|"It is the most important victory of my career." -- Head Coach Dick Voris, after the
Hoos’ 15-12 victory over Duke on September 27, 1958. Voris finished his UVA career
with a record of 1-29.
|"We've stopped recruiting young men who want to come here to be students first and
athletes second." -- Former Virginia head coach Sonny Randle, describing his strategy
for turning around UVA's football program
|"As the score mounted, to 20-0 and finally 26-0, his movements slowed. With two
minutes to go and South Carolina threatening once more, Voris stood behind several
rows of substitutes, staring at his shoes." -- Sports Illustrated, describing Coach Voris’
stellar coaching performance during the Hoos’ 26-0 loss to South Carolina in 1960
|"Really, Texas wasn't as good as I thought they'd be." -- Ted Manly, Virginia's
freshman quarterback, after Texas had spanked the Hoos 68-0
|UVA Football’s Top 20 Stomach Punch Games (1989-2008)
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|Copyright © 2008 www.hoosfootball.com All Rights Reserved
|#11: BYU 38, UVA 35 (September 2, 2000)
I love my dog.
He's a great dog for a lot of reasons. He's patient with children, he doesn't need a
fence in the backyard, and he doesn't chew or shed. But when he was younger, he
could sometimes get a little overly excited around other people. There was one time I
took the wife and kids to my parents' house at Christmas time. We arrived on
Christmas Eve and the house was decorated in the holiday spirit. Everyone was
greeted with hugs and kisses, and the house smelled of peppermint and
gingerbread. It was a joyous occasion.
Then, just as the family was settling in for a festive evening together, my dog took a
gigantic dump right in front of the Christmas tree.
I tell this story because it is a perfect analogy (ok, maybe a decent analogy) to Stomach
Punch Game #11. This particular game from 2000 featured the grand opening of the
newly expanded and spruced up Scott Stadium, with 61,000 seats, a jumbotron, and
the signature pergolas above the hill. It was now a veritable palace of a stadium – a
place all Hoo fans could be proud of, where we could lay to rest all the painful losses
and blown leads of the past and start creating a renewed tradition of winning in our
crown jewel of a venue.
Or, as it turns out, a place where we could erase the smell of peppermint and
gingerbread in about three hours.
After achieving a sustained level of success and popularity during the 1990s, the
University of Virginia needed to make a major commitment to football in order to
continue its growth as a top athletic program. The 45,000 seat capacity at Scott
Stadium reeked of small time in comparison to the behemoth stadiums typically found
at the power conference schools. So immediately following the 1998 season, UVA
broke ground on a huge project to expand the stadium to a capacity of over 61,000 by
"bowling in" the south end zone. Fans saw it as a sign that UVA was ready to make the
leap to a big-time program at the dawn of the 21st century.
The timing could not have been any better. This was a period when Michael Vick was
running wild at Virginia Tech and questions were beginning to be asked about George
Welsh's future at UVA, so fans were particularly juiced about this project and hoped it
would reverse the growing trend of Hokie success in the state and create an even
more raucous environment for home games.
UVA's athletic department was committed to making the first game in the completed
stadium a major event. It would be, at the time, the largest crowd to ever watch a
football game in the state of Virginia. The home-and-home on the schedule with BYU
was the perfect set-up for this event, as BYU was a big-name program that was also
fairly beatable. If this were a heavyweight title fight, we had found our Gerry Cooney.
So with the opponent set and the stadium project completed, Virginia's only other
assignment for this game was not to blow a huge lead, succumb to questionable
coaching decisions, make a boneheaded turnover at the worst possible moment, and
yet again rip the hearts out of UVA fans' chests while they were still beating.
This was the third meeting all-time between BYU and Virginia, with the Hoos having
won the first two: the prior year’s thrilling 45-40 win in Provo where Thomas Jones ran
for over 200 yards, and the 1987 All-American Bowl, where the Cavaliers, led by Scott
Secules and Sean Scott's mustache, prevailed by a score of 22-16 in cavernous
Legion Field in Birmingham, AL.
BYU had started the previous season 8-1 (with Virginia the lone early-season loss),
but then proceeded to lose their final three games to finish the season 8-4. Those late
season woes seemed to have carried over to the 2000 season, as the Cougars were
throttled by Florida State by a score of 29-3 in the season-opening Pigskin Classic.
BYU went on to lose to Air Force and Mississippi State in the two games after playing
Virginia. In other words, there was little reason to fear this version of the Cougars.
BYU began the 2000 season with quarterback Bret Engemann at the helm. Engeman
didn't exactly possess the star power or athletic skills of BYU quarterbacks from years
past, such as Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, or even Robbie Bosco.
Engemann did, however, have the creepy, yet oddly fascinating, distinction of being
Larry King's brother-in-law.
In short, the Hoos would be facing an unproven quarterback and a thoroughly
mediocre, reasonably well-known opponent playing 2,000 miles from home in an
unfamiliar, extremely humid and hostile environment.
What could possibly go wrong?
Size of Lead Lost – 8 out of 10 Points
Early on, nothing much did go wrong for the Hoos. Virginia established the run
early and often in this game, behind the running of Arlen Harris and the return
(after off-field troubles in 1999) of Antwoine Womack. (As an aside, Womack has
to be one of the most underappreciated superstars at UVA in the last 20 years.
Dude was beastly in this game, finishing with 160 yards on just 15 carries.)
