Time Capsule: The 1989 Virginia Cavaliers
NOTE: The 1989 ACC Championship team was honored at halftime of the Sept. 6 game vs. Richmond. This story was first published in the game-day program.
Compiled by Katharine Palmer, Athletics Media Relations
The 1989 Virginia Cavaliers produced a season of superlatives. It was the first time the program had reached 10 wins in a season. With a 6-1 record, the squad shared a piece of the ACC championship the university’s first in football. Head coach George Welsh became UVa’s all-time winningest coach.
The individual accolades were plentiful as well. Senior defensive end Ray Savage made the 1989 Kodak All-America team. Ten Cavaliers were named either first or second team All-ACC. Additionally, junior quarterback Shawn Moore was tabbed the ACC Player of the Year, and Welsh was Coach of the Year.
Here is a look back at how that storybook season unfolded from a rough start to Citrus Bowl appearance.
Aug. 31, 1989 East Rutherford, N.J.
“The Kickoff Classic” No. 2 Notre Dame 36, Virginia 13
Virginia TB Marcus Wilson shared game-high rushing honors with Notre Dame’s Ricky Watters (80 yards each).
The Irish outgained the Cavaliers 333-60 in the first half and 477-231 for the game.
The 77,323 fans established a then-record for the biggest college crowd in Giants Stadium history.
“I was concerned about their speed, but physically they overpowered us and I didn’t expect that. They’re a great team.”
– Virginia Head Coach George Welsh
Sept. 9, 1989 State College, Pa. Virginia 14, No. 12 Penn State 6
The win was Virginia’s first over a top-20 team since 1986.
It was Penn State’s first season-opening loss at home in 25 years.
Penn State did not get inside the UVa 40-yard-line during the first half and managed to get inside the 20 only twice.
WR Herman Moore caught two TD passes (24, 11).
“I don’t think this makes us a national program by any means. I think we’ve still got a lot of work to do. But this is a step.”
– Strong Safety Tyrone Lewis
Sept. 16, 1989 Atlanta, Ga. Virginia 17, Georgia Tech 10
TE Bruce McGonnigal had a career-high 157 yards in receptions on six catches.
TB Marcus Wilson ran for a career-best 153 yards on 32 carries.
UVa’s defense held Georgia Tech to 73 passing yards and limited the Yellow Jackets to 299 yards in total offense.
“I didn’t tell the team this was a crossroads game, but there are always some early games that can make a big difference. And maybe this was one of those games.”
– Head Coach George Welsh
Sept. 23, 1989 Charlottesville Virginia 49, Duke 28
QB Shawn Moore earned national offensive player of the week honors from Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. He completed 14 of 15 passes for 195 yards and three TD.
Moore completed his first 13 attempts for 276 yards before his only incompletion (a ball that was dropped by a receiver in the fourth quarter). Thirteen of his 15 attempts either went for a touchdown or a first down.
Moore also ran for two TD and finished with 333 yards in total offense.
“I thought we had a chance to win, but obviously we didn’t have much of a chance. Virginia’s just way too good for us.”
– Duke Head Coach Steve Spurrier
Sept. 30, 1989 Charlottesville Virginia 24, William and Mary 12
Virginia’s 392 rushing yards were the most in 21 years.
Junior TB Marcus Wilson had 134 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Freshman Terry Kirby rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Junior DB Tony Covington intercepted two passes, broke up two passes and made six solo tackles.
“We expected a dogfight. They always give us one, but we knew we had the better team.”
– DB Tony Covington
Oct. 7, 1989 Clemson, S.C. No. 15 Clemson 34, Virginia 20
UVa played without starting QB Shawn Moore (shoulder), TB Terry Kirby (ribs) and DE Don Reynolds (ankle). TB Marcus Wilson only carried the ball once because of a hip injury.
Backup QB Matt Blundin replaced an injured Shawn Moore and threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns, the second being the longest touchdown pass of the season, for 75 yards to Herman Moore.
“I felt pretty good (after game-tying touchdown) because I was thinking, Here it is 17-17 and we’re not even playing well. But they kept hanging onto the ball.”
