Historical Stats & Info
"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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#17:  Miami 24, UVA 17 (OT) (November 1, 2008)

The losses that really rip your heart out usually occur during seasons where there are
especially high expectations.  Those are the seasons where the perceived talent on
the roster has you looking ahead on the schedule and dreaming about conference
championships, big bowl games, and getting drunk in new and exciting locales.  But
fan expectations aren't always closely aligned with reality, especially for a program like
UVA that struggles to maintain a consistent level of success from year to year.   

Al Groh has had a very rocky tenure as coach at the University of Virginia in large part
because of fan expectations, and the 2008 season was no different.  Groh had earned
a little equity with the team's 2007 performance,
which featured a 9-4 record and a
Gator Bowl appearance, but more critical fans were quick to note that several 2007
wins (Maryland, Middle Tennessee, and Wake Forest) were by the slimmest of
margins.  On top of that, the spring of 2008 saw the offseason departure of
cyborg Chris Long to the NFL, as well as the losses of QB Jameel Sewell, CB Chris
Cook and top returning defensive player Jeffrey Fitzgerald to academic casualties.  
With that, the 2007 success started to look like it would be more of an outlier than an
upward trend.

It was with these somewhat muddied expectations that the 2008 season would kick off
for the Hoos.  It would turn out to be one of the weirdest seasons in UVA football
history.  The ups and downs of the season were abrupt and unmistakable, and the
Miami game (more than any other) was a microcosm of those extreme momentum
shifts.  While a win would have set the stage for an exciting finish to the season, the
game quickly dashed UVA's conference title hopes and, by the end of the year, Groh
would again find himself fully on the coaching hot seat.      


Expectations aside, there are two things that are impossible to deny about the 2008

  • At the end of September, UVA was a complete mess and one of the worst BCS
    conference teams in the nation.

  • At the end of October, they led the ACC Coastal Division and controlled their
    own destiny for a conference championship and Orange Bowl appearance.

September included exactly zero Division 1-A wins.  The Hoos were outscored 128-36,
lost their starting QB to some vague legal troubles that may or may not have involved
smokable vegetation, and got completely housed by Duke, ending the Blue Devils' 25-
game conference losing streak.  

Then things got really weird.  After the 31-3 loss to Duke, UVA returned home to play
Maryland.  The Terps would win eight games in 2008, including four against ranked
teams.  So what happened? The Hoos won 31-0, of course.  UVA would go on to win
four games in a row, including wins over ranked UNC and Georgia Tech teams that
were likely looking past the Hoos on the schedule.  The team was led by
emotional RB
Cedric Peerman and the improved play of QB Marc Verica, who had some talent, but
was a bit of a turnover machine at inopportune times (foreshadowing alert!).

Now, on November 1, the Hoos found themselves atop the Coastal Division of the ACC
at 3-1.  While no one believed UVA was a BCS-caliber team, it was a winning streak
that finally began to resonate with fans and make people believe there was at least an
outside chance they could actually win out and reach the ACC Championship game.  In
other words, it was just enough to ratchet up the expectations, and people were
genuinely excited for the Miami game that weekend.


Miami was 5-3, 2-2 coming into this game and still had reasonable aspirations to win
the wide-open Coastal Division as well.  Under second year coach Randy Shannon,
they also were probably still stinging from one of the most improbable UVA football
beatdowns ever,
the 48-0 whitewashing UVA dropped on the Hurricanes to close out
the Orange Bowl the year before.

In a platoon reminiscent of Aaron Brooks/Tim Sherman, the Canes featured a two-
headed QB combo of Robert Marve and Jacory Harris.  Unfortunately for the Hoos, the
Canes were beginning to figure out that Harris, even as a freshman, was the far less
sucky option and were playing him more and more.  

No question the Canes had talent, but they were still extremely young and it was
thought the Hoos could take advantage of the matchups, playing at home and still on a
roll from their undefeated October.

