Sometimes this Virginia state rivalry can live up to all the noise-making. Take today, which turned into a flat miracle of an afternoon when countrified Virginia Tech upset the University of Virginia, 28-10, at Scott Stadium.
The Hokies ignored Virginia's 10-0 halftime lead and stunned a crowd of 44,500, second-largest in the stadium's history, by scoring four straight touchdowns to even the Cavaliers' record at 3-3. It was a considerable coming-down in the world for a team many thought to be bound for a bowl, and a lift for a Virginia Tech team that had lost its first three and is working its way back at 3-4.
Three Virginia Tech touchdowns came on the ground as the Hokies totaled 236 yards rushing. Maurice Williams scored on runs of one and 25 yards and Eddie Hunter scored on a one-yard run.
Todd Greenwood completed the Virginia Tech comeback with a three-yard pass to tight end Terence Howell with two minutes remaining after Virginia quarterback Don Majkowski gave away the Cavaliers' last meaningful possession with an interception on first and 10 at his 30.
Virginia managed only fullback Kevin Morgan's one-yard scoring run and Kenny Stadlin's 36-yard field goal in the second quarter.
"I have no idea what happened," Virginia Coach George Welsh said.
To give you an idea of how much the Hokies wanted this one, they never removed their first string and were called for roughing the punter with 45 seconds remaining.
By then, the Hokies already had done everything but kick Virginia up and down the field. The statistics of the second-half turnaround were astounding: Virginia Tech controlled the ball for 19:17 to 10:15 for Virginia, and the Hokies, who had only 49 yards total offense in the first half, wound up with 282 for the game.
"I've said all along we could be a great football team if we could just eliminate mistakes," Coach Bill Dooley said. "Well, we did that today and you can see the results."
Virginia ran just 16 plays in the second half, for only five first downs and 57 yards total offense. Tech ran the ball 23 straight times during its first three touchdown drives behind Hunter, who finished with 107 yards on 21 carries, and Williams (93 yards on 17 carries).
"They didn't beat us with the pass," Welsh said.
Virginia Tech controlled the ball for 10 minutes of the third quarter in rallying to take a 14-10 lead and seize a game that had belonged exclusively to the Cavaliers, who rolled up 247 yards of their offense in the first half. On its first scoring drive, Tech moved 80 yards in 18 plays in a devastating display that took up 7:20. The Hokies were helped by an interference call on linebacker Russ Swan on third and seven at their 23. Hunter, a junior from McNamara High in Forestville, Md., scored on third and one at the goal line with a huge leap that made it 10-7 with 4:50 remaining in the third period.
Virginia could do nothing with its next possession, and Majkowski, who completed 13 of 21 passes for 161 yards, was sacked for a loss of 11 on third and eight at the 36. Tech took over on its 40 after the punt and drove straight downfield, exclusively on the ground, using up the remainder of the period. Williams scored with 12:32 remaining in the game as the Hokies took the lead at 14-10.
Virginia Tech scored again on its next possession. Virginia was backed up to its eight on a penalty and Jeff Walker eventually was forced to punt from the 17. Virginia Tech took over on the Cavaliers' 46 and soon had a 21-10 lead after Williams' spinning touchdown run of 25 yards with 7:11 remaining.
Virginia had plenty of time when it took over on its 19, but on first down, Majkowski, looking for wide-open tight end Geno Zimmerlink, instead found defensive back Carter Wiley at the Virginia 38. Tech made it 28-10 nine plays later when Greenwood found Howell in the end zone with 2:01 left.
"There's no way they should have beat us by that much," Majkowski said. "They're not as good as the score. But they wanted it, they ran the ball and kept it away from us and you have to give them credit."
The loss was Virginia's third in four games and second straight after last week's 27-24 upset at Clemson. Welsh could think of nothing positive to say about the game.
"I can't think of anything," he said. "Name one."
The game pointed out some serious problems for the Cavaliers, the defending Peach Bowl champions, chiefly their inability to stop good rushing teams and a lack of scoring in second halves. They have scored 108 points in first halves to just 40 in the second, and part of the problem is that they have allowed teams to control the ball offensively via the rush.
"We haven't found the solution," said offensive tackle Jim Dombrowski. "It's emotional, not physical . . . It's frustrating. I'm not in the game to be sitting on the bench."
Tailback Barry Word, who had 24 yards on just seven carries against Clemson last week, gained 104 yards on 20 carries today but carried just six times in the second half.
"We just don't seem to play as well in the second half," Welsh said. "I wasn't concerned before, but it's becoming a pattern . . . I said after the Duke game (a 37-14 victory on two weeks ago) that we could have a good year, and we haven't won since. We still can, but not if we keep playing like this."
Virginia, 2-1 in the ACC, next travels to Wake Forest, a game that would seem to be pivotal if the Cavaliers are to maintain bowl hopes, although that seems the least of their worries at the moment.
"I don't think there's any reason to think long-term," Majkowski said. "We'd better think about next week."