– DE Ray Savage
Oct. 14, 1989 Charlottesville Virginia 50, North Carolina 17
Following the UNC game, QB Shawn Moore ranked first in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 161.8.
It was head coach George Welsh’s 100th career win.
Seven different Cavaliers scored: Durwin Greggs, Marcus Wilson, Bruce McGonnigal, Herman Moore, Shawn Moore and Matt Blundin reached the endzone and kicker Jake McInerney hit two field goals.
“Credit Virginia, they’ve got a great football team. We had to play our best to beat them.”
– North Carolina Head Coach Mack Brown
Oct. 21, 1989 Charlottesville Virginia 47, Wake Forest 28
It marked the third time of the season that Virginia scored 45 or more points, the first time since 1968 the team accomplished that feat.
Kicker Jake McInerney broke the school record for most points in a game by a kicker (17) with four field goals and five PAT.
Virginia posted 611 yards in total offense.
“You’ve got to be ahead by 26 to win. It’s too easy to come back in college football.”
– Head Coach George Welsh
Oct. 28, 1989 Charlottesville Virginia 16, Louisville 15
Virginia won on the last play of the game, a 37-yard field goal by Jake McInerney.
The Cavaliers marched 60 yards in the final 3:31 of the game to set up the game-winning field goal. Shawn Moore personally accounted for 55 of those 60 yards (40 rushing, 15 passing).
McInerney hit his 10th, 11th and 12th consecutive field goals to break the school record of 10 straight field goals.
UVa’s defense held Louisville to just 61 yards rushing and 253 yards in total offense
“I’ve been kicking since I was 11 years old and you can feel these things. Every kicker likes to do that sort of thing. In our backyards we imagined hitting the game-winning field goal.”
– PK Jake McInerney
Nov. 4, 1989 Raleigh, N.C. No. 24 Virginia 20, No. 18 NC State 9
George Welsh became the school’s all-time winningest football coach as he broke Art Guepe’s school record of 47 wins
Junior DB Jason Wallace had two interceptions, including a 40-yard return for a TD
The Wolfpack drove inside the UVa 15-yard-line four times and failed to score a TD (three FG, one fumble).
The win gave the Cavaliers a sweep over the four ACC schools from North Carolina for only the second time (1987).
“We were very tenacious. We hung in there and finally made some big plays on offense. Now we’ve got a chance for a great year. We’ve for a chance for one of the best seasons at Virginia in a long, long time.”
– Head Coach George Welsh
Nov. 11, 1989 Charlottesville No. 18 Virginia 32, Virginia Tech 25
The win was Virginia’s ninth of the year, marking the first time UVa won nine games in a season since 1895.
TB Marcus Wilson, who tallied 63 yards rushing, became the fifth UVa player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
FB Durwin Greggs had 57 yards rushing and two TD.
LB Phil Thomas recorded 16 tackles (11 solos) and earned ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Roy Brown was named the ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week after grading out over 90 percent.
“They just lined up and ran it down our throats.”
– Virginia Tech LB Bobby Martin
Nov. 18, 1989 College Park, Md. No. 16 Virginia 48, Maryland 21
The victory was UVa’s first in College Park since 1971.
The win gave Virginia its first-ever ACC football championship.
Shawn Moore accounted for five TD (three passing, two rushing). He ran for a career-high 121 yards on 18 carries and also passed for 161 yards.
TBs Marcus Wilson and Terry Kirby both rushed for 95 yards, and UVa gained 361 yards on the ground.
“I’ve never been part of a championship team ever. It’s an amazing feeling. Like climbing Mount Everest or something.”
– WR Tim Finkelston
Jan. 1, 1990 Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium No. 11 Illinois 31, No. 15 Virginia 21
Virginia made its first-ever New Year’s Day bowl appearance.
Illinois was led by the NFL’s top draft pick that year, QB Jeff George, who completed 26-of-38 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
Shawn Moore accounted for 225 yards in total offense. He completed 17-of-27 passes for 191 yards and two TD.
Freshman DE Chris Slade recorded a game-high 11 tackles.
“I felt like I started something here. I felt like I was part of history. Virginia and this team … it was like a family to me.”
– DE Ray Savage