Cavs Ride Defense and Freshman QB Jarome Johnson to Homecoming Victory
WISE, VA - Freshman quarterback Jarome Johnson ran for two scores, including the game-clincher, while adding a passing touchdown as UVa-Wise upended West Liberty University 31-19 on Homecoming 2017 at Smith Stadium Saturday.
After seeing limited duty in the first half, Johnson used his legs and arm to lead the Cavaliers' (3-1, 3-1 MEC) offense in the game's final 30 minutes. The Washington, D.C. product extended the UVa-Wise lead to 17-6 with 3:39 to play in the third quarter when he darted into the end zone from 11 yards out.
Moments later, the former Eastern High School standout hooked up with Cedrick Watkins (Stafford, Va./North Stafford H.S.) for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Following Trevor Owens (Lebanon, Va./Middle Tenn. St.) conversion kick, UVa-Wise led 24-6 going to the fourth quarter. West Liberty (2-2, 2-2 MEC) would not go down without a fight as receiver Osman Kargbo caught a pass on a fourth and goal play, made a move and scooted into the end zone to make the score 24-12 with 13:01 to play. The two point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the visitors down two touchdowns.
After three consecutive punts, the Hilltoppers took over down 12 near midfield with 6:36 to play. Behind the legs of running back Jeremiah Ortiz, West Liberty would move the ball inside the UVa-Wise 20-yard line before Michael Tarrer (Richmond, Va./J.R. Tucker H.S.) sacked Brent Colabella on a fourth down play to turn the ball over on downs. On the following play, the Cavs would turn the ball over giving the ball back to the 'Toppers on the 25-yard line.
Six plays later, Colabella would find Braxton Gamble for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Christian Morris would convert the PAT to make the score 24-19 with 3:39 showing on the clock. Johnson would proceed to direct a game-sealing drive. The freshman would hook up with Kaian Duverger (Greenacres, Fla./Lackawanna J.C.) on a 33 yard completion on a third down and eight play before later scoring on a third and three play from the 8-yard line to put an exclamation point on his performance.
Johnson finished the game with 59 passing yards and a touchdown while adding 56 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 11 attempts.
While Johnson was the story of the day on offense, the UVa-Wise defense continued its strong play. In addition to holding West Liberty scoreless in the first half, Shap Boyd's unit picked off three passes and registered six sacks. Overall, the 'Toppers posted just 263 yards of offense in the loss. As a unit, the Cavs' defense tallied 10 tackles for loss. Linebacker Donavan Montague (Altavista, Va./Altavista H.S.) led the way with two sacks as part of a game-high three tackles for loss. Overall, five different UVa-Wise defenders had at least one TFL in the win.
Defensive back Kwadwo Diawuo (Alexandria, Va./Norfolk State) posted a team-high eight tackles while adding an interception while Andre Hamilton (Stafford, Va./North Stafford H.S.) and Maurice Watkins (Richmond, Va./Thomas Jefferson H.S.) also had an interception. Ten different Cavs caught a pass, led by freshman Chris Thaxton (Richmond, Va./Highland Springs H.S.) who finished with 31 receiving yards on three catches.
Ortiz averaged 7.5 yards per carry on 22 attempts to finish with 166 rushing yards. Colabella was limited to 13-of-36 passing for 87 yards in the loss.
The win was the second consecutive victory for UVa-Wise over West Liberty. The Cavs have won their first two home games of the season for the first time since 2007 and are 3-1 for the first time since 2008.