No. 14 Virginia Tech Dampens Season Finale for UVa, 42-13
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Al Groh knew the question was coming, the one about the likely end of his career as Virginia’s coach. As it did, he began unfolding his answer.
“Here’s what I got for you,” Groh said before he began reading a poem, “The Guy in the Glass,” about how the most important person an individual has to please is himself.
He closed with a testimonial about himself.
“When I visited the guy in the glass, I saw that he’s a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and account- ability,” he said. “He’s loyal, his spirit is indomitable and he’s caring and loving. I’m sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend.”
And with that, Groh got up from the table where he’s presided over postgame news conferences at Scott Stadium for nine years, hugged his sobbing daughter and wife and walked out, a 42-13 loss to No. 14 Virginia Tech probably the final chapter in his coaching career at his alma mater.
Virginia (3-9, 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) had its worst season since 2-9 in 1982.
The game was more competitive than the final score suggested, unraveling on a Virginia turnover that set up a 10-yard touchdown drive for the Hokies. They scored 28 points in the last 21 minutes.
But at the end, Groh’s verse — which he read to the team in the locker room before coming out to talk to the media — stood out for his players as much as the game.
“Coach Groh is a very well educated, smart, emotional man, and I think that poem captured his spirit,” said running back Rashawn Jackson, who played his final college game. “It takes a big man to stand in front of a team and read something like that. It was very moving.”
The Cavaliers said they tried to win the game for Groh and the coaching staff, knowing that change is probably coming. But the Hokies were too strong.
Ryan Williams ran for 183 yards and four touchdowns and No. 14 Virginia Tech won for the sixth consecutive time in the series and the 10th time in the last 11 meetings. In nine meeting since leaving the NFL’s New York Jets in 2000, Groh beat his rival once.
The turnover was critical, coming on a botched option pitch from Jameel Sewell to Mikell Simpson just two plays after Chris Cook stopped a Virginia Tech with an interception.
The pick aroused the crowd, and the fumble recovery by Kam Chancellor deflated it.
Two runs by Williams later, the Hokies led 21-13 and the beginning of the end was near.
“After that, it all fell down,” Groh said, whose future is likely to be known soon.
He has a contract clause requiring that the school inform him by Nov. 30 if it plans to add a year, and it has declined twice in the past three years. Virginia has had three losing seasons in the last four and its average attendance has fallen by nearly 14,000 in two years.
The Hokies (9-3, 6-2), meanwhile, are bowl-bound for the 17th consecutive year. They can also reach 10 victories for the sixth year in a row if they win their bowl game, keeping them in rarified company. Only Texas and Southern California have also done it the past five.
Williams had a lot to do with it on Saturday. He had scoring runs of 5, 20, 4 and 2 yards. He added a 51-yard burst in the fourth quarter that ended when he was stripped of the ball at the 10, but the ball squirted into the end zone and Hokies wide receiver Jarrett Boykin recovered for the touchdown, giving Virginia Tech a 35-13 lead with 10:21 to play.
Williams set an ACC record for touchdowns by a freshman with 20, passing the mark of N.C. State’s T.A. McClendon, who had 18 in 2002, and padded his freshman ACC yardage record.
“Yardage, touchdowns, ACC teams — none of that really mattered to me,” he said. “You can be the best person on the field but if your team isn’t winning, it does not mean anything.”
Boykin’s touchdown sent Cavaliers fans heading for the exits, turning the largest crowd of the season at Scott Stadium — 58,555 — into a vitual Hokies home game at its rival’s stadium.
Much of what the Hokies were able to do on offense, though, was set up by the passing game. Tyrod Taylor completed on 8 of 15 passes for 185 yards, with completions of 41, 36 and 38 yards in the first half, all against cornerback Ras-I Dowling, an all-ACC candidate.
“We tried to take advantage of [Dowling’s] aggressiveness,” said Danny Coale, who had six catches for 135 yards. “He is a great corner, he has a long reach and he competes. We just wanted to go right at him with everything we did and hit him right on.”
Despite the defensive breakdowns, the Cavaliers trailed just 14-13 at the half and it was still that way until Simpson failed to handle the option pitch from Sewell at his 25.
Sewell finished with a career-best 104 yards rushing, but that was the bulk of Virginia’s 118th-ranked offense as they were outgained 483-295 and turned the ball over twice.