Harris, who had 62 rushing yards in the first half, struck first, scoring on a 28-yard
TD run to put the Hoos up 7-0. Womack then scored on a 4-yard run in the
second quarter, soon followed by a conventional TD run by "Trickplay" Tyree
Foreman. Virginia led 21-0 at the half, and quarterback Dan Ellis had barely
broken a sweat.
The Hoos seemed to be in complete control. The only way they could lose this
game would be if BYU scored on practically every second half possession and
racked up 400+ yards of offense after halftime.
Yeah, like that'll happen.
Level of Choke – 7 out of 10 Points
The Hoos started the second half as if that 21-point lead was burning a hole in
their collective pocket. BYU cut the lead to 21-14 before fans had even returned
to their seats. (Is it me, or does the dog have a funny look on his face?)
The momentum seemed to shift back in Virginia's favor late in the third quarter
when the defense finally managed to get a stop on a tip-drill INT by Rashad
Roberson. Ellis quickly took advantage, firing a TD pass to Kevin Coffey.
BYU responded three plays later, closing the gap to 28-21. Everyone started
holding their breath again.
Things began to look up again when Womack sprinted 67 yards for a TD with 12
minutes left, putting the Hoos up 35-21. But then Engemann found future NFL
tight end Doug Jolley for another Cougar TD, cutting the lead to 35-28.
(Fun fact: Engemann finished the season with 3 TDs and 6 INTs. However, he
was completely unconscious against Virginia, completing a ridiculous 34 out of
41 passes for 447 yards and 2 TDs, including 11 for 11 passing in the fourth
quarter. NBA All-Star Games were pointing and laughing at our defensive
performance in this game.)
Despite their atrocious second half showing, with five minutes left in the game
the Hoos appeared to be in great shape. They had possession of the ball, good
field position (around midfield), and a seven point lead. Plus, facing 3rd and 1,
they had a perfect opportunity to unleash their beastly running back…..right?
Singular Moment – 5 out of 10 Points
Antwoine Womack averaged over ten yards per carry in this game. Arlen Harris,
on the other hand, had sustained injuries to his knee and ankle in the first half
and seemed a step slow in the second half. So on the most important play of the
game, the Hoos gave the ball to...Harris, who promptly got stoned. (When asked
about this decision after the game, Coach Welsh said Womack needed "a
blow." Seriously? The guy only had 15 carries the whole game, plus he had sat
out the entire 1999 season. I'd say he was pretty well-rested.)
Facing 4th and 1, everyone assumed the Hoos would try to pin the Cougars deep
in their territory with a punt and then pray for a defensive stop. Shockingly, Bizarro-
Welsh made a rare appearance and decided to go for it on 4th and 1. A little
risky, but not really a bad decision, since now we could get Womack back in.
Instead, Harris got the call. Again. And he was stoned. Again.
The Hoos ran for nearly 300 yards on the day, so it shouldn't have mattered. But
if you choose to go for it on 4th and 1, don't you have to give it to the non-injured
player who had trampled all over the Cougars like Ralph Friedgen on his way to
a pudding eating contest, particularly when that player also happens to be a
Yeah, I think you do.
Painful Finish – 7 out of 10 Points
In an altogether shocking development, after taking over on downs BYU promptly
scored to tie the game at 35.
But the Hoos still had some life in them. Ellis led the team down to the BYU 32
yard line with less than a minute remaining, just a little outside new kicker David
Greene's range. A handoff to Womack or a short pass seemed to be the
conventional wisdom here.
Instead, the Hoos handed the ball off to the injured Harris again, since that had
worked out so well a few minutes earlier. Harris was stopped after a marginal
gain, leaving Greene with a 48-yard field goal attempt on the final play of
regulation. No good. On to overtime.
The Hoos got the ball first in OT. Two plays later, Ellis found a rather inopportune
moment to throw his first interception of the season, effectively ending the game.
Season Killer – 5 out of 10 Points
The 38-35 overtime loss didn't kill the 2000 season so much as it showed
Virginia fans that the team's defensive struggles late in the 1999 season hadn't
gone away. (It was the third straight game the Hoos had given up over 500 yards.)
Virginia would go on to lose five more games in 2000, each by a margin of more
than 20 points, so in retrospect this was a flawed team. However, the loss was
significant in at least one respect: the Hoos failed to win seven games for the
first time since 1986. The loss to BYU was certainly more to blame for the end of
that streak than any of the other losses in 2000.
Long-Term Implications – 4 out of 10 Points
While people continue to debate how much the on-field results led to George
Welsh stepping down after the season, I'd argue that the five blowout losses in
2000 had a bigger impact on fan dissatisfaction than the loss to BYU. However,
this game was certainly a painful reminder that Virginia had built a well-earned
reputation as a team that could blow 21-point leads with the best of them.
(Although it should be noted that the Hoos haven't blown a 21-point lead in the 11
years since this game, which is good I suppose, since we do still score 21
points on occasion.)
This game marks the halfway point in the Top 20 Stomach Punch Game countdown,
and many of the games in the Top 10 will be quite familiar to longtime Hoo fans. But
the BYU game in 2000 was somewhat unique from the rest. This game took place on
a day that was supposed to celebrate the football program, honor the former players
who had worked so hard to build the program's popularity, and showcase the beautiful
new stadium expansion. Instead, it ended in heartbreak.
In looking back at a day that began with so much pomp and pageantry but ended with
another painful defeat, I'm reminded that I love Virginia football just like I love my dog.
But sometimes I just wish they'd bark to go outside.
|Overall Score – 36 out of 60 Points (Stomach Punch Factor 60%)
|UVA Football - Random Musings|