CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia's win over Virginia Tech was a massive weight off the shoulders of the Cavaliers as it was the first time since 2003 that Virginia had beaten its in-state rival. That alone would be reason enough to celebrate. The way in which UVA won on Saturday, however, made it an instant classic that will long be remembered by the Cavalier-faithful in Charlottesville.
Here are the moments that made Saturday's victory so special for Virginia.
The reason why the streak was 15 years long instead of 14 was because of Bryce Perkins' fumble in overtime in 2018. Virginia had a chance to win the game in overtime after Virginia Tech settled for the field goal, but Perkins fumbled the ball, the Hokies recovered and the streak lived on. It is a moment that haunted Perkins for the entire year and one he was eager to overcome in his last game at Scott Stadium.
"I was the last play that ultimately ended losing us the game," Perkins said. "I had to sit with that all year and it hurt so this game, I really wanted to go out there and be aggressive and just give everything I have for this team and not to let them down again and do my part and trust everybody else to do their part and come together as a team to pull this victory off."
Delaney's field goal
In close rivalry matchups, small mistakes can often hold huge implications. After kicker Brian Delaney missed an extra point on Virginia's first touchdown, head coach Bronco Mendenhall admitted he thought that moment could prove disastrous.
"How fitting after a missed extra point early and I thought that was going to haunt us," he said.
Delaney, however, was given a chance to redeem himself and he did just that, kicking a 48-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to tie his career-high and to put Virginia ahead 33-30. That kick proved to be the game-winner.
"A.J. Mejia, our other kicker came over to me and told me, it's not ending like this," Delaney said. "You're writing your own story, you're writing the ending to this game. We just had the confidence there in just knowing I could do what we had to do."
"I guess you'd have to think when was the last time, at least in my tenure, that we kicked the ball through the up-rights in that kind of pressure-filled moment to win a football game?" Mendenhall said. "It's just another breakthrough and really proud and happy for Brian because he's done a really nice job all year."
Three straight sacks
After Delaney's kick, Virginia Tech got the ball back with 1:23 to go down by three. That's when Virginia's defense took over. Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker was sacked by Zane Zandler on first down, sacked by Matt Gahm on second and stripped and sacked in the end zone by Mandy Alonso on third down. Eli Hanback would recover the fumble for the defensive touchdown.
Virginia had three sacks in the game before that drive. When asked what the difference was in that last stand, Mendenhall admitted that the Hokies offense had the Cavaliers fooled up to that point.
"Really the situation of the game changed," he said. "We just could not dial in when they were going to run or when they were going to throw and so we were guessing the entire second half. The situation that Tech was placed in at the end, we knew they were going to throw and that allowed us to actually make the right calls versus what they were going to do. To their credit, they had us off balance the second half and our players responded."
Rushing the field
The college blue bloods may scoff at fans of a nine-win team rushing the field after beating an eight-win team, but the celebration from the fans was a reflection of how much breaking the streak really meant.
The fans are rushing the field in Charlottesville as Virginia has snapped a 15-game losing streak to rival Virginia Tech pic.twitter.com/Y9wYljsnpV— JJ Regan (@JJReganNBCS) November 29, 2019
With the fans rushing the field, Mendenhall lost sight of his counterpart, Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente, as he tried to make it across the field to shake hands. Mendenhall expressed his respect for Fuente following the game and the level of effort both coaches went through to finally congratulate one another.
"I was trying to find Justin to shake hands and there was just no chance," he said, "So by the time we made it around the crowd, anyway we did get matched up in his tunnel and it was just amazingly classy of him to come out from his team as we finally were able to get just a chance to shake hands."
Breaking the rock
Since the start of the 2018 season, Virginia celebrates every win with "breaking the rock." A rock with the opposing team's logo is placed on the floor of the locker room and a player is given the honors of breaking it with a sledgehammer.
On Saturday, it was Mendenhall's turn. He protested initially, but gave in at the insistence of his players.
A visibly emotional Mendenhall described the moment as the "ultimate compliment."
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