Twenty years ago, the Virginia football program was in the midst of its finest decade. They had not gone more than one year without making a bowl game since 1986, a stretch that would last until 2009, and would eventually reach eight bowls in total during the 1990s. Head coach George Welsh hadn't won fewer than seven games since 1986. The Cavaliers were a regular contender in the ACC, and the program's renaissance was almost mind-blowing, considering the 30 years of pain that preceded the Welsh era.
Some 600-plus miles to the south, though, there was another ACC team that overshadowed the rest of not only its league, but maybe the rest of the nation as well. Going into that 1995 season, Florida State and head coach Bobby Bowden had compiled an absurd stretch of eight seasons in a row with double-digit wins and a top 5 ranking in the final poll, along with three straight conference championships and a consensus national title in 1993. FSU joined the ACC in 1992 after forty years of independent status and won their first 29 games in conference play.
The preseason No. 1 in 1995, the Seminoles finished that October at 7-0, having outscored their opponents by a 393-123 margin. They only dropped to No. 2 after their bye week (Oct. 28, an off date which they shared with UVa) when then-No. 2 Nebraska handled No. 7 Colorado in Boulder.
The stage was set for a picture-perfect, nationally-televised clash between two ranked teams in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge, 20 years ago tonight.
This article is being handled a bit differently from our Clemson retrospective. Rather than simply describing what happened in the game and using quotes and gifs to provide some flavor, you'll be reading the accounts of those individuals who remember the game, two decades on. Gifs of specific plays/moments referenced will be included for the sake of context. A brief description will be used to bridge the gap in action between some quotes.
Kevin Edds '95, Director of Wahoowa: The History of Virginia Cavalier Football (Producer at Discovery Channel, now a creative director at a marketing firm): As an undergrad at UVa I had worked for ESPN as a production assistant during televised football and basketball games. It was good money and I got a front row seat to all the action as I pulled wires, held microphones, and assisted cameramen. So I reached out to my SID contact at UVa and was able to get a gig working the Florida State game. It was this game that sparked an idea to produce a documentary about the UVa football program. I went home after the game an immediately started writing down ideas for it. It took another 15 years but [the film] was finally complete and the FSU game is perhaps the climax of the film.
Myron Ripley '90 (Worked/works at an insurance firm in Charlottesville and is a longtime season ticket holder): For years, I worked in the press box when I was a student at Virginia, and even a couple years afterwards. Finally, I decided that was the one sport where I wanted to sit in the crowd instead.
Jerry Punch, M.D. (Then and now a sideline reporter, among other duties, at ESPN): I did sidelines for every Thursday night primetime game, and I was also doing NASCAR coverage on Friday, Saturday, [and] Sunday. I was pretty busy.
Brad Nessler (Then and now a play-by-play voice for college sports on ESPN): I wasn’t [the regular Thursday Night Primetime announcer]. I’m not even sure why I did Thursday night that week. I think it was a month before that or something [when I was assigned for it]. Thursday night games are usually pretty locked in, whereas the Saturday games that we do now, we don’t know until Sunday or Monday sometimes where we’re going. I was excited about doing it because Florida State was No. 2.
Casey Mattox '97 (Currently a constitutional lawyer in DC): I was a UVA third-year in the fall of 1995. I was at every game – wearing an orange and blue bowtie and a blue sport coat. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. My now wife, coincidentally, was at the game with me that night. She thought she was my date. She didn’t know about my girlfriend who was on the other side of me. Somehow, miraculously, she was still interested in me a couple of years later. But that game has a special place in our relationship.
Jerry Ratcliffe (Then and now a sports columnist at the Daily Progress in Charlottesville): Florida State was so dominant during that era that the NCAA officially declared them a "dynasty." Just think about that for a minute. A dynasty, officially declared by the NCAA. No program since then has earned that sort of recognition by the NCAA, and we've had some pretty good programs, including Alabama's run on national championships. No one in the ACC could beat these guys, and usually the scores weren't even close. Georgia Tech had a chance to beat them [in 1992], but couldn't finish the job. The fact that Virginia stood in there toe-to-toe against the Seminoles in 1995 was a major accomplishment.
Justin Eller, COL '91 and Law '00 (Then worked at a computer training firm in DC, now a lawyer in Baltimore and curator of HoosFootball.com): It was like that Bill Swerski sketch on Saturday Night Live. "If all of the Seminoles were 14 inches tall, who would win? Seminoles, 42-0." And that 1995 team was just silly, especially on offense. They played five ACC games before playing us, and put up 70+ points in three of those games. That’s insane!
Edds: Florida State and Bobby Bowden were part of the football elite. If not for a few "wide right" field goals against Miami they might have won a few more national championships. I was at the game in Scott Stadium in '92 when FSU went 11-1 (another wide-right against Miami kept a perfect season from them that year) ... It was Chris Slade and Terry Kirby's fourth years at UVa so we were pumped, and then deflated as Charlie Ward scored the clinching TD on a 16-yard scramble and we lost 13-3. So the game in '95 was a bit of revenge. I also recall driving down 29 South from DC for the game and noticing that it was also called "Seminole Trail" in certain parts. FSU was 29-0 against ACC competition and Seminole Trail went right through Charlottesville. That seemed like a strange coincidence.
Punch: Florida State was the holy grail of college football. No one expected them to come close to being beaten. They had three deep at every position, size, speed, they had linebackers who were faster than most team’s running backs, they had incredible quickness. There were few coaching staffs in the country back then that were just stockpiled with incredible position coaches and head coaches.
Nessler: Going in, I had a better knowledge of [Virginia] than most people did. I knew George was a tough guy, man. That’s one of the things I vividly remember - the difference between coach’s meetings with George Welsh and Bobby Bowden. George always reminded me of Popeye, you know he’s the Navy guy and it was like everything was national intelligence and he wasn’t going to tell you anything in the meeting. You go to the Florida State coach’s meetings and you’ve got Bobby, "Well dadgum it, we’ll give you anything you want. And don’t tell Miss Ann I’m eating candy right now." Bobby’s a good old boy, so the meetings were like extreme opposites. I just remember being like, "this is really fun, I could sit and talk to Bobby Bowden all day long." I'd go into George's office and I couldn't wait to get out of there.
Ratcliffe: The '95 team was special. It was probably the most fun team that I covered (that and the '90 team), because George had built a program that could compete (not just play, but compete) with anybody in the country. From 1989 to 1996, UVa could play with just about anyone. Yes, the Cavaliers were a bit snakebitten with the last-second loss at Michigan and Phil Dawson's late 50-something yard field goal into the wind that allowed Texas to beat them, but the fact that Virginia could go on the road into these college football powerhouses and take them to the wire was something for Wahoo fans to boast about. George had some hellacious talent on that team on both sides of the ball. I think with all that in mind, yes, Cavalier fans believed Virginia could pull off the upset. I've never seen Scott Stadium that electric as it was that night. The entire town was buzzing all week, and then for a week afterwards.
Ripley: