In Al Groh's 178th career game at an ACC school, it was an emotional Saturday for the 30 fourth- and fifth-year seniors who were honored prior to the game. For these Cavaliers, who not only will never wear the Virginia pads again, but many of whom will never wear any pads again, it was not the way they wanted to go, as Virginia finished the season 3-9 with a 13-42 loss to in-state rival Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech Hokies freshman Ryan Williams dominated the ground game, as he scored four touchdowns for the second week in a row, rushing for a career-high 183 yards. The Virginia offense rushed for a combined 175. This marks the first time an opponent has rushed for four TDs against UVa since Georgia Tech's Robert Lavette in 1982. Meanwhile, Tech's Danny Coale dominated the air game, amassing six passes for 135 yards.
While Virginia trailed 13-14 at the half, the 'Hoos controlled the time of possession in the first half, 18:42 to 11:18. Without a doubt, the star of the first half was Jameel Sewell, who become downright explosive on the ground, rushing for 104 yards on the game, 91 of which came from seven carries in the first quarter. Sewell finishes his career with 6,012 career total offense, ranking No. 4 all-time in the UVa annals, behind only Shawn Moore (7,897), Matt Schaub (7,560) and Scott Gardner (6,059).
However, as has often been the case this year, it was a tale of two halves, as Virginia Tech out-talented the Cavs coming back onto the field. The Hokies would dominate the time of possession and every aspect of the game to hold the Cavaliers scoreless in the second half.
At halftime former Cavalier great Jim Bakhtiar had his jersey retired. A standout fullback, linebacker and kicker, Bakhtiar earned All-America honors in 1957 when he led the ACC in rushing. He was a first-team All-ACC pick in 1956 and 1957.
But the real story comes off the field. In what most are dubbing as Coach Groh's last press conference at the helm of the University of Virginia football program, Groh's wife and daughter could be seen sobbing in the corner. And on a day when the spotlight was to honor the 30 student-athletes who have fought their way through this season and through their careers (not to mention the spotlight on Bakhtiar), reporters really only had one question on their minds in that press room. Coach, what's your outlook on your own future?
Coach Groh had been preparing for -- and evading -- this question all season. Today he had no alternatives. Groh took out a sheet of paper and read a version of "The Man in the Glass," by Dale Winbrow:
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Then go to a mirror and look at yourself
And see what that guy has to say.
For it isn't your father or mother or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass,
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.
He's the fellow to please, never mind all the rest
For he's with you clear to the end
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and chisel a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum,
If you can't look him straight in the eye.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you've cheated the man in the glass.
"When I visited the guy in the glass, I saw that he's a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and accountability," Groh concluded. "He's loyal. His spirit is indomitable. And he is caring and loving. I'm sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend."
Groh seems to know that his swan song has ended. With this, he walked out.
Some player reactions:
"It was very emotional. You could see it on his face," Sewell said. "He’s having a tough time just like we’re having a tough time, but we’ve got each other’s backs. No matter what it is, we’re going to stick it out together. All of us."
"Maybe its something he’s been contemplating about. hes a very educated man, very smart, very emotional," Rashawn Jackson added. "And I think that poem described it all – described how he felt. It takes a big man to stand up in front of a team and read something like that."
Aaron Clark also said, "You’ve got to grow up and be a man, you know what I’m saying? If you cant look at yourself in the mirror when you go home at night, you probably didn’t do something right."
And finally, my favorite senior Wahoo this year, Mikell Simpson: "To be honest I was kind of zoned out. I was reminiscing on my final moments here being at Virginia and everything I’ve been though here., so I kind of zoned out through the poem. I just knew he was reading a poem and it had to be emotional."