In the final home game of his career, Virginia senior tailback Thomas Jones gave a crowd of 40,100 at Scott Stadium plenty to remember today, setting a single-game school record with 331 all-purpose yards as the Cavaliers rolled to a 50-21 victory over surprisingly feisty Buffalo, which trailed by just 10 at halftime.
The victory, in which quarterback Dan Ellis also set a school record and tied an Atlantic Coast Conference mark with six touchdown passes, made Virginia (6-4) eligible for a bowl bid with one regular season game remaining, Saturday at Maryland.
Jones carried the ball 32 times for 221 yards (three shy of the school record) and one touchdown, and caught two passes for 110 yards, including an 84-yard score. That made him the first player in Virginia history to have at least 100 yards rushing and receiving in one game. It also was his second consecutive 200-yard rushing performance, tying an ACC record, and his third in four games, extending his ACC season mark to four and his ACC career mark to six.
And more history awaits. With his rushing total for the season now at 1,707 yards, he needs just 14 to break that ACC record, set by North Carolina's Don McCauley in 1970.
"As far as getting the record, it's fine if I get it, it's fine if I don't," Jones said. "It's not frustrating [to miss setting the record at home] because whatever record you get is made to be broken."
With 14 minutes 7 seconds left in the game, and Virginia at its 16-yard line, Jones uncorked one of the more electrifying plays of his career. Ellis--who started after missing last week's upset of Georgia Tech because of a concussion suffered the previous week against Florida State--dumped a pass to Jones, who was alone on the left hash mark. Jones turned upfield, cut to the left sideline and raced 84 yards to the end zone, making the score 43-14.
"That play was kind of weird, because I didn't think I was going to get the ball," Jones said. "I cut across the field and I looked up and Dan looked right at me. I wasn't sure if I was going to get hit or what, but as soon as I caught I turned my head and no one was there."
Jones scored his rushing touchdown on the last carry of his career at Scott Stadium, an untouched 37-yard sprint up the middle with 3:19 to play for a 50-21 lead.
"If Thomas had wanted to go back in [after that], I would have gone over and said something to Coach Welsh," Cavaliers guard Noel LaMontagne said. "But it was just something he didn't feel was necessary."
Buffalo (0-10 in first Division I-A season) began the day ranked 113th of 114 I-A teams in total defense, allowing 487.7 yards per game. Ellis took advantage early, completing his first eight passes for 156 yards, then going on to complete 16 of 19 for 363 yards without an interception.
"I honestly didn't think we'd throw the ball a whole lot," Ellis said. "I thought we would give the ball to Thomas a lot and throw here and there. But when we did throw the ball we just made big plays."
On the Cavaliers' first possession, Ellis put Virginia ahead 7-0 with a 28-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kevin Coffey with 7:43 left in the first quarter. The Cavaliers made it 14-0 on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Ellis to freshman wide receiver Billy McMullen.
After Todd Braverman's 46-yard field goal put the Cavaliers ahead 17-0 with 11:08 left in the first half, Buffalo used some razzle-dazzle on its next possession to cut the margin to 10 points.
On a fourth and one from its 36, Buffalo dropped out of punt formation and Erik Rusin completed a swing pass to wide receiver Dahnal Singfield for 18 yards. Later in that drive, wide receiver Drew Haddad caught a long lateral from quarterback Joe Freedy and threw a 21-yard pass to Singfield. The Bulls kept driving and fullback Josh Roth scored on an eight-yard run eight minutes before halftime.
"We played an inspired game, indicative of the type of guys we have," Buffalo Coach Craig Cirbus said. "We were going to let it all hang out, give great effort and do everything we possibly could: trick plays, isolation plays, laterals."