CHARLOTTESVILLE — Friday’s postgame celebration was a communal experience.
When the Virginia Tech football team beat visiting Virginia in overtime last year, Tech fans watched from the Lane Stadium stands as the Hokies celebrated on the field and drank from the Commonwealth Cup.
But when Virginia beat the Hokies at Scott Stadium on Friday, UVa fans got to join in on the fun.
Security personnel waved fans onto the field after the Cavaliers knocked off the No. 23 Hokies 39-30 to snap a 15-game losing streak in the rivalry.
“I’ve never been so happy in my life!” one man exclaimed on the field.
The Cavaliers did not mind the party crashers one bit.
“That was awesome,” defensive end Eli Hanback, a native of the commonwealth, said later. “I had people come up and ask me to sign their shirts and tickets and all that. Pictures. A lot of the old fans saying, ‘Thank you for being part of the team that ended the streak.’
“It means, to a lot of them, almost as much as it means to us. I know just speaking for my family, my dad, my uncles, it was tough. Last year was hard. Almost harder for them than it was for me. So I know for a lot of those fans, this just meant the absolute world to them.”
Hanback had scored the final touchdown of the game.
A sack by defensive end Mandy Alonso caused Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker to fumble. Hanback recovered the ball in the end zone, extending the lead to 39-30 with 1:01 to go and sealing the win.
Players hugged each other on the UVa sideline and pumped their fists after that touchdown. UVa snapper Enzo Anthony put his hands to his head in disbelief.
As the clock wound down, offensive linemen Ryan Nelson and Ben Trent grabbed a bucket of water so they could douse coach Bronco Mendenhall.
“I 100% grabbed it. I was like, ‘We’re getting Coach. It doesn’t matter, I don’t care about anything else, we’re getting Coach!’ ” Nelson said later.
As the players raced onto the field at game’s end, so did fans of all ages.
“The way we saw the hill empty, we were just trying to run around and stay safe at the same time,” receiver Hasise Dubois said later.
Virginia clinched the Coastal Division berth in next weekend’s ACC title game in Charlotte for the first time.
“What a thrill!” a fan proclaimed on the field.
Fans swarmed the players.
“I was trying to find [quarterback] Bryce [Perkins] the whole time because I was more worried about where Bryce was, make sure he was safe, and then quickly realized I was not going to be able to find him at all,” Nelson said later.
Some UVa players got to hold the Commonwealth Cup, but they were surrounded by so many fans that not all of the Cavaliers got to celebrate with it.
“I haven’t gotten it yet,” Alonso said later. “But it was cool. It was an awesome time, seeing everybody so happy and so energized.”
Dubois, who had 139 receiving yards in the game, posed for pictures with fans and hugged them.
“It was amazing,” Dubois said later of the celebration. “It was just a great time.
“My mom even got mad at me because I couldn’t take a picture with her — because there was too many fans.”
Alonso also posed with fans.
“It was an overwhelming feeling,” Alonso said later of the celebration. “So many emotions were running through me. When I saw my parents, I started crying.
“It was just amazing that everybody can share this win with us.”
A UVa fan wandered around the field, holding a sign that referred to retiring defensive coordinator Bud Foster of Virginia Tech.
“Sorry, Virginia Tech, this Bud is no longer for you. Good riddance,” the sign read.
Offensive lineman Ryan Swoboda also posed for photos with fans, although the 6-foot-10 Swoboda towered over the fans so much that taking the photo must have been a challenge.
Swoboda then enjoyed a solo celebration.
“Wooooo!” he exclaimed as he raised his arms in triumph.
About 15 minutes after the game ended, the public address announcer asked fans to clear the field.
Hanback continued to pose for photos and shake hands with fans.
Safety Joey Blount high-fived a child before heading into the raucous locker room.
Fans continued to celebrate with each other in the stands after leaving the field — and began looking forward to the next game.
“Somebody’s going to Charlotte!” one fan exclaimed.