teams might not get done.
Among those trying to mend are several offensive linemen. Guard Chris McDuffie has dealt with back spasms, while tackle Christian Capote hurt his hamstring in last week’s 41-23 loss to Virginia Tech.
Guard Brandon Pilgrim and center Thomas Austin have sprained ankles.
The injuries have led to some ineffective line play. Clemson rushed for only 34 yards against Georgia Tech on Sept. 29 and 8 yards last week.
Making a mark
Florida State junior wide receiver Greg Carr is beginning to building a presence in the ACC record book.
His career average of 20.2 yards on 81 receptions ranks fifth all-time among receivers with at least 70 catches.
Carr’s 23 touchdown catches is one shy of moving into a tie for ninth all-time, and he needs 16 more tie Duke’s Clarkston Hines, who set the record of 38 after finishing his career in 1989.
Carr is also threatening the single-season record for the most yards per catch. His average of 23.5 would eclipse the mark of 22 yards established in 1990 by Virginia’s Herman Moore.