Football Trips No. 7 Yellow Jackets, 45-38
Nov. 6, 1999
Real Audio from interviews after Virginia’s 45-38 win over No. 7 Georgia Tech on Saturday:
UVa head coach George Welsh
UVa tailback Thomas Jones
UVa offensive lineman Noel LaMontagne
UVa quarterback David Rivers
UVa linebacker Shannon Taylor
UVa linebacker Byron Thweatt
UVa cornerback Dwayne Stukes
By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – David Rivers grew up a huge Georgia Tech fan andconfesses to rooting for the Yellow Jackets nine years ago when they came toScott Stadium and ended Virginia’s only ride as No. 1 with a 41-38 victory.
On Saturday night, Rivers helped the Cavaliers turn the tables on No. 7Georgia Tech, playing like a Heisman contender in his first college start whileHeisman front-runner Joe Hamilton didn’t in Virginia’s stunning 45-38 victory.
“It’s what you dream of,” the junior from Augusta, Ga., said, “just giventhe chance to come out and play against Georgia Tech. And it’s icing on thecake that they were the seventh-ranked team in the country. It’s amazing.”
Rivers, miserable when pressed into his first significant action last weekagainst top-ranked Florida State, started slowly again, but rallied Virginia(5-4, 4-3 ACC) from a 17-0 deficit with three touchdown passes and mistake-freeplay.
“After (the first quarter), I said, `Look, it can’t get much worse thanthis. Let’s go out there and start having fun and just play football,”‘ hesaid.
It worked, and when the clock finally struck zero and thousands of fansstreamed onto the field, the Cavaliers had a victory, Georgia Tech a painfulloss and Hamilton was left to ponder what’s left of the Yellow Jackets’ season.
“We lost a game, a big game, and it dashed a lot of goals, but we’ve stillgot three games to play,” the senior said, mindful that the Yellow Jackets’prospects for being part of the Bowl Championship Series probably ended, too.
Hamilton’s Heisman hopes also likely took a near-fatal punch, even though hebecame the career total offense leader in the ACC with a 282-yard effort.
After Virginia went ahead to stay at 38-31 with 12:15 left, Hamiltoncouldn’t get his team into the end zone again until Rivers and Co. had made it45-31.
“I think we found a rhythm offensively running the ball, but passing theball the rhythm wasn’t really there,” he said. “But there’s no excuse. Noexcuse.”
Rivers, who lost his job as the Cavaliers’ long snapper on punts this weekwhen he was picked to play instead of the injured Dan Ellis, completed 18-of-30for 228 yards, with one interception. That came early, before he got hot.
“The poise and the way he was moving the ball and moving his team, Ithought he was a starter,” said Hamilton, who was 18-for-26 for 233 yards withone interception and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 49 yards on 14 tries.
Virginia tailback Thomas Jones rushed for 213 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries.
With the game tied at 31, the Cavaliers opened the fourth quarter byconverting on fourth-and-1 from their 45 on Jones’ 1-yard run. Rivers thencaught a break when Marvious Hester dropped an interception on a deep ball toBilly McMullen, and Rivers and Jones combined to punch in the go-ahead score.
The points came on Rivers’ 42-yard pass to McMullen, one play after JamaraClark foiled a double reverse by tackling Kevin Coffey for a 13-yard loss.
The Yellow Jackets later drove to Virginia’s 33, but on fourth-and-3,Hamilton dropped back, tried to run and was sacked for a yard loss by LjubomirStamenich.
Jones’ runs of 3, 14 and 11 yards drove the ball to the Yellow Jackets 37,and Tyree Foreman took it the rest of way on five consecutive carries.
Hamilton drove Georgia Tech 67 yards in seven plays, the last an 8-yard TDthrow to Kerry Watkins with 1:45 left, but Virginia ran out the clockthereafter.
“The last three minutes couldn’t tick away fast enough,” Rivers said.
Hamilton became the ACC’s career total offense leader with 9,478 yards,surpassing the 9,296 Shawn Jones had for the Yellow Jackets from 1989-92. SeanGregory also had a big day, running 25 times for 119 yards and threetouchdowns.
The Cavaliers scored 21 points in the second quarter to make a game of it.Rivers hit Billy Baber from 4 yards for Virginia’s first touchdown, capping a15-play, 79-yard march that featured three third-down conversions, all onpasses.
Georgia Tech answered immediately, taking it 71 yards in 10 plays, the lasta 4-yard run up the middle by Gregory, but then Virginia’s defense stiffened.
Rivers picked up where he left off on the previous drive, hitting theleaping McMullen for 39 yards on the first play of a four-play, 62-yard drivecapped by Jones’ 10-yard run. That made it 24-14, and after Yubrenal Isabelleintercepted Hamilton’s pass 1:05 before halftime, Rivers cashed it in like aveteran might.
After converting on fourth-and-2 from the 32 with a 2-yard pass to Jones, hethrew incomplete to Chris Luzar, hit Kevin Coffey for 18 yards and then againfor 12 yards with nine seconds left in the half to pull Virginia within 24-21.
“The key might have been getting back into it before the half,” Virginiacoach George Welsh said. “The game could have gotten away from us, but itdidn’t.”