By Mark Viera
Sunday, November 29, 2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Al Groh left Scott Stadium on Saturday for perhaps the final time as Virginia's coach, offering not so much as a wave as he jogged off the field and into a seemingly uncertain future.
The Cavaliers' 42-13 loss to No. 14 Virginia Tech provided punctuation for their third losing season in the last four years, and likely for Groh's nine-year tenure here.
When asked afterward to address his job security, Groh pulled out a piece of paper and read Dale Wimbrow's poem "The Guy in the Glass." When Groh finished, he continued by reading his own poignant addendum.
"When I visited the guy in the glass," Groh said of looking at himself in the mirror, "I saw that he's a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and accountability. He's loyal. His spirit is indomitable. And he's caring and loving. I'm sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend."
With that, Groh walked off the stage and to the back of the interview room. Past a row of television cameras, he hugged his daughter, Ashley Anne, who was crying. He also hugged his wife, Anne, before exiting.
"I love Coach Groh," right tackle Will Barker said. "I appreciate what he's done for me, my teammates and this program."
Athletic Director Craig Littlepage has said Groh's situation would be evaluated after the season. But Virginia (3-9, 2-6 ACC) has lost its most games in a season since 1982. And with dwindling attendance at home games and poor recruiting classes in recent seasons, Groh's fate seems all but determined.
As coach of the Cavaliers, Groh has a 59-53 record and is 1-8 against Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech holds a 49-37-5 edge in the in-state rivalry for the Commonwealth Cup. With their sixth consecutive win over the Cavaliers, the Hokies tied their longest winning streak in the series; Virginia Tech also had such a run from 1958 to 1963.
The Hokies (9-3, 6-2) capped their year on a sweet note with the win over the hated Cavaliers, even though sour tunes have played at times in Blacksburg this season.
With losses by Clemson and North Carolina on Saturday, Virginia Tech is aligned for a trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 31. An at-large invitation to the Bowl Championship Series seems unlikely.
Hokies running back Ryan Williams had his second consecutive four-touchdown game and rushed for a career-high 183 yards. He has 20 total touchdowns for the season, which is an ACC freshman record.
"I really didn't think it was going to be like this," Williams said of his remarkable debut season.
While fans headed for the exits before the game was over, it was not the kind of start that anyone in the crowd of 58,555 had in mind. After playing with verve for the first 30 minutes, Virginia trailed only 14-13 at halftime.
Led by Jameel Sewell's rushing, the Cavaliers gashed Virginia Tech's defense and kept the home crowd hanging on a game that might have seemed like a yawner before kickoff.
Sewell led Virginia to a touchdown after a 10-play, 73-yard scoring march to start the game, capping the impressive drive with a 15-yard run while tiptoeing down the line to stay inbounds. Sewell had a career-high 104 rushing yards on 17 carries.
In the second half, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster adjusted to account for Sewell. The Hokies started applying more exotic blitzes to keep Sewell off-balance.
"We kind of blitzed from different areas," free safety Kam Chancellor said. "We changed up different coverage schemes and kept the pressure on Sewell."
Virginia Tech got its big break in the third quarter after a costly Virginia mistake.
Running back Mikell Simpson bobbled and dropped an option pitch from Sewell. Chancellor scooped the loose ball at the Cavaliers 25-yard line and brought it to the 10. Williams finished the possession with a four-yard touchdown run to give Virginia Tech a 21-13 lead.
"After that, a lot of heads on their team started to drop, slouching around," Williams said. "They didn't really seem like the same team."
Despite Williams's shining performance, this game may be remembered more as Groh's last at Virginia.
While Virginia Tech's coaches received Gatorade showers from their players, Groh retreated to the locker room to speak with his team for perhaps his final time after a game. He read the Cavaliers the poem that he later recited to reporters.
"You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years, and get pats on the back as you pass," Groh quoted from the poem. "But your final reward will be heartaches and tears, if you've cheated the guy in the glass."