|"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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|#13: Fresno State 37, UVA 34 (OT) (December 27, 2004)
Much like the football program in general, Virginia's history in college bowl games
consists of a smattering of semi-important triumphs, heart-breaking defeats, and a
veritable shitshow of bowl committee and administrative screw jobs. When UVA
limped to the finish line in 2004 with November losses to Miami and Virginia Tech, it
was clear the Hoos would not be invited to one of the top-three ACC bowls. But even
with Virginia's history, the confluence of events that led the Hoos to Boise, Idaho to play
in the MPC Computers Bowl was a bit difficult to digest – almost as difficult as the
outcome of the game itself.
After jumping out to a 5-0 record to start the 2004 season, the Hoos ran into a buzzsaw
in an emasculating loss at FSU. The loss in Tallahassee was crushing, and the team
never again played at the same level that they had back in September. But even after
an early November loss to Miami, Virginia still had a chance to win the conference in
their season finale in Blacksburg against the Hokies. The Hoos lost 24-10 (arguably
in stomach punch fashion, even though that game did not crack the top-20), leaving
their bowl fate in the loving hands of Craig Littlepage, John Swofford, and various bowl
reps who would never, ever put money ahead of the greater good.
In fairness, our bowl destination in 2004 was pretty much on us. Littlepage decided
the #4 ACC bowl (the Champs Sports Bowl) was not a feasible alternative, as the
game took place before Christmas and was too close to exams. So the Champs took
6-5 Georgia Tech over the 8-3 Hoos. (The Jackets beat Syracuse 51-14.)
The #5 ACC bowl was the Continental Tire bowl, which UVA had already made its
personal bitch by winning the 2002 and 2003 games. So it was likely a mutual
decision that the Tire bowl selected 6-5 UNC instead of the 8-3 Hoos. (The Heels got
housed by Boston College, so suck it Tire Bowl.)
So with the slightly more palatable Music City Bowl still tied into a Big Ten/SEC
matchup in 2004, the Hoos were left desperately looking around the bar at 2 a.m. --
and all that was left was an overweight, toothy chick in a bright blue jumpsuit.
"Hi, I'm Boise!"
So it was that Virginia jetted off to exotic Boise, Idaho. With a BCS conference school
already in its back pocket, the bowl committee quickly signed the Fresno State
Bulldogs to be Virginia's opponent. Fresno had finished 8-3 in 2004, just like Virginia.
But unlike the Hoos, they were on a five-game winning streak in which they had scored,
42, 52, 70, 52, and 62 points. Fresno had beaten #13 Kansas State 45-21. They had
also beaten Washington and played Boise State fairly tough. They were excited for the
chance to prove themselves against another BCS conference opponent, especially
one that had gotten a decent amount of media attention and spent most of the year
near the top of their conference. They brought fans to Boise in much bigger numbers,
and became a hometown favorite due to their underdog, non-BCS status. In short,
instead of hanging out in a balmy Florida destination for a week and then kicking the
crap out of a 6-6 team from the Big East, the Virginia Cavaliers got to schlep out west to
face a seasoned opponent from a non-BCS conference with a chip on their shoulder
and a sizable home field advantage.
Even with all that, Virginia was a 1-point favorite and was looking to salvage a season
that had begun with high expectations. Finishing 9-3 would have been a good way to
do that. If only.
Size of Lead Lost – 6 out of 10 Points
Despite the drama surrounding the team and the series of events leading up to
its trip out to Boise, the Virginia football team came out of the blocks ready to
play. The Hoos scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the
game, on an Alvin Pearman TD run, a Marques Hagans TD pass to Michael
McGrew, and a Hagans TD run. With twelve minutes left in the first half, Virginia
On their final three possessions of the half, Virginia again drove into enemy
territory, but had to punt each time. On the final punt of the half, the Bulldogs
were pinned back at their 13-yard line with 55 seconds left. The Hoos, however,
let them drive into field goal range, and Fresno converted at the gun to make it 21-
10 at halftime.
The Hoos would ultimately blow that early 14 point lead, but the most frustrating
part of the game was that it could have easily been 28-7 or even 35-7.
