For three and a half quarters, I thought that the Gator Bowl represented as good a game as we have seen during the Al Groh era in terms of the quality of both the game plan and the execution of that plan. And then … ugh.
Breaking down the game admittedly is not a lot of fun, but that’s the task before us. Perhaps the week that has past since the game ended allows us to see the game, and the season, with a bit of perspective – for better or worse. UVa did a lot right in this game and yet the result felt so wrong. In some ways, that outcome mirrors my feelings about where the program is at today and where it might be going.
The Gator Bowl loss left Hoos feeling blue.
1. This one hurts. Stating the obvious, the Gator Bowl loss hurt. But since this game ended, I have been trying to understand why this loss seemed to hurt more than most, at least for me.
This loss certainly hurt because of what it meant for the season. There is a big difference between 10-3 and 9-4, for example, particularly for a program that so seldom has broken into 10-win territory. Likewise, there is a big difference between ending the year ranked and falling out of the rankings. Still, that does not seem to explain the hurt I feel.
This loss also hurt because of the magnitude of the late game turnaround. Midway through the fourth quarter, after the UVa defense stopped the Texas Tech offense on 4th-and-goal to maintain a 28-14 lead, the situation was clear: from that moment until the final whistle, for UVa to lose, just about everything would have to go right for Texas Tech and just about everything would have to go wrong for Virginia … and that is exactly what happened. But as painful as a snatching defeat from the jaws of victory can be, that also does not seem to explain the hurt.
Waiting a couple of days to write this column has offered me the chance to reflect on why this loss hurt quite so much, and it finally hit me last night: this loss hurts so much because of the way this season and this team now might be remembered, both by fans and by the players and staff. All season long, this was a team that was defined by its mental toughness, by its ability to overcome adversity,
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