Marques Hagans walked into Al Groh's office the Monday of Florida State week in 2005 with a list in his pocket and a chip on his shoulder.
Hagans had unpleasantly vivid memories of his previous encounters with the Seminoles. Florida State had back-alleyed the unbeaten and sixth-ranked Cavaliers the year before, eventually sending him to the sideline with a hip injury.
Two years prior, in Hagans' first start at quarterback, Groh pulled the redshirt freshman after six ineffective series in yet another inevitable thumping.
"I couldn't leave without beating them," Hagans recalled this week. "That game was more personal to me than anything. I told myself that I refuse to go four years without beating Florida State."
Hagans made good on his vow with a remarkable performance that's been all too rare — at least from Virginia's perspective — in the lopsided series that renews Saturday at Scott Stadium following a four-year hiatus.
Virginia has beaten Florida State only twice in 15 games. Both were signature wins marked by exceptional efforts from players and coaches.
The Cavaliers handed No. 2 Florida State its first loss in ACC play in 1995, a 33-28 decision highlighted by maybe the most famous tackle in the history of the program: Adrian Burnim and Anthony Poindexter stopped FSU's Warrick Dunn just shy of the goal line on the final play.
"It comes up more than I would like it to," joked Poindexter, the Cavs' special teams and safeties coach. "At that age — I was about 18 years old the night of that game — I didn't realize the magnitude of what had happened. I just thought we had won a big game. But here, almost 15 years later, ... people still talk about it as one of the greatest games of all time here.
"I'm proud to be a part of it, but not only that play, but it was a lot of plays made that night to make that possible."
The notable offensive performance came from running back Tiki Barber, who shredded the Seminoles' defense for 193 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run in one of the few games in the series in which Virginia sustained a ground game.
"I can still remember Tiki Barber going down the sideline on an option pitch," said North Carolina State head coach Tom O'Brien, who was Virginia's longtime offensive coordinator under George Welsh. "We got them in man-to-man (coverage) and outflanked them. We threw the ball deep. Had a lot of big plays on offense. We needed every point we had. They were still prolific on offense."
O'Brien recalled that defensive coordinator Rick Lantz installed a wrinkle in which the Cavaliers rushed only three, had six defenders drop into medium-range pass coverage, and had two defensive backs deep, in an effort to force the Seminoles to be precise and patient on offense.
O'Brien remembered the electric atmosphere of Virginia's first Thursday night game at Scott Stadium, and the students rushing the field after Dunn was stopped at the goal line.
"My kids were young then," O'Brien said. "They rushed the field. What they did, every game after, they went to the game ready to rush the field if Virginia won."
It was a decade before the Cavaliers could celebrate similarly against Florida State, and equally unlikely. Virginia had lost two straight coming into that game. The Seminoles were unbeaten and ranked fourth.
Preparation for Florida State went extremely well, Hagans said, beginning with that Monday meeting with Groh.
He said that he had jotted down 10 key points necessary for beating the Seminoles. He compared it to a list Groh had made and said that seven points were identical.
One was smarter and more efficient play from the quarterback. Hagans, who starred at Hampton High, was harried and hurried the year before in that 36-3 loss in Tallahassee. He watched the video of that game that night and several times afterward and was irritated at himself for allowing the Seminoles' defense to dictate his tempo.
"It might not have been visible to the naked eye," Hagans said, "but I could see that there were plays to be made downfield if I had been more patient and not allowed myself to be rushed. I worked on trying to slow it down in my mind and move laterally and not just take off when the pressure would come."
Hagans was a marvel as the Cavaliers upset FSU 26-21. He completed 27 of 36 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns, extending plays with his feet, and his mind, in the face of Florida State's rush.
Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden gushed afterward, saying he'd never seen a quarterback make as many "one-man plays" as Hagans.
Lafayette High product Connor Hughes was dialed in, as well, making four field goals, including a 50-yarder.
Exceptional as Hagans was, he said the Cavaliers left another 150-200 yards passing and a couple of touchdowns on the field.
"I couldn't wait to play them," Hagans said. "From the moment we got off the bus to come into the stadium, there was something in the air that I can't explain, but you just know good things are going to happen."
The Cavaliers haven't had that feeling often in the series. Ten of their 13 losses to the Seminoles have been by at least three touchdowns.
"I always laugh when I hear somebody say that it was a one-man show that beat Florida State that day," Hagans said. "I didn't do it by myself. It was a team effort."
Same as required Saturday.
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Fairbank, read his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit.