Early November games at Scott Stadium: Another memorable night for UVA football in the offing?

UVA footballMy memory was only a little off. While out for my morning run today, I was thinking, UVA football, big games on Nov. 2, weren’t there two of them?

Actually, just the one, Nov. 2, 1995, UVA 33, Florida State 28.

The other one I was thinking of was 1990, the 41-38 loss to Georgia Tech, the one time that we played in Scott Stadium as the #1 team in the country.

That one was on Nov. 3 of that year. I would have sworn it was Nov. 2.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. That whole week leading up to the game was blissful, weather-wise, temperatures in the 70s and around 80 all week.

I was a first-year student at UVA that fall. My first football game, in person, after growing up a UVA fan, was the first win over Clemson in program history, after which I joined in the postgame run around the field like an idiot as the inebriated among us tore the goalposts down and marched them to Central Grounds.

Week leading up to the Georgia Tech game, then, I remember reading the student paper and seeing the letter to the editor from the athletics director advising students not to tear the goalposts down again, because, you know, money, and safety.

The letter, it didn’t age well, considering.

UVA led 28-14 at the half, and was poised to go up bigger, but Shawn Moore threw a pass at the 5 to Nikki Fisher, a running back with hands of stone, and the ball bounced up in the air and was intercepted by the Yellow Jackets, starting a furious rally that put Tech up 38-35 midway through the fourth quarter.

The ‘Hoos would drive the ball inside the 5, and scored an apparent go-ahead touchdown with three minutes left, but the score was taken off the board by a penalty, and we had to settle for a field goal, and the student section, stunned, didn’t sing The Good Ol’ Song, because we saw what was about to happen.

Namely, that damn Scott Sisson field goal with seven seconds left.

Oh, well. We’ve at least been #1 in the nation in football. Virginia Tech, never been there, never will be there.

Georgia Tech would go on that season to claim a share of the national championship. Our national championship.

Fast forward five years, to Nov. 2, 1995. The weather wasn’t as nice. Light rain, temperatures in the 40s. Florida State was #2 in the country, and had dominated the ACC since joining the league in 1992, with a 29-0 record coming in.

Twenty nine. Clemson had beaten us 29 straight times before that 1990 game, my first at Scott Stadium.

Route 29 is our main artery. Route 29 is also called Seminole Trail.

The Seminoles would trail most of the way in this one. There was a nice check at the line by QB Mike Groh leading to a long Tiki Barber TD run, then an 80-yard TD pass on a third-and-10.

The second half was interminably long, then over in a flash, after UVA took a 33-21 lead with six minutes left, then the ‘Noles got a quick TD, and drove the ball inside the UVA 10 in the final seconds.

Warrick Dunn took a direct snap on the final play of the game. I was sitting at the 50 on the visitors’ side, with my college roommate, Jay. He and his stepfather had traveled to the Michigan and Texas games that had the Wolverines and Longhorns each beating us on the last play.

Jay turned his back to the field, told me he couldn’t watch us lose on the last play again.

We didn’t have a big scoreboard TV screen back in 1995, so watching the play live, I was stuck relying on the reactions of the people sitting down near the end zone, and it didn’t look good.

First thing I saw was people in that section throwing their hands in the air seeming to indicate that Dunn had scored, and from our vantage point, he was on the ground straddling the goal line.

Jay is pleading with me: dude, what happened?

Finally, the referee signaled to the press box, waving his hands like he was indicating a missed field goal or extra point.

He didn’t get in! He didn’t get in!

Jay, I remember, punched me in the shoulder so hard that I feel it today.

I didn’t mention: Jay could bench 300 pounds. He packed a wallup.

When I got home that night, I caught the replay on ESPN, and watched it all the way to the end, to make sure Dunn hadn’t gotten in, and that we’d stolen one.

He didn’t get in. Didn’t miss it by much, but he was short.

The weather this coming Nov. 2 will be a mix of the two: temperatures in the upper 60s, a bit rainy.

A UVA win puts the ‘Hoos on the verge of making their first trip to an ACC Championship Game, so it could be another memorable night.

Column by Chris Graham

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