Monday, September 19, 2005


Al Groh probably didn't picture such a dramatic start to his season, but he did probably envision the result 2-0.

The Cavaliers kept their season afloat with a 27-24 victory on the road against Syracuse Saturday. The drama was capped by a game-winning 19-yard field gold by senior place kicker Connor Hughes. It may not have been the 53-yard kick against Wake Forest that will forever be in UVA lore, but it did seal a victory on one topsy-turvy game.

Virginia came out of the boxes ice cold. Their first drive went nowhere, and when the Orange took the field, they were able to pick apart the defense and Perry Patterson walked in from 8 yards out to get the touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Fortunately Syracuse would never lead again. The Cavaliers marched down on the next drive to tie it up when freshman Cedric Peerman barreled in from a yard out. After a fortunate incomplete pass by Patterson the game really shifted in Virginia's favor. Their defense was rock solid, allowing running back Damien Rhodes nowhere to go and keeping Patterson on the turf.

The problem for Virginia was they could not seem to take advantage of the stellar defensive effort. Hagans had three interceptions on the day and that kept at least 10 points off the board for Virginia. Nevertheless, his effort was still amazing. He may have made it a close game, but without him the Cavaliers would have surely lost the game. Hagans showed off his arm in a good way by hitting a short pass to Peerman giving Virginia the 14-7 advantage going into the half.

A field goal by Hughes made it 17-7 but Syracuse responded. Going to a tight end passing game the Orange made it 17-14, only to be pushed back again with an amazing 71 yard run by junior running back Michael Johnson.

Syracuse made one final stand, tying it up at 24-24 with a little over 6 minutes to go in the game. Virginia had to deal with probably the loudest Carrier Dome crowd since McNabb wore the orange and blue. Hagans diffused the crowd with an awe-inspiring run on third down, putting the Hoos in Orange territory. With the clock ticking Virginia was able to overpower the Syracuse defense down the field. With less than two minutes to go, Virginia gambled on a 4th and 1, only to make it and set up the 19 yard field goal for the win. Hughes was up to the task, making it and securing the second win of the season.

It may not have been a blowout, it was certainly not mistake free but it was not the ugly mess of two weeks ago. Virginia looks to be ever so slowly returning to form. Duke comes to Charlottesville this weekend....most Cavaliers fans expect the only team trying to escape will be Duke with their dignity intact.


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