Prior to Brent Urban picking up Logan Thomas’ fumble and rumbling 16 yards into the end zone, he was simply Brent Urban, Virginia’s laid-back defensive tackle who hardly had the numbers to match his monster 6-foot-7, 295-pound frame.
Through 11 games of Urban’s 2012 season, the then-junior had made 15 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, and had deflected two passes. That ran his career totals to 30 stops, 6.5 for loss, and just those two deflections.
But then came Nov. 24 at Lane Stadium. Virginia Tech was facing a third-and-10 at its own 34 when Thomas started to scramble to his left before being gobbled up by the combination of Eli Harold and Jake Snyder.
Out came the football and Urban was the first on the scene, scooping and racing the rest of the way to pay dirt to give the Cavaliers a 14-7 lead.
“The score was pretty close and I was excited, obviously, to put some points on the board,” Urban said.
At 3:30 p.m., Saturday, at Scott Stadium, Urban will put the finishing touches on a career that’s had a sudden late burst.
This time around against Virginia Tech, Brent Urban isn’t simply Brent Urban anymore. He’s the team leader in pass deflections. He’s a Senior Bowl invitee. He’s The Urbanator.
“When you have The Urbanator in there,” said Virginia defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, “you can do a lot of [stuff].”
Some of Urban’s rise can be credited to the offseason addition of Tenuta, some to escaping a nagging wrist injury and some to the shot of confidence he received when he crossed that goal line in Blacksburg some 362 days ago.
“That kind of carried over through the offseason and kind of showed me I can be a difference-maker on defense,” Urban said.
Last Saturday at Miami, Urban returned after missing the last four and a half games with a high ankle sprain.
On back-to-back series in the second quarter, he wrapped up Hurricanes running back Dallas Crawford for 5-yard losses.
For the afternoon, Urban made three stops and swatted down a third quarter pass.
Miami was held to under 100 yards rushing for just the fourth time all season.
“Obviously, it helps a lot when you have one of the better players on your team [back],” Virginia head coach Mike London said during his post-game press conference. “Brent is a very good football player and had a lot of plays that drew double teams, but also the tackles for losses. The base level of conditioning kind of took him a while to get acclimated to the game, but I thought that he did a good job.
“When you have one of your run-stoppers in there playing well, it does add to your rush defense.”
Before Urban was injured in the second quarter against Maryland on Oct. 12, he was on pace for a season of 60 tackles, including 15 for loss, and 16 pass deflections, almost assuring him All-ACC honors and perhaps higher accolades.
During Urban’s absence, the Cavaliers (2-9, 0-7 ACC) went winless, giving up an average of 501 yards per game.
“He’s a very important part of this defense, this team overall,” UVa defensive line coach Vincent Brown said prior to last week’s game. “He’s been missed.”
Urban said missing over a month of the season was “pretty crappy,” but at least he received a boost midway through his rehab.
On Nov. 5, he tweeted out a picture of his invitation to the 65th Annual Senior Bowl, an event for departing college players to showcase their talents before NFL coaches and scouts to be held on Jan. 25, 2014, in Mobile, Ala.
“It was a really big deal,” Urban said. “It was something that kind of surprised me and took me off-guard, but it’s a great honor and I just can’t wait for the opportunity.”
But he’s still got one final show to put on. Fittingly, it’s on the Commonwealth Cup stage — a spot he was last seen scoring a touchdown.
Is a repeat performance in store?
“Hopefully, that works out,” Urban said. “That would be a great end to the season.”