Friday, December 30, 2005

Music to Their Ears, Cavs Rally 34-31

Gophers Buried By Hughes Field Goal with 1:08 to go.

It wasn't easy, or pretty, but it was a big win for Al Groh and company. Following coach attrition, key injuries and suspensions, Virginia looked to be in trouble. After the first 7 minutes, it looked even more dire. Minnesota scored on its first two possessions easily. They ran at will, receivers were WIDE open and Virginia, well they went three and out for one total yard. Marques Hagans refused for the game to end that way however. The senior quarterback for Virginia rallied the troops and responded with a key touchdown drive that (at least for the moment) staved off any blowout. Minnesota continued to control the clock however, and on another secondary breakdown Gopher QB Bryan Cupito connected deep to make it a 21-7 game. Hagans was able to use TE Tom Santi to charge one last drive before the end of the half, getting inside the ten with about 11 seconds to go. Rather than take the timeout or the knee, Hagans tried to scramble and was able to call a timeout with barely a second left on the clock. Senior Connor Hughes came up big with a 32-yard FG, making it a 21-10 deficit at the half, tough but not impossible.

The second half gave Virginia the ball first and the Cavaliers did not disappoint. Senior RB Wali Lundy charged up the middle for a 7 yard run for his first of two touchdowns. The score put the Gophers on their heels, but junior RB Laurence Maroney responded, helping moving Minnesota down the field to set up a 39-yard field goal Joel Monroe taking a 24-17 advantage. Virginia was not done yet, in only two minutes Hagans found junior WR Fontel Mines for the TD and knotted up the score. Things looked even better when Virginia finally stopped the Golden Gopher offense at the end of the third quarter. Virginia looked for a big play and put Hagans back to punt returner, a position he had held earlier in his career. This was Hagans's biggest mistake of the game, he fumbled the catch and Minnesota recovered deep in Wahoo territory. A quick strike gave Minnesota the lead back and plenty of momentum. Virginia showed great determination when they got the ball back, some huge plays by Hagans with his feet and his arm set up another TD by Lundy and gave him the all-time TD record for ACC running backs. More importantly, the Cavaliers tied it up. After the Orange Crush defense responded yet again, Hagans was pinned deep in his own endzone. After a scary scramble that almost gave the Gophers a safety resulted in a Virginia first down. Virginia continued to slowly march down the field and with 1:08 to go in the game Virginia took its first lead of the game when Connor Hughes hit his fourth career game winning field goal. Cupito and the Golden Gophers had one last chance but Marcus Hamilton pulled off a huge interception in the endzone to insure the Cavaliers victory, Al Groh's third in four attempts at UVA.

For UVA it was a stunning victory against a solid Big Ten squad. For Minnesota, it was a depressing loss and puts much more pressure on coach Glen Mason whose on future seems unclear. Virginia has its own coaching problems, with vacancies still abound because of the departure of Ron Prince and Al Golden for head coaching jobs. Houston Texans defensive line coach Mike London seems to be a prime candidate for defensive coordinator. One thing is for sure, however, this bowl victory will only help make Virginia a more attractive candidate as the Cavaliers try to move towards that next level of prominence.


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