Virginia’s defense leaps high as Wake kicker Sam Swank tries a last second field goal attempt.
Jeffrey Fitzgerald and Mikell Simpson both said a quick little prayer. Chris Long decided not to look – and then watched anyway. Al Groh just settled in to watch it unfold, saying these late game situations are no time for the “heebie jeebies.” Fans crouched, breathed deeply, closed their eyes, crossed their fingers, and hoped for the best.
All of this over a game-winning field goal try with two seconds remaining. Wake Forest’s Sam Swank, who had missed just one field goal all season long before Saturday, lined up for the 47-yarder with hopes of redeeming himself for a missed 43-yarder earlier in the game. That kick hit the left upright – it had been his only miss inside of 40 all season long.
The final attempt had the height and distance, but sailed wide right in the end. The fans on the hill reacted in two parts. Those behind the right post started celebrating while the ball was in flight. The other half of the hill followed shortly with a wild celebration.
Here are some of the participants’ thoughts on the final field goal try:
“That ball looked like it was fairly tight to the post and all we could wait for was the good eyesight of the officials,” UVa coach Al Groh said. “It’s just another final thing – just see what happens. Frankly, I didn’t have any nerves about it at all. We’ve done everything that we can do and let’s see. For those of us that work the game a different way, nerves don’t help – only clear thinking helps. So that was not the time to get the heebie jeebies right there.”
“[Close games] are all the same. It was a damn good game. It was two real good teams who fought it out. It was fun to be in,” Groh said. “You knew there was no margin for error; there was no margin of error for the players, there was no margin of error for the coaches. We were slugging it out there and trying to make the best calls, knowing our feelings are on the line on every one. That’s what competition is. If you’re scared off by this, you’re not going to have a very tough-minded team.”
“I was at the farthest possible angle and I said a prayer right before he kicked it. When I opened my eyes, he was approaching the ball and then it took off his foot – I saw it go right and I felt relieved,” Mikell Simpson said. “They have a great kicker. He kicks long field goals. When they got it on the hash, I kind of got a little bit excited and when he missed, I got extra excited. … We knew he was a great kicker coming in. On the sideline, we were like man ‘we’ve got to get a block’ because we didn’t expect to him to miss it and if we didn’t get a block that would have been the game for them.”
“I’m not on the field goal block team so I said a little prayer hoping he would miss it. He missed it so it was a great feeling,” Jeffrey Fitzgerald said. “We pretty much said the 40 [yard line] was the ledge. We knew he was a great placekicker. We had that mentality. We let him get a little bit closer than we wanted to, but luckily for us, he missed it.”
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“I didn’t see it. I was just going to listen. I whipped my head around so fast and by the time the kick was coming down I saw it went wide right,” Chris Long said. “And that was just best feeling in the entire world. That was unbelievable.”
“When the kick went up, I knew it was no good. I felt nothing but excitement once we got the win,” Vic Hall said.
“When the kicked missed, I was probably the happiest person in the world. After all we had been through during that game, there is no feeling like coming out with a big win,” Jameel Sewell said.
“When we completed that pass to De’Angelo [Bryant], we felt like we were in Sam’s range. We would have certainly liked to get more from those two runs we had, but from our perspective that was easy length for Sam,” Wake coach Jim Grobe said. “The thing we didn’t want to do was to take a sack or throw a pick to do anything that wouldn’t give Sam a chance to win the game.”
“We had all the confidence in the world in Sam. We didn’t think twice about the range or anything. It just didn’t go our way. We knew after that last catch that we had gotten in the range for Sam and we were just trying to run down the clock and maybe get a couple extra yards; get even closer. Everyone knew that we were going to do that,” Wake QB Riley Skinner said. “I think circumstances are a little different when it comes down to the last second of the game and the last kick – it’s a lot of pressure, but Sam doesn’t really get rattled. I don’t think it was Sam getting rattled that made him miss the kick; he just pushed a little to the right. A kick can’t always be perfect. You can’t blame him.”
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