Virginia receiver Hasise Dubois’ social media account carries the handle 8thrill, a reference to his jersey number and making plays. Dubois certainly has had no problems living up to that moniker in his final season as a Hoo.
That proved true once again in Monday night’s Orange Bowl, despite the close 36-28 loss against Florida. Dubois delivered in a big way on one of college football’s biggest stages. He finished the final game of his career with 10 catches, 83 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
With one last high-level performance in the books, Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall continued to marvel at Dubois’ progression through the program as he answered media questions with Dubois and Bryce Perkins after the game.
“Hasise I think is exemplary of the legacy type of player, person, but also the development,” Mendenhall said. “We consider ourselves a developmental program, and we take coaches and anyone that comes and hopefully can bring out the best versions of them with the right principles, and these two guys are great examples of that as well as the entire senior class.”
Dubois fits that description without question. He came to UVA as a three-star recruit out of New Jersey with minimal fan fare or expectations. He played as a true freshman in Mendenhall’s first season and ended up with few stats – 8 catches for 99 yards to be exact. In 2017, he followed that up with a sophomore season that produced 16 catches, 120 yards, and a touchdown.
As Dubois prepared to move from complementary receiver into a bigger role following his sophomore season, the coaches were looking for more consistency and more maturity from him. In the 2018 spring game, however, he only got one part of that right. At the end of that scrimmage with modified scoring, Dubois gave the offense the win when he caught a jumpball touchdown throw in the corner of the end zone near the visitor’s tunnel. So far, so good.
Yes, there was a but. But, Dubois followed that up with an immediate moment of immaturity that drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag from the official on duty. That resulted in a lot of closed door up-downs once the team went inside the Scott Stadium locker room area. Instant accountability and a challenge to rise on the maturity scale.
Looking back, Dubois was grateful for that moment.
“Honestly it meant a lot to me because like you said, it was the maturity part of my game I needed to elevate,” Dubois said. “The personal foul penalty in the spring game was literally uncalled for. It was just emotion, the offense being happy that we won the game. I did what I did, had accountability immediately, so that’s our program, like accountability is immediate, and I feel as though the whole situation helped me grow into the person I am today because all of that was unneeded, and I mean, haven’t gotten another one, though, since that day, and I’ve been able to play with a chip on my shoulder just because of that. I feel as all of that helped build my confidence, helped build the motivation, helped build the maturity, as well, which is a big thing. And like Coach said, it turned out for the better, and I’m glad he was able to stick with me and I’m glad he believed in me, so I appreciate that.”
It couldn’t have been anticipated just how much better that better would become. Over his final two seasons, Dubois has been rock solid for the Cavaliers as they’ve climbed the ACC ladder and racked up 17 wins.
As a junior and senior, Dubois tallied 127 catches for 1,640 yards and 11 touchdowns. That breaks down to 52 catches for 578 yards and 5 touchdowns as a junior followed by a ceiling test senior year that began bubbling in the preseason. He really raised his game in his final year to finish with 75 catches, 1,062 yards, and 6 touchdowns. That makes him just the fourth UVA player ever to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season and the second one in a row after Olamide Zaccheaus hit the mark in 2018. Dubois teamed up with fellow senior Joe Reed and junior Terrell Jana to each record 70+ receptions, the first time in program history that multiple players have cracked that mark in the same season.
And Dubois saved his absolute best for last. Over the final three games against Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Florida, he posted 24 catches for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns. He got behind the Florida defense another time on Monday for what could have been a hat trick night, but the ball sailed too far.
Within those stretch stats, he also came up with two memorable plays that will live on for years to come with Wahoo fans. Against Virginia Tech in the win that snapped a 15-year losing streak in the rivalry, he broke free over the middle for a 67-yard catch that concluded with him stiff-arming and dragging Hokie defenders for additional yards all the way into the red zone. He had 139 receiving yards in that game.
Then on Monday night in the Orange Bowl on the prime time stage, he teamed up with Perkins for a highlight reel play that grabbed the top spot on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 and will get replayed for many years to come. Both players came through with impressive bookends on the play. It was a broken play where the Gators flushed Perkins out of the pocket and it required two players to do something as the play unfolded.
“You know, on the headset there’s basically just one thing that was being said, throw it to Has, throw it to Has, throw it to Has, throw it to Has,” Mendenhall said. “He didn’t look open, but to us he’s open. So the 50/50 or 80/20 balls, or 85/15 balls that these two – yeah, it didn’t surprise any of us. It just seems like when there’s a contested throw, Hasise comes down with it, and especially what we call the blue zone is where he thrives.”
Perkins escaped pressure in the pocket, hurdled a would-be tackler while moving to his right, and then whipped a throw toward the back of the end zone where Dubois waited.
“I was just getting outside the pocket trying to make a play, and usually any time I’m outside the pocket I try to find Has, because, like coach said, his ability to catch the ball in traffic is unmatched and by far the best I’ve ever seen,” Perkins said. “So just getting outside, I saw the defender’s back to me and saw Has, so I knew – they’re calling 50/50 balls in that situation and it’s more like a 70/30, 80/20 (laughter), and we can look at the film to see if it goes higher than 80/20. But I knew that we had a great chance, and if I just put the ball in a location where Has could get a hand on it, just one, I knew more than likely he was going to come down with it.”
Dubois did. He jumped over the defender that tried to play through his hands and push him out of bounds to swallow the throw with two hands before landing with both feet in the end zone.
“Honestly from my point of view, before the play even happened, my position coach, Coach [Marques] Hagans, he was like, before you go out there, just be ready for the scramble drill, and I mean, he hit it right on the mark because that’s what happened,” Dubois said. “I was able to get a little separation. I was able to get Bryce’s attention, and he put the ball where only I could get it. He said, like me, my ability to catch the ball like in traffic is unmatched, and I take big pride in that. As you see, it played out well for me to receive a touchdown on that play.”
Here’s a look at it:
It was the perfect snapshot for a senior season that saw Dubois make virtually every contested catch that came his way. It was also a poster moment for development within the Virginia program. Dubois grew from a bit player with inconsistent habits into a go-to player that embodies the program ideals on and off the field. Whether that’s with a leadership role in the Thursday’s Heroes program or with a contested catch in a nationally televised game, Dubois has shined repeatedly in the twilight of his Cavalier career.
That’s how you leave a legacy.
“I think legacy is the right word. It was the word I used, I think, in the locker room,” Mendenhall said of Dubois and the UVA seniors. “Hasise and I, man, we’re not hardly even the same people that we started four years ago. I remember sitting in his home right when I was named head coach, and I don’t think either one of us knew what we were getting in for. But who he’s become, it just is every critical moment where a play has to be made or a ball has to be caught, there’s Hasise, and he’s usually not running by anybody, he’s usually covered and there’s the contested throws, the contested catches.”