Loss of leader heavy blow to Cavaliers
LB Snowden had hit stride before injury ended his season
CHARLOTTESVILLE— Sitting in the team’s sideline medical tent, cornerback Nick Grant didn’t see the play where teammate Charles Snowden broke his ankle making a tackle against Abilene Christian on Saturday. But Grant heard the crowd’s reaction and he knew the injury could be bad one.
“I just heard it and could hear the severity from the crowd,” Grant said Monday. “Nobody was talking. By the time I came
back out, I saw him getting helped to the locker room. He just went straight to the locker room, so I knew it was something serious.”
Virginia’s season turned around when Snowden, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound outside linebacker, regained his disruptive form, fueling a four-game win streak. Now, the Cavaliers will have to finish the 2020 sea
“Charles’ influence on our programhas been breathtaking in terms of
maturity and growth.” BroncoMendenhall, Virginia football coach on outside llinebacker and teamcaptain Charles Snowden
son without the team captain, a leader on and off the field for the program.
“Charles’ influence on our program has been breathtaking in terms of maturity and growth,” said coach Bronco Mendenhall on Monday. “It’s hard to separate Charles Snowden and UVA football. They seem to be one in the same. And I’m not sure if there could be a better exemplar than him, of what I would like our program to be.”
With high expectations after his breakout junior year, Snowden got off to a slow start this season.
His coaches praised him as steady but bemoaned his lack of impact. Then came the Miami game on Oct. 24.
Snowden made eight tackles, 3½ behind the line of scrimmage, and recorded his first sack of the season. He followed that with a four-sack performance in UVA’s upset of North Carolina on Oct. 31, and notched another sack in the win over Louisville to start November.
Then came Saturday’s nonconference game against Abilene Christian. On the Wildcats’ first drive, Snowden tackled quarterback Stone Earle after a short run, but teammates Nick Jackson rolled up on his right leg at the end of the play.
Snowden, who slammed his helmet down in frustration after the play, suffered a broken right ankle. He spent the rest of the game on the sideline in a cast and on crutches.
“Obviously, he’s our leader,” Grant said. “He’s connected to everybody on the team. I’d venture to say anybody on the team would say Charles is their best friend or one of their very best friends.”
UVA, which plays at Florida State on Saturday, figures to turn to senior Matt Gahm and junior Elliott Brown to man the outside linebacker position opposite Noah Taylor, with Taylor amore natural fit for the field side, with more space to operate, and the Gahm and Elliott combination likely to play to the boundary.
Gahm has 25 tackles and three sacks this year, four of those tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage and a sack, in the win over Abilene Christian. Elliott recorded his first two tackles, one for a loss, of the season on Saturday.
“It was hard seeing a teammate, especially one I’ve been around so long, a good friend of mine, go down,” Gahm said. “We were all very sad to see that.”
This is the latest blow to a defense that has played most of the season without safeties Joey Blount and Brenton Nelson and is now without defensive ends Richard Burney and Jowon Briggs. Briggs is transferring out of the program.
Still, the Cavaliers have held their last two opponents — Louisville and Abilene Christian — to just 32 combined points.