Here's how this game graded out:
Size of Lead Lost – 3 out of 10 Points

Other than a two-minute stretch in the first quarter when Miami held a 7-3 lead,
the Hoos never trailed during regulation play.  After a
two-yard pass from Verica
to WR Jared Green late in the second quarter, the Hoos took a 17-10 lead.  The
lead held up through most of the second half as the teams traded missed
scoring opportunities.  Miami would eventually take over from their own 5 yard
line with eight minutes left.  Harris, inserted for the mostly ineffective Marve, then
proceeded to march them on a 95 yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock
and featured a converted 3rd and 13 deep in their own territory, as well as a 26
yard TD pass on 3rd and 15 with 55 seconds left.   

Level of Choke – 7 out of 10 Points  

Even with the late, dramatic TD pass by the Canes, the Hoos only needed a FG
to win the game.  In overtime, after the Canes scored a TD on another third down
pass by Harris, the Hoos needed a matching TD.  On both of these critical drives,
the Hoos fumbled.  On the first one, Verica scrambled to the edge of FG range
with 32 seconds left, utilized
less ball security than Reggie Love at a UNC
fraternity party, and consequently coughed it up.  On UVA's first offensive play in  
overtime, Cedric Peerman briefly broke loose, but was then stripped of the ball,
which was immediately recovered by the Canes.  

Game over.  Everybody go home.  Oh, and our next win will be in 2009.

Singular Moment – 6 out of 10 Points

In many ways, the Verica fumble was more jarring than the late TD pass on 3rd
and 15.  In the Hoos' previous home game, Verica led UVA on a late TD drive
against UNC to tie the score in a game Virginia would win in overtime.  The final
drive in regulation for UVA had a similar feel, as Verica began marching the Hoos
down the field.  When he rushed for a first down inside the 35 yard line, things
were looking good for the home team.  Was Verica really the clutch, crunch-time
player the Hoos could count on not to make the game-changing mistake at the
worst possible moment?  Um, no.

Painful Finish – 7 out of 10 Points

An overtime loss is almost always way too abrupt and jarring.  You spend close
to four hours living and dying with the team and then, just like that, it's over.  This
one was especially shocking because Cedric Peerman never - I repeat, NEVER -
fumbled.  But as Ced raced inside the 15, he was grabbed from behind and lost
the ball.  Game over.  Ced, flashing his best
Frank Beamer "who farted?"
expression, was as shocked as everyone in the crowd.  

Season Killer – 5 out of 10 Points

When you consider the Hoos would go into Winston Salem the following week
and trail 28-3 at halftime and that the team wouldn't win another game in 2008,
its hard to argue the Miami game didn't kill the season.  It's also hard to ignore
the team's September performance and wonder, even with the wild swings in
performance during the season, whether the Hoos could have won any of their
remaining games anyway.  But there is no doubt there was never as much at
stake after the Miami loss.

Long-Term Implications – 2 out of 10 Points

When an objective observer takes a look at the state of the Virginia football
program and the performance of Coach Al Groh over the last few years, the
Miami loss probably doesn't register as a major indicator of the direction of the
program.  This game easily could have been a win if not for a couple of really
egregious mistakes that cost the Hoos the game.  But the more systemic issues
of poor offensive production, mediocre/inconsistent QB play, poor offensive
playcalling, bad turnovers, and spotty recruiting were all on display in this game.  
In short, there are many other losses in 2008 and 2009 that will likely lead to
Groh's dismissal before the loss to Miami, but it was easy to see this was still a
mediocre-at-best football team despite their standing in the Coastal Division at
the time.

When coming up with a list of the 20 greatest wins or the 20 most heartbreaking
losses, it seems odd to put a game on the list from a season that was thoroughly
sub-mediocre.  Who cares that we lost a heartbreaker, we were 5-7, right?  But rarely
do 5-win seasons include 4-game winning streaks that get people believing a historic
turnaround is possible.  That's a big reason why 2008 was such a weird season,
where a 5-7 finish somewhat masks the fact that the team was 5-3 entering the stretch
run.  The subsequent loss to Miami certainly ended any lofty aspirations for the Hoos in
2008, and it did so in sudden death fashion.  For that, it earns a place as a top-20 SPG.
Overall Score – 30 out of 60 Points (Stomach Punch Factor 50%)
UVA Football - Random Musings
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