99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff

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Happy 4th of July!!!

In the spirit of Independence Day, we present four fireworks-worthy moments in the Bronco Mendenhall era. This is just our take … it’ll be interesting to hear your fireworks-worthy picks!

99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff: No. 61 – Four Fireworks-Worthy Moments

1. Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell’s 53-yard TD Reception Vs. Central Michigan (2016 Season)

Virginia began its first season under Mendenhall’s direction with a disappointing three straight losses, including an opening game defeat at the hands of in-state FCS foe Richmond in Scott Stadium. After losses to Oregon and U-Conn on the road, the Hoos returned to Scott Stadium to face an undefeated Central Michigan team that had beaten a ranked Oklahoma State squad on the road two games prior.

UVA raced out to a 28-0 second quarter lead, but the high-powered Chippewas chipped away and ultimately tied the game at 28 early in the fourth. The Cavaliers rattled off 21 straight points capped off by Smoke Mizzell’s hard-fought 53-yard touchdown catch, which, for all intents and purposes, clinched the first victory of the Mendenhall era.

You can’t have fireworks without some Smoke!

2. Jordan Mack’s Sack Vs. Duke (2016 Season)

The very next game after Virginia notched win no. 1 in the Mendenhall era, then true freshman linebacker Jordan Mack announced his arrival on the major college football scene with a devastating sack that garnered national attention. More importantly, Eli Hanback recovered quarterback Daniel Jones’ fumble to boost Virginia’s lead over Duke to 14 with just over four minutes left in the game.

Virginia held on to improve to 2-3 on the year, snapping a 17-game road losing streak in the process.

3. Quin Blanding’s Tip-Drill Pick-6 Vs. Duke (2017 Season)

Scott Stadium erupted when Virginia football’s all-time leading tackler snatched cornerback Bryce Hall’s deflection and raced to 58 yards to the end zone. It was Blanding’s first and only touchdown of his illustrious collegiate career. The Hoos ultimately dispatched Duke, 28-21, to improve to 4-1 on the season. A win over UNC the following week gave Virginia its best start since 2007.

4. Virginia Clinches Bowl Eligibility With Comeback Win Over Georgia Tech (2017 season)

This is cheating a bit, but I’m including a “4A” and a “4B” here. Both plays, though, came in last November’s comeback win over Georgia Tech, a victory that secured bowl eligibility for Virginia for the first time since 2011.

Virginia had had two straight disappointing performances in losses to Boston College at home and to Pitt on the road. The 5-3 Cavaliers welcomed Georgia Tech into Scott Stadium on November 4 looking for that all-important sixth win. With a loss, UVA faced the prospect of having to beat Louisville on the road, Miami on the road, or Virginia Tech at home to gain bowl eligibility.

Georgia Tech went up 14-6 in the second quarter on a KirVonte Benson 1-yard touchdown run, but sophomore Joe Reed responded with a huge play to get the Hoos within 1-point at halftime.

Virginia began second-half play in disastrous fashion, surrendering a 78-yard touchdown run to quarterback TaQuon Marshall on the first offensive play. Fifteen seconds later, Georgia Tech linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling picked off Kurt Benkert and ran 27 yards for another touchdown. A determined Cavalier squad responded with two touchdowns of its own and tied the game at 28 heading into the fourth. However, with 3:10 remaining, Marshall connected with receiver Ricky Jeune for a 33-yard touchdown pass to put Georgia Tech on top 36-33 at the 3:10 mark of the fourth quarter.

It was comeback time for Virginia, and with 1:22 left in the game Benkert hit senior receiver Andre Levrone for the game-winning score. UVA had secured bowl eligibility in the second season of the Mendenhall era.

The “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series has discussed much more. The previous articles are below. Click away.

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