There were a lot of outstanding players for the Virginia Cavaliers in Saturday’s game against Louisville. Quarterback Bryce Perkins accounted for 275 yards of offense and three touchdowns as he literally leapt over Cardinal defenders. Joe Reed and Chris Sharp hauled in touchdown passes. Zane Zandier had back-to-back stuffs on second and third down from the three-yard line as the Hoos made a huge goal line stand to hold Louisville to just a field goal.
But no one had a bigger day than second year linebacker Charles Snowden.
I mean listen to this stat line:
Team-leading eight tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery, one sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two pass breakups.
His performance earned him the ACC Linebacker of the Week honor, making Virginia the only team in the ACC with a player honored each week of the season this far. RB Jordan Ellis took the nod as Running Back of the Week in Week 1, Juan Thornhill was Defensive Back of the Week in Week 2, and Olamide Zaccheaus the Receiver of the Week after Virginia’s win over Ohio.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) named Snowden the PFF National Flex Defender of the Week, and one of their top ten breakout players of the year so far.
For a guy that “probably quit football 10 times” in his life, Snowden is hitting his stride at Virginia.
Against Louisville, just the fourth start at linebacker of his career, Snowden helped hold the Cardinals to just three total points and an anemic 214 yards of offense. It was also the first time the Cavaliers held an ACC opponent without a touchdown since 2009. For Snowden, the defensive performance out of the Hoos wasn’t unexpected. “I really think it confirms what we know,” Snowden said after the game. “We knew we were a good defense. We knew we could compete.”
Fellow defender Zane Zandier—who had himself an incredible day as well—encouraged Snowden early and it appears to have helped immensely. “Early in the game I told him, ‘I need a stat in every category,’” Zandier stated. “I think he took that literally.”
Snowden most certainly did, saying, “After the interception and the sack, Zane [Zandier] said, ‘Keep stuffing the stat sheet,’ kind of as a joke. And it kind of kept happening. It was a good day.”.
To say Snowden was everywhere feels like an understatement.
In a scoreless game in the second quarter with the Cardinals driving near midfield, Snowden went full Stretch Armstrong to snag Malik Cunningham’s pass out of the air. Virginia’s drive stalled at the 10 yard line, but Hunter Pearson’s first field goal of the season gave the Hoos a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Turns out, Snowden wasn’t even in the right position, but players make plays.
#UVA co-DC Kelly Poppinga on LB Charles Snowden's big interception against Louisville: "Nobody knows this. He didn't do what he was supposed to do on that play. He just made a play."— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) September 26, 2018
After Virginia extended their lead to 6-0, Snowden had a hand in all three stops in a three-and-out for Louisville before the half.
In the fourth quarter, Snowden tracked down Juwon Pass for a sack that lost the Cards eight yards and pounced on a loose ball after teammate Aaron Faumui knocked it free.
“It’s very impressive,” Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Snowden’s Week 4 performance. “Someone asked one of our players, I was doing a radio interview, and player most likely to be the President of the United States, and it was Charles Snowden. He’s Bryce Hall-like in terms of his preparation and his conscientiousness and his diligence and his intelligence and his unselfishness.”
What makes this all the more impressive is the fact that the 6-7, 225 pound stud athlete didn’t even focus on football in high school, instead considering himself a basketball guy. After enrolling in St. Albans in Washington, DC after his freshman year, Snowden didn’t even play football until his junior season. “I realized I missed it,” Snowden told Ron Counts of the Daily Progress. “After that, I fully caught the football fever.”
His performances this season have steadily improved game to game. In the opener against Richmond, he had just four tackles. Against Indiana, Virginia’s lone loss, he blocked a field goal. Two weeks ago in UVA’s “home” game against Ohio in Nashville, Snowden was quiet with just two tackles in the dominating win, but exploded against Louisville.
Next, Virginia hits the road to face their toughest competition yet in NC State. The Wolfpack have an extremely talented quarterback in Ryan Finley and bring 371 yards per game in passing to the table. In order for the Hoos to pull off the upset in Raleigh, Snowden’s ability to put pressure on the passer and drop back into coverage will be crucial.
The pressure on the young linebacker has increased as Coach Mendenhall announced this week that junior Jordan Mack will be out for six weeks and senior Malcolm Cook is still battling injuries.
We’ve yet to see him back down from a challenge, though. Snowden’s big day against Louisville earned him the right of breaking the rock after the victory:
It’s just a hunch, but I think the Abominable Snowden is just getting started. Virginia faces NC State at 12:20pm on Saturday, and the game will be broadcast on Raycom Sports.