The skies opened and the rain poured down again on Scott Stadium. In that moment, no one knew for sure, but that driving rain felt like an insult-to-injury gesture from the menacing football gods.
With 3:10 to go, the Virginia football team had just surrendered the lead and trailed 36-33. Georgia Tech had answered a go-ahead score from UVA with a 90-yard drive in four minutes, capping it off with a 33-yard pass into the same end zone where Notre Dame and Louisville escaped with late-game wins in similar scenarios in recent years.
The hopes of bowl eligibility with a 5-1 start this season suddenly looked like a worsening three-game tailspin. And then the rain just started sheeting. A sneering storm to taunt the hopeful one more time.
Only this time, it turned out to be a cleansing rain from the heavens.
The Hoos ended the game in victory formation, rejoiced on the field, and carried the bowling celebration into the locker room. For the first time since 2011, these Cavaliers secured win No. 6 and the bowl eligibility that goes with it. On the heels of two dud performances under the pressure on the brink, they broke through.
And they did it despite so many things going wrong. Consider:
- Squandered good field position with just six points on four early possessions inside Tech territory
- Fumbled a ball on third down that set up a GT touchdown
- Dropped at least seven passes in the first half
- Had a punt blocked
- Allowed an explosive touchdown run from 78 yards away
- Threw a pick-6 to go down two touchdowns
- Gave up a 90-yard touchdown drive immediately after rallying to take the lead in the fourth quarter
That’s like a symbolic hit list for almost everything that’s gone wrong with Virginia football during the barren years wandering the bowl-free desert. Offensive turnovers that lead directly to opponent points, defensive breakdowns that lead to long scores, and a special teams miscue for good measure.
That’s where that cleansing rain comes in again. When it came down with 3:10 remaining, no one in orange and blue blinked. All three phases finished the win.
Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert engineered a quick scoring drive of five plays and 1:48, running once for five yards and completing all four of his pass attempts. That included a 19-yard rope over a defender into the hands of Olamide Zaccheaus to start the drive and a 27-yard sideline toss to Andre Levrone in the end zone that held up as the game-winner.
Now leading 39-36, freshman kicker A.J. Mejia needed his kick to take a tying field goal out of the equation. The extra point bounced off both uprights, but found its way through. The kickoff team followed it up by keeping the return short of the 25-yard line.
Moments later, the UVA defense allowed a 4th-and-16 conversion but sealed the win with a stop in its own territory. After another near-miss pass into the hill end zone fell aside, a corner blitz led to a sack on third down and the defense turned away the final 4th-and-15 play. During the final drive, Micah Kiser recorded his 18th tackle of the day.
The rain came and all those troubles washed away. The Hoos are bowl eligible again. The program feels new again. For now, there appears to be sunshine after the rain again.