|"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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|#19: Duke 24, UVA 17, 2OT (October 9, 1999)
In the last 20 years, Virginia is 17-3 against Duke in football.
Thankfully, most UVA fans have no recollection of those three losses, for the same
reason that most guys don't remember crapping their pants in second grade music
But those losses actually happened. In 1994, Duke beat Virginia 28-25. The Blue
Devils came into that game with an unfathomable 7-1 record and went on to finish tied
for third (with UVA) in the ACC. Clearly that was just a case of the College Sports Gods
setting Duke up for the magical Pete Gaudet Era that would be ushered in later that
year. (Loved that era, by the way.) In 2008, Duke beat Virginia by a score of, um, 31-3
and had Virginia fans everywhere scanning their remotes for the reset button.
But in 1999, Virginia was quite simply blindsided by a loss that no one saw coming.
In 1999, the Hoos were trying to establish their identity after a very successful 1998
season that featured one of the most talented teams of the Welsh era. Aaron Brooks
and Terrence Wilkins had departed, so the offense was relying on a heavy dose of
Heisman candidate and resident badass Thomas “Two Tickets to the Gun Show”
Jones. UVA was 3-2 coming into the Duke game that year, with wins over UNC (on a
last second, hurricane-aided field goal) and BYU (in a shootout where UVA almost
blew a 28-6 lead). Wahoo fans were somewhat reeling, however, from the beatdown
they received courtesy of Michael Vick and the Virginia Tech Hokies the previous week,
in a rare early season match-up between the in-state rivals.
Given that performance, and an early season blowout loss at Clemson, expectations
for the remainder of the season were mixed. Faint rumblings that George Welsh and
his staff had lost a step began to grow, especially given the increased notoriety of the
program in Blacksburg and its freshman sensation Vick. Fans were waiting for
promising quarterback Dan Ellis to start putting up numbers similar to his QB
predecessors, and for some consistency from the defense, which was trying to replace
all-time Hoo luminaries Anthony Poindexter and Patrick Kerney.
But the schedule was soft and, even with tempered expectations, most fans still hoped
for an upper division finish and a decent bowl game. The game with Duke, featuring
new coach Carl Franks, was seen as an opportunity to lick some wounds suffered the
prior week and get back on the winning side.
Regardless of fan expectations, no one – not even Carl Franks's mom – ever
considered that Virginia would follow-up their subpar performance against the Hokies
with a loss to Duke. Coming into the game, the Blue Devils were 0-4 and had lost
seven straight games dating back to the 1998 season, and Franks was still looking for
his first win as a college head coach. Duke was coming off a "home" game in
Jacksonville against FSU, hanging tough with the Seminoles and only trailing 44-0 at
halftime. Duke would eventually win three games in 1999, but they proceeded to go 0-
22 over the next two seasons and wouldn't win another ACC game until 2003.
In short, even by Duke's pathetic standards, this was not a good football team. And on
top of that, they had not won in Charlottesville since 1981.
Given this obvious setup, here's how the #19 Stomach Punch Game graded out:
Size of Lead Lost – 2 out of 10 Points
First off, the halftime score was 0-0. Whenever you play Duke, a scoreless first
half is generally not a good plan of action. It's like eating a bunch of Taco Bell
and jumping on the subway – lots of sweating, clenched muscles and hoping for
the best. It was one thing for the offense to get shut down by a Hokie team that
would play FSU in the Sugar Bowl, but going scoreless against Duke is
something entirely different. Thomas Jones (31 rushes for 185 yards) got UVA
on the board with a 48 yard run in the third quarter, but Duke answered to make it
7-7. UVA eventually went up 17-10 on another TD run by TJ midway through the
fourth quarter. That seven point lead held up…until there were 6 godforsaken
seconds left in regulation.
Level of Choke – 5 out of 10 Points
Any loss to Duke involves some choke factor. UVA outgained Duke in the
running game 255-105, but Duke QB Spencer Romine outplayed Dan Ellis, who
was 21-39 for only 164 yards and 2 picks. Todd Braverman missed a field goal
that would have won the game in the first OT. Ellis's interception on third down in
the second OT ended the game. But all that's secondary. It was Duke. We
Singular Moment – 8 out of 10 Points
OK, about those final seconds in regulation. It was about that time that Carl
Franks decided to go all Carl Franks on UVA. With 12 seconds left from the UVA
9 yard line, he figured it was a prime opportunity for some hijinks. He called for
some convoluted reverse play, which failed miserably when WR Letavious Wilks
was lit up by Virginia LB Byron Thweatt and fumbled the ball. Game over, right?
No such luck. Following the fumble, Duke WR Scottie Montgomery (8 catches for
172 yards) picked up the ball and heaved it across the field in desperation to yet
another freaking WR, Rich Flowers, who stumbled into the end zone like he just
polished off his 4th year fifth for the tying touchdown. UVA fans were left to decide
which was worse – Duke pulling that game out of their glory hole, or getting beat
by the resourcefulness of a wide receiver named "Scottie."
Painful Finish – 8 out of 10 Points
The two overtimes were not much better. UVA got the ball first, did nothing
offensively, and missed a 44-yard field goal. In classic Duke fashion, the Blue
Devils granted UVA a temporary reprieve by missing a field goal of their own. In
the second OT, Romine found Benjamin Watson for the go-ahead touchdown.
UVA tried to answer, as Ellis found Ahmad Hawkins in the back of the end zone
for an apparent score, but the refs ruled his foot was out of bounds. Two plays
later Ellis threw a pass into the waiting arms of Duke DB Lamar Grant. Game
Season Killer – 2 out of 10 Points
As embarrassing as the loss was, it did not have major implications for the
season. Players and fans alike just tucked all those painful memories deep,
deep into their subconscious. UVA went on the road the following week and beat
NC State in Raleigh by a score of 47-26, scoring 30 points in the third quarter
alone. Overall though, the 1999 season is generally remembered for two games
– the David Rivers Game (beating #6 Georgia Tech 45-38 at home behind 213
yards rushing from Thomas Jones) and the 63-21 loss to Illinois in the Micron
PC Bowl. Consistency was kind of a problem in 1999.
Long-Term Implications – 3 out of 10 Points
Surprisingly, the Duke loss had no impact on the overall stature of the football
program, but it did point to the fact that UVA's talent was not what it had been
earlier in the 1990s. The Hoos could no longer just show up and expect to win.
It really wasn't until the 2000 season that there was any significant clamoring for
changes to be made in the UVA coaching staff. The successful 1998 campaign
was still fresh in the minds of UVA fans, so Welsh did not receive much backlash
for the improbable loss.
Surprising as it seems, UVA doesn't often lose games as abruptly as they did this one.
And given the opponent and the wacky nature of the tying TD, this game certainly rated
as a sizable stomach punch at the time. But unlike some other shocking losses
during the Welsh era, this one was just chalked up as a fluke and, for most fans, did
not signal a bellwether for future failure or hold many lasting memories. Amazingly,
even with the record-setting season of Thomas Jones, I never think of the 1999
season as particularly memorable. But a Duke win here could have given us an 8-3
season, and UVA just doesn't have that many three-loss regular seasons. Of course,
given the 63-21 loss in the Micron PC Bowl, it may be a good thing UVA didn't go 8-3 in
1999 and make an even better bowl. We might have gotten blown out.
|Overall Score – 28 out of 60 Points (Stomach Punch Factor 47%)
|UVA Football - Random Musings|