Level of Choke – 5 out of 10 Points
After the first quarter success, Virginia's execution became extremely
inconsistent. A dropped pass on 3rd and 6 killed one drive. Later in the first half,
a holding penalty negated a Wali Lundy run to the Fresno 29. Another drive that
started on the Fresno 40 ended on the Fresno 39.
Defensively, the Hoos gave up 450 yards of offense, including 222 yards rushing
(138 in the second half alone) and five touchdown passes. Other than the FSU
game, this was Virginia's worst defensive performance of the season.
Despite the spotty play, the Hoos took a 31-24 lead with six minutes left. All they
needed to win the game was for the defense to get a stop. Unfortunately, the
stop they needed never came. On the final drive in regulation, Fresno QB Paul
Pinegar completed five consecutive passes and quickly and methodically moved
the Bulldogs inside the UVA ten yard line.
Singular Moment – 6 out of 10 Points
After a couple of incomplete passes, the Bulldogs faced a fourth and goal at the
UVA three yard line. There were less than 20 seconds on the clock, so Virginia
just needed one more play and the game would be over. Pinegar had plenty of
time to throw, but was eventually flushed out of the pocket and rolled to his right,
buying additional time for a receiver to get open.
As should have been expected, WR Jaron Fairman finally broke free of his
defender. Pinegar delivered a high pass only Fairman could reach and he
brought it down in the back corner of the endzone. The PAT tied game with 11
seconds left. Ugh.
Painful Finish – 8 out of 10 Points
Fresno had tied the game after trailing for 59 minutes and 49 seconds and now
had all the momentum and the crowd behind them.
But still we believed.
(God, we're idiots.)
UVA got the ball first in overtime, and Lundy ran for 17 yards to the Fresno 8-yard
line on the first play of OT. Three plays later however, it was fourth and goal from
the 9-yard line and another TD opportunity had been wasted.
After Connor Hughes converted the field goal attempt to make it 34-31, Pinegar
used all of one play to end the game -- a 25 yard pass to tight end Stephen
Spach, who carried CB Tony Franklin into the end zone for the winning score.
Season Killer – 4 out of 10 Points
After the 5-0 start and top-10 ranking to begin the year, expectations had gone
through the roof. But after finishing the regular season 3-3 and getting exiled to
Boise, the 2004 season had already turned into a turd sandwich even before this
game. Losing in sudden death after blowing a late lead and leaving so many
scoring chances on the table was, I dunno, whatever disgusting condiment you
typically put on a turd sandwich.
All in all, the 2004 team was the most talented Virginia team of the decade, yet
they went only 8-4, 5-3. At a minimum, the 2004 season should have been held
in the same regard as other successful-yet-disappointing years, like 1995 and
1998. But it didn't even reach that standard. There was no true signature win in
2004 like there had been in those other years. And those seasons didn't end in
freezing Boise in a game called by Pam Ward.
Long-Term Implications – 5 out of 10 Points
In the grand scheme of things, the 2004 season was what Al Groh had been
building towards when he took over the program in January 2001. By that time,
his early recruiting successes were veteran contributors and it was all supposed
to come together.
But then a funny thing happened…actually, two things.
First, the Hoos got absolutely housed in that aforementioned game in
Second, the Hoos couldn't sustain it. The team has (even after six years) been
unable to regain the same level of importance and swagger they had going into
Tally. Whether it was recruiting failures, academic casualties, assistant
coaching defections, or something else, the 2005 and 2006 teams went back to
being mediocre and unimportant. The momentum and swagger were gone and,
even with the Chris Long-fueled 2007 bounce back year, they never really got it
Al Groh really needed to have a good-to-great season in 2004. In a big way. Building a
program at a school like Virginia is a tenuous thing, and 2004 should have been the
season the Hoos really hit their stride. Instead, we got Boise blue-balled, and we
haven't been the same since.
Now, even our coach is different.
|Overall Score – 34 out of 60 Points (Stomach Punch Factor 57%)
|UVA Football - Random Musings|