Virginia Loses Coaches but Defeats Minnesota
Virginia had a distracting December with four coaches departing for new jobs. Marques Hagans and his fellow Cavaliers got their focus back in the Music City Bowl.
Connor Hughes kicked a 39-yard field goal with 1 minute 8 seconds left, and Hagans threw for a career-high 358 yards in helping Virginia (7-5) overcome a 14-point deficit to beat Minnesota, 34-31, Friday.
Defensive coordinator Al Golden left to coach Temple, taking special team and linebacker coach Mark D’Onofrio with him as his coordinator, leaving head Coach Al Groh to lead the defense. Offensive coordinator Ron Prince took over Kansas State and associate head coach Danny Rocco went to Liberty.
“It’s good those coaches got promoted to the jobs they did ... ,” Hagans said. “I think the team rallied together and everyone assumed individual responsibility, and the win is good. It’s gratifying.”
The Gophers (7-5) had every opportunity to blow the Cavaliers out and win this bowl game for the third time in four years, but the nation’s fifth-best offense bogged down after taking a 31-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota had one last chance to pull out its fourth straight bowl victory, but Marcus Hamilton intercepted Bryan Cupito’s ill-advised pass into double coverage in the end zone with 36 seconds left to seal the game for Virginia. It was the Cavaliers’ first bowl win since the 2003 Continental Tire Bowl over Pittsburgh.
Virginia already had forced the Gophers to punt twice, and Hagans overcame an interception in the fourth quarter to rally the Cavaliers with 10 straight points to end the game.
Virginia had 468 yards of offense in its best performance of the season, and gave up 461.
Hagans moved the Cavaliers on drives of 77 and 75 yards in the fourth quarter, the first capped by Wali Lundy’s second touchdown run -- a two-yarder that tied the score, 31-31, with 8:48 left. But the senior quarterback, who turned 23 Thursday, was at his best on the Cavaliers’ final drive.
Nearly tackled in the end zone for a safety on the opening play from the Cavalier three, he escaped back to the line of scrimmage. Then he connected with Deyon Williams on a 19-yarder for a little room, and he later scrambled around before finding Emmanuel Byers for 19 yards on third and six to the Minnesota 25.
Four plays later, Hughes kicked his second field goal to clinch the victory.