NCAA

6 moments that made a win over Virginia Tech special for UVA

6 moments that made a win over Virginia Tech special for UVA

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.

Perkins' fumble

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.

Shaking hands

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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Mike Locksley and Terrapins coaching staff try to keep team together during coronavirus pandemic

Mike Locksley and Terrapins coaching staff try to keep team together during coronavirus pandemic

No spring football games, no practices, no recruiting visits, and believe it or not, less time in the day.  

That is the current reality for Maryland’s head football coach, Mike Locksley. Not the easiest of circumstances to try and run a rebuilding football program in the Big 10. 
 
“Man, it’s been tough. I usually get up and get a little work out in. I’ve got an in-home gym where I can just do something to get moving,” Locksley said. “I’m kind of like a kid where if I get off schedule, I’m not very good… I get up, I get dressed. I don’t play around in my pajamas or shorts and a t-shirt.” 

Technically, the team has been on spring break this week, so there would have been no meetings in this first full week of quarantine.  But the staff has been busier than ever preparing for what life will look like when online classes begin on Monday. That is when the coaching staff will try to create some form of normalcy for their players.   

“We get eight hours a week to virtually meet with our players, so we’re working hard on developing the football intelligence that it takes using all the technology we have,” Locksley said.  

In normal times, only two hours a week would be allowed for film work or walkthroughs. The other six would be focused on strength training. These are far from normal times so this is where accountability comes into play. What they do now will pay off during the Big 10 season in the fall.   

“I think this is where you’ll see the biggest strides in the game for our programs, what these guys do when nobody is around and nobody is watching them,” Locksley said. “We always talk about being the best version of yourself and this gives our players the opportunity to do that without coaches there.”  

But it certainly makes it challenging to evaluate and develop players on a team that has much to improve upon finishing last season 3-9.  All 15 spring practices have been canceled, but Locksley says the Terrapins are focused on finding solutions for when the team is allowed back together, not excuses.  

“There’s no substitute for being able to go out and practice and if we can’t physically develop them, we need to mentally develop them,” Locksley said. “A lot of football success is about making the right decisions. That’s where teaching, the installs, and the mental conditioning will help develop our team.”  

So how do you get everyone in alignment during a time of pandemic?  First off, by staying up to date as best you can while staying home.   

“It makes you have to stay on the cutting edge of technology,” Locksley said with a chuckle. “I had never heard of a Zoom meeting until about a week ago.” 

Few of us had! Of course we’re all well aware now. Working from home has become the new norm and that was the way this interview was conducted. And it will play an even bigger role as Locksley and his staff look to continue the recruiting process for the class of 2021.   

Fortunately, most recruits had already visited campus before school was shut down, but coaches are now using FaceTime, making countless phone calls, and using social media to connect with prospective future Terps. The coaching staff meets via video conference every day at 10:30 a.m., position coaches check in with their players daily and the staff reconvenes in the afternoon for updates.  

It’s a time none of us could have expected and no one can predict when it will end. But there’s still work to be done.   

“It’s about finding ways to improve yourself, not use this as an excuse for what’s to come,” Locksley said. “I think the strides we make now will determine what happens in the fall - if we are able to play football.” 

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DMV native Jeff Green 'feels bad' for players unable to shine in 2020 NCAA tournament

DMV native Jeff Green 'feels bad' for players unable to shine in 2020 NCAA tournament

The NBA and NHL were suspended mid-season, Major League Baseball's start is postponed and among several more cancellations and suspensions in the sports world is the NCAA tournament. 

The NCAA canceled their national tournament nearly two weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak, taking away 67 games of March Madness action. 

In those 67 games are typically countless opportunities for the nation's top players to prove themselves on the biggest stage. Not only that, but mid-major stars who are rarely heard of throughout the season have a chance to vault themselves into national stardom. 

Those are the players, Houston Rockets forward and Cheverly, MD native Jeff Green feels for the most. 

"I feel bad for the kids," Green said to Chris Miller on the Wizards Talk Podcast. "The kids that shine through this tournament that have never been acknowledged through their career. There's always a handful of kids that stick out like, 'Oh man, I've never watched him play.'

"I look at CJ McCollum, who made his name at the tournament," he said. "It's kids like that I wish had the opportunity because this is what they live for."

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McCollum was a superstar at Lehigh, a small program in Pennsylvania, but he truly made a name for himself by scoring 26 points as a freshman against Kansas in the 2010 tournament. 

Players like McCollum, as well as seniors like Maryland's Anthony Cowan Jr. and breakout stars such as Obi Toppin won't be able to show the world how good they are.

The impact on the 2020 NBA Daft remains to be seen. It's unclear how much weight scouts put into the tournament versus their own private workouts and combine interviews, but how many players will teams miss out on without the benefit of a tournament consisting of so many high-pressure scenarios?

Again, it remains to be seen, and that's Green's point. Those unknown mid-major starts will be challenged to get noticed before the draft. 

"It sucks because now [the players] don't know what to do because the opportunity is gone," he said. 

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