Among the social media comments following Virginia’s victory over Virginia Tech, former Cavalier Micah Kiser put it as succinctly as anybody.
“UVa football officially back,” Kiser, now with the Los Angeles Rams, tweeted.
Not only did the Cavaliers on Friday beat the Hokies for the first time since 2003, but they will be playing in the ACC championship game for the first time.
Coastal Division champion Virginia (9-3, 6-2 ACC) meet Clemson at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Tigers (11-0, 8-0) beat South Carolina 38-3 on Saturday.
“It’s an essential step,” said fourth-year UVa head coach Bronco Mendenhall, well aware of the Hokies’ now-snapped 15-game winning streak in the series, the last three games on Mendenhall’s watch.
“You can’t build a consistent conference or national contender unless you own your own state. I know four years feels like a long time to me. For those who have had it be 15, it’s hard to imagine.”
Fans swarmed the field after the game, not for the first time this season, but with a degree of enthusiasm not previously seen.
“I was trying to find [Tech coach Justin Fuente] and there was just no chance at the time,” Mendenhall said. “We did get matched up in his tunnel. It was just amazingly classy to come out from his team as we were finally able to get a chance to shake hands.”
The 39-30 final score was closer than it might indicate. The Hokies took a 30-27 lead on a 47-yard Brian Johnson field goal with 10:58 left. That was followed by two Brian Delaney field goals, the first from 25 yards with 7:35 left and the go-ahead 48-yarder that broke a 30-30 tie with 1:23 remaining.
There was enough time for Tech to get in field-goal range but Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker was sacked on back-to-back plays, the second by Mandy Alonso, who caused a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown by Eli Hanback.
It was one of three sacks by the Cavaliers on the final two Tech series. Within moments, fans flooded the field to a degree seldom seen at Scott Stadium.
“For a while there, it looked like nobody was going to score; then, it looked like everybody was going to score,” Fuente said.
The crowd was listed at 52,619 and Scott Stadium has seldom looked fuller.
“I had a vision for what that could be four years ago,” Mendenhall said, “and today was as close as I’ve seen to what is possible at Scott Stadium.”