|"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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are presented here solely for educational and/or editorial purposes and may not be
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|#12: Georgia 35, UVA 33 (December 31, 1998)
As great as the Virginia football program became in the 1990s, the team slowly
developed a reputation among the Cavalier fanbase for finding new and creatively
horrific ways to lose leads. By 1998, fans had become strangely accustomed to these
excruciating losses, to the point that it was hard for us not to expect the worst when the
talented Cavaliers raced out to fast starts. Fans were as devoted as ever, but we never
quite knew when the Hoos were going to rip the scabs off our slowly healing wounds.
But up until 1998, the Peach Bowl had become something of a safe haven for Hoo
fans. Hell, we LOVED the Peach Bowl. In 1984, we beat the crap out of Jim Everett in
the Peach Bowl for our first-ever victory in a bowl game. In 1995, we partied as Petey
Allen raced 95 yards for a touchdown on a late kickoff return to win the Peach Bowl.
The Peach Bowl was awesome. No bad memories here.
In hindsight, I am reminded of that scene in Animal House when Otter and Boon fix
themselves up on sympathy dates with friends of the deceased Fawn Leibowitz (kiln
explosion). They go out to a club off-campus and find out that the popular fraternity
house band Otis Day and the Knights are playing.
"Otter, holy shit. It's Otis Day and Knights!"
"Wait till Otis sees us! He loves us!"
Unfortunately, in 1998 the Peach Bowl didn't love us. In 1998, the Peach Bowl danced
with our dates.
The 1998 season was the final curtain call for the glory years of the UVa football
program under Coach George Welsh. The 1998 squad was Welsh's last great team,
and the Hoos were still a major player nationally and around the state. The team
started the year 5-0 and rose as high as #6 in some polls, until a rather unfortunate
roadtrip to Atlanta in October and a subsequent blowout in Tallahasee. But those were
the only losses for the Hoos, and they entered the final regular season game in
Blacksburg ranked in the top-20 with a record of 8-2.
The Hoos got off to a horrendous start in Blacksburg, falling behind 29-7 at the half.
The UVa fans who braved the trip to Blacksburg on this unseasonably warm November
day were left with little to say in response to the belligerent Hokie banter heard
throughout the stadium. But then the second half began, and things started going
wrong for the home team in a big way: Byron Thweatt pick-sixed an Al Clark pass,
Thomas Jones caught a circus TD from Aaron Brooks in the corner of the end zone,
Ahmad Hawkins broke free late and raced for the winning score, and people kept
farting in the general vicinity of Frank Beamer. The cavalcade of horrors for the Hokies
ultimately resulted in a 36-32 win for the Hoos, who finished the season 9-2. The win
energized the team and fans as they headed south to face a familiar foe in the Georgia
Bulldogs, whom Virginia had defeated in Atlanta in 1995. The opportunity to win 10
games for only the second time in program history and to go back to Atlanta and win a
big game in front of a national audience were great motivations.
As for the team, the Hoos had an amazing 14 players garner all-conference honors,
with two (safety Anthony Poindexter and defensive end Patrick Kerney) earning
All-America honors. The offense was led by Aaron Brooks at quarterback, Thomas
Jones and Antoine Womack at running back, Kevin Coffey at wide receiver and Casey
Crawford at tight end. The defense was stout with Kerney and Tony Dingle up front,
linebackers Thweatt, Wali Rainer and Donny Green, and an experienced secondary led
by Poindexter (up until his heart-breaking ACL injury). In all, the 1998 team was
arguably the most balanced and talented in program history.
The Georgia Bulldogs, coached by the dynamic personality that is Jim Donnan,
entered the 1998 Peach Bowl with a record of 8-3 and a #19 ranking. They were led by
two-way uber-stud Champ Bailey, who won the Bronko Nagursky Award as the nation's
best defensive player. Other notable names that would later be familiar to NFL fans
included OL Matt Stinchcomb, RB Olandis Gary, and mercurial freshman QB Quincy
Carter, whose bizarre professional career trajectory led him from being the starting QB
of the Dallas Cowboys to erstwhile castoff of the Abilene Ruff Riders of the Indoor
Football League. Quite the inspirational story.
In short, the game was perhaps the most star-studded match-up in the history of UVa
football. And the game lived up to the hype, as both teams put on quite a show in the
Size of Lead Lost – 8 out of 10 Points
There is not another game in this Top-20 that features the Hoos getting off to a
faster start than they did in this one. Less than 10 minutes into the game, the
Hoos were up 21-0 thanks to three interceptions on Quincy Carter's first five
passes, the first of which was returned by Wali Ranier to the 5 yard line. The
onslaught also included a 43-yard score from Brooks to Terrence Wilkins and a
24-yard pass from Brooks to Jones out of the backfield.
But as bad as Quincy Carter looked, and as much as Virginia was rolling, just
about every member of Wahoo Nation understood that the 21-0 lead was about
as safe as a day-old doughnut on Ralph Friedgen's desk.
Level of Choke – 5 out of 10 Points
Georgia scored just before halftime after a blocked punt, and Virginia fans began
to get that familiar feeling in the pits of their stomachs. Then, in a signature "you
CANNOT be serious!" moment, Aaron Brooks was flagged for intentional
grounding on the first play of the second half. With five minutes left in the third
quarter, the 21 point lead had vanished and the game was tied.
But outside of kicker Todd Braverman's shaky exploits (detailed below), the Hoos
didn't exactly choke. Brooks hit Terrence Wilkins for a highlight reel, 67-yard TD
against the All-American Bailey on third and ten. And after Georgia went up 35-
27, Brooks scampered 30 yards into the end zone with a little over a minute left.
Thanks to a missed extra point by Braverman in the third quarter, the Hoos were
forced to go for two in an attempt to tie the game at 35. Unfortunately, the two-
point attempt was unsuccessful, and UVa still trailed by a score of 35-33.
But just as we were ready to bend over and assume the position for our latest in
a long line of painful defeats, the unthinkable happened - the Hoos went and
recovered an onside kick, and then Brooks ran 26 yards into field goal range,
well inside the Georgia 30-yard line. Holy crap!
With plenty of time remaining and a couple of timeouts in their back pocket, the
Hoos were hoping to run three more plays and make the last-second kick a
chippie for Braverman. Instead, the Hoos ran three plays for -4 yards, pushing
them back to the 31-yard line.
Singular Moment – 6 out of 10 Points
As 5 foot 7, 167 pound Todd Braverman trotted onto the field with a few seconds
left in the game, he carried the hopes and aspirations of a tortured fanbase on
his shoulders. If he made the now 48-yard kick, the Hoos would have their
second ever 10-win season, and they would very likely have their first ever top-10
finish. The star-studded senior class would go out winners against an SEC foe
in a big game that would be featured on ESPN Classic for years. Moreover, a
Peach Bowl win would erase the painful memories of the loss in Atlanta earlier
that year to Georgia Tech, and it would quiet the roughly 50,000 Bulldog fans in
the Georgia Dome crowd, part of the biggest crowd in Peach Bowl history.
So, you know, no pressure or anything.
Painful Finish – 8 out of 10 Points
After the game, Braverman said he "crushed" the kick. And it did look good
coming off his foot. But as the kick faded wide right, it became painfully obvious
that the Hoos could have used those four yards they had lost on their final three
"God bless the little guy's heart," Georgia center Jonas Jennings said, in a
somewhat creepy reference to Braverman after the game.
In the end, the Hoos racked up over 500 yards of offense in a losing effort. Aaron
Brooks finished with 338 yards of total offense (226 passing and 112 rushing),
Thomas Jones amassed over 150 yards from scrimmage (106 rushing and 46
receiving), and Terrence Wilkins had 161 yards receiving.
Welsh, however, probably best captured the essence of this defeat when he
said, "Twenty-one point leads might be the worst thing you can do these days."
Season Killer – 4 out of 10 Points
Losing a bowl game doesn't typically ruin an entire season. However, as Patrick
Kerney aptly noted, "if we won those two games we lost (in Atlanta), we'd be a top-
five team." Well, shit, when you put it THAT way….
But, hey, at least the score wasn't 41-38.
Long-Term Implications – 4 out of 10 Points
Regardless of the result of this game, the Hoos would lose a ton of talent after
the 1998 season. Outside of Thomas Jones, who had a season of eligibility
remaining, there were question marks everywhere. And with the sting of Anthony
Poindexter's injury and the Ronald Curry saga still fresh, the Hoos could have
used the positive energy of a bowl win and a top-10 finish to springboard them
into the 1999 offseason.
It didn't quite work out that way, but the loss to Georgia was less about the future
and more about a disappointing finish to an era that featured guys like Aaron
Brooks and Patrick Kerney. Brooks became an all-time great QB for the Hoos in
1997 and 1998, and this game was a great platform for him to show off his
skills. And as a former lacrosse player and walk-on for the football team,
Kerney's story underscored what college athletics is all about, as he parlayed his
talents into a successful 10-year career in the NFL. To them and the other
seniors, this was a cruel way to go out.
At the time, I wish I could have fully appreciated the fact that Virginia had played in one
of the most exciting bowl games in the history of the sport. The 1998 Peach Bowl was
one for the ages, and it's great to be part of a showcase for college football. The game
had big names, great athleticism, spectacular highlights, a sold-out crowd of over
72,000 fans, a blocked punt, an onside kick, a big comeback, and a fantastic finish. In
other words, it had pretty much everything a college football fan could want in a game.
I can appreciate that now. And, and after almost ten years of Al Groh, I'd be happy just
to play in a game of this stature again. But at the time, this game just killed me.
Next time, I really hope the Peach Bowl loves us again.
|Overall Score – 35 out of 60 Points (Stomach Punch Factor 58%)
|UVA Football - Random Musings|