CHARLOTTESVILLE, SEPT. 9 -- It has never taken much to trigger a party among University of Virginia students. When a major football victory eluded the Cavaliers, as it so often did before Coach George Welsh's arrival in 1982, then Labor Day or Columbus Day usually sufficed as cause for celebration.
Virginia had only two winning seasons between 1953 and 1981, and a tradition of fans smuggling alcohol into games to compensate for the often ugly scenes taking place on the field took root. Some students and graduates still don semiformal attire and treat the games more as social occasions than anything else, prompting the now-familiar line: "I went to a party and a football game broke out."
But No. 14 Virginia's 20-7 victory over No. 9 Clemson here Saturday -- the Cavaliers' first in 30 games against the Tigers since the series began in 1955 -- left students and townspeople in a daze this morning brought on not so much by hangovers as the hysteria mounting behind the team. Virginia (2-0, 1-0 ACC), stands to be favored in its remaining nine games.
"Last night people were going crazy -- everyone was just nuts," said defensive end Chris Slade, who did a fair impersonation of a wild man himself earlier in the day, sacking DeChane Cameron twice and instigating several scuffles. "Everywhere I went, people were offering me drinks. I had a hard time just finding a newspaper today."
A church, located just two blocks from Scott Stadium, started its weekly Saturday night mass shortly before the second-half kickoff. "When we began at 5:15, Virginia was down, 7-6," joked St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church Pastor Stephen Fitzhenry during a Sunday morning service. "That just shows you the power of prayer."
Bobby Mincer, whose Mincer's Pipe and Tobacco Shop sells everything imaginable with a Virginia logo, said weekend sales reached a high not seen since Clemson's 10-7 win here two years ago. Banners recycled from the game still hung on freshman dormitories this morning, and University Avenue was still glowing with the four-foot orange Vs painted on last week. They had even survived an overnight drizzle, but supposedly will wash off during a heavy rain.
Hundreds of fans swarmed the north end zone with less than a minute to play, stopping the game while the goal post was tackled. Once the fracas was cleared and the game completed, the south goal post became the crowd's next victim.
"We were going to see if we could protect the posts somewhat," said University of Virginia police officer Jim Riddle, who worked the game and later patrolled the fraternity sector. "But we weren't going to subdue anyone by bodily force."
A record 46,800 watched the streak end, breaking the previous mark of 45,000 who saw Virginia lose to Penn State in 1988. Single-game sales sold out weeks ago, and those wishing to see the game had to purchase season tickets. But even that became impossible late last week when sales were halted at a record 21,000.
More than 6,000 people showed up at a "Tiger Fry" pep rally Friday night. Welsh, who last season criticized the crowd for being too silent during the Wake Forest game, made a brief appearance at the rally and said the fans would be worth "at least six points."
Two third-quarter touchdowns -- a four-yard run by Terry Kirby and a 12-yard pass from Shawn Moore to Herman Moore -- completed the scoring. Jason Wallace, whose defensive gaffe two years ago gave Clemson the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter, became the hero this time with a 79-yard punt return that set up the Moore-to-Moore score.
The Cavaliers went 8-0 last year against opponents remaining on this season's schedule, prompting whispers here already of an undefeated season and a national championship.
Navy, 3-8 a year ago, is the only new opponent left on Virginia's schedule. The Midshipmen face the Cavaliers Saturday in the second of six home games that suddenly have become hot tickets.
"Nobody had heard of Charlottesville until Saturday night's game on ESPN," Slade said. "It took a game like this for us to earn the respect of everyone around the country."