It has been said that the highlight of any University of Virginia football game is the school's raucous and amusing pep band. Not yesterday.
The band was as good as ever. But for the first time in a long while, the team was better, stunning arch rival Virginia Tech, 17-7, before a record Scott Stadium crowd of 34,275.
"I'm not quite sure where to start," UVA Coach Dick Bentwick said as he emerged from the locker room after his fifth win in 2 1/2 years here. "I'm really unaccustomed to this."
Beatwick's team finally spread the improvement it has been showing in spurt over an entire ballgame.
The Cavs were stunned early when Tech drove 97 yards on its first possession and tailback Scott Dovel plunged one yard into the end zone to cap a 16-play drive that looked easy.
It looked like another long afternoon for the long-suffering Virginia fans.
But if Bestwick's teams have had one trademark it has been that they don't quit. So, after the defense "looked like it wasn't even there on the first drive," as Bestwick put it, the defensive players had a talk.
"We just got together and said, "This isn't nearly good enough," said denfensive end Steve Pottar, who stopped VPI's second drive by recovering Mickey Fitzgerald's fumble in mid-air. "Even after we got the fumble we said, "That's not good enough."
"Then when we came in here at halftime we looked at each other and we said, 'We are better than these guys, let's go prove it."
They proved it in the second half with the kind of big plays not seen here since Sonny Randle was catching passes in the late '50s.
"Give them credit," Gobbler Coach Bill Dooley said. "We just took an old-fashioned licking out there today. Virginia really carried it to us in the second half."
UVA's offense, long dormant began taking it to VPI with the score 7-3 and the third quarter's end approaching.
Starting on their 39, the Cavs, led by sophomore quarterback Mickey Spady and sophomore running backs Greg Taylor (93 yards, one TD) and Tommy Vigorito (84 yards, one TD) began to move.
With the help of a pass caught by Mike Newhall for 13 yards after it had been tipped by Ted Marchibroada, the Cavaliers moved to the Tech II as the fourth quarter started.
On third and three at the four, Taylor took a Spady pitch and followed a convoy of blockers around left end into the end zone.
"I felt like we'd been getting closer and closer to this each week," said Spady, who played despite of a painful pulled hamstring in his left leg. "We wanted these guys bad, worse than anyone knew."
That desire showed up on Tech's next series when Virginia's entire defensive line stopped Dovel cold on fourth and one from the Cavalier 40.
Then came the play that forced the pep band to play second fiddle. Tech quarterback Steve Casey, who had been inserted by Dooley over senior David Lamie after Virginia went ahead, attempted a pass to Paul Watkins at midfield.
But Bryan Shumock, UVA's starting quarterback for much of 1977, stepped in front of Watkins, intercepted and returned the ball to the VPI 39.
Nine plays later, Vigorito, seemingly stopped, drove into the end zone and, with 4:01 left, it was 17-7. Virginia held on for its first win over the Gobblers since 1974 and raised its season record to 2-5, while the visitors were falling to 3-4.
"This makes up for four years of frustration," said defensive tackle Lee Browning, who received a game ball. "This will help the program in the future because it's going to help recruiting. But for me, it makes up for four long years."
But perhaps it was the normally quiet Spady who summed up the UVA players' feelings beat.
"A lot of us are from in-state," he said. "Every summer we go home and there's Tech people around and they do a lot of talking. This summer, we're going to be doing the talking."