Amen to that

It’s OK, Reverend.

By Reverend, of course, I mean Cedric Peerman, tailback and ordained minister. The one who has been dubbed by some, “The Running Reverend,” and by others, “Rev. Run.” And the one whose fumble at the end of overtime spelled the end of the Cavs’ four-game winning streak in their 24-17 heartbreaking defeat to Miami Saturday.

If someone was going to make a game-costing mistake, it should have been anybody else. Not Ced. Not the guy who fires up 50-some thousand people on Saturdays when he jumps around, pounds his chest and points to the sky after grinding out three tough yards. Not the classiest, humblest of athletes, whose commitment to Virginia football is only exceeded by a commitment to his religion.
Not the guy, who, as Virginia coach Al Groh likes to say, carries the ball and carries the flag for the program. Not the guy who watched the last seven games from the sideline last year after receiving season-ending foot surgery as then-upstart running back Mikell Simpson got all the love. Not the guy who battled through yet another leg injury at the start of this season to resurrect this team into ACC Championship contention.

“He’s won more games for us than any other player I’ve been around, with the exception of maybe Chris [Long],” senior linebacker Clint Sintim said.

I did not get a chance to talk to Peerman after the game, nor did any other reporter – Groh said certain players, at the discretion of the coaches, would not speak to the media because they were “too emotional to bring them out at this particular time.”

In other words, everyone was distraught, and nobody more than Peerman.

“He’s going to dwell on that [fumble],” senior tight end John Phillips said. “That’s just the type of guy he is.”

And the team recognized that immediately — after the fumble, a group of players went over and rallied around what was assuredly a beaten man, physically and emotionally.

Of course, one of the things they likely told him — and one of the things Groh and his players said after the game — was that it’s not Cedric’s fault; Virginia lost this game as a team. And they were right. Two missed field goals and a fumble by sophomore quarterback Marc Verica at the tail-end of a run that would have put Virginia in field goal range with 30 seconds remaining are among the numerous chances the Cavs had to seal the deal in regulation.

But, for anyone who has fumbled to lose a football game — or struck out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, or rimmed a potentially game-winning jumper at the buzzer, or launched a penalty kick over the cross bar — these words don’t help much. When you make a mistake like that, all that matters to you is what could have happened if that mistake had been erased.

Not to say that Peerman’s teammates shouldn’t offer words of encouragement, because in another way, these words are valuable. They show your teammate that you care. “You’ll get ‘em next time” might not help much at that moment, but when “next time” arrives, it is certainly a lift to know that your teammates have faith in you to get the job done.

And in Peerman’s case, it demonstrates the character of this team that Ced himself has instilled: Cavaliers stick together. That’s how they won so many tight games last season and that’s how they overcame the adversity of off-field issues and embarrassing losses at the beginning of this season.

“We’ve been down before,” Phillips said. “You can’t get off and break up into groups and what not. You’ve got to stay united as a team.”
It sounds corny. Listening to the players in the post-game interviews, I felt like I was back in Little League. Encourage your teammates; stay together; don’t let the downs get you too down.

But, these are the messages that Rev. Peerman preached to his teammates as they sank to an all new low after their 31-3 loss to Duke. That is the foundation of Cedric Peerman, and Cedric Peerman was the foundation of Virginia’s four-game winning streak.

Now, it is Ced who has hit rock bottom. And thanks chiefly to his influence, there will be 200 hands eagerly extended to help him up.

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