Al Groh got his first win against a top-10 team.
Ten years later, history repeated itself at Scott Stadium. On the same night that the 1995 team was honored at halftime, the current Cavaliers produced another unforgettable five-point win over a top-five Florida State team and another thrilling, magical, signature victory for the football program – and the first for Al Groh as UVa’s coach.
The setting – a beautiful fall night, an ESPN audience, a jacked-up crowd – was eerily similar to the 1995 win over the Seminoles, as were some of the game’s details. But if anything, this 26-21 victory was more remarkable and unexpected than the 33-28 triumph so long ago.
A season that seemed on the verge of unraveling instead was saved by a performance that can only be described as lights-out – literally. Even a halftime delay caused by an outage of half the stadium lights couldn’t dampen the electric atmosphere or stop the Cavs from beating a top-10 team for the first time in Groh’s five seasons as coach.
“We shocked the world,” said tailback Wali Lundy. “We felt like it was us against the world. No one gave us a chance.”
UVa (4-2, 2-2 ACC) had dropped its previous two games and, in truth, had not played well all season. That all changed Saturday night. The Wahoos scored on six of their first seven possessions and held on as #4 FSU (5-1, 3-1) rallied from a 26-10 deficit in the fourth quarter.
The Seminoles scored 11 straight points on a touchdown, a two-point conversion and a field goal, then got the ball for the final time at their own 26 with 56 seconds left. But Tony Franklin made sure this wouldn’t come down to the last play, like it did 10 years ago when Warrick Dunn was stopped at the goal line. The junior safety picked off a Drew Weatherford pass near midfield and a wild celebration took place moments later as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Groh received a Gatorade bath on the sideline and many of the 63,106 fans stormed the field.
Senior QB Marques Hagans had career highs in completions (27), attempts (36) and yards (306).
“It was a terrific college football game,” Groh said. “There was tremendous action out there, wide open, daring, a lot of plays made by both teams.”
Marques Hagans made more big plays than anyone. The senior quarterback, often under enormous pressure from the FSU defense, completed 27 of 36 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns. Eleven different receivers were the recipients of his off-balance but accurate throws.
“We couldn’t stop number 18,” said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. “I’ve never seen a quarterback make as many one-man plays as he made tonight.”
Connor Hughes kicked field goals of 50, 37, 35 and 45 yards. Jonathan Stupar and Lundy caught TD passes from Hagans.
Weatherford completed 35 of 59 passes for 377 yards and a touchdown, but the Cavs pressured him successfully and got interceptions from Marcus Hamilton, Chris Gorham and Franklin.
What a night.
“This is a once in a lifetime thing,” said linebacker Ahmad Brooks , who played for just the second time this season and was a disruptive force. “After everything we’ve been through, this just feels great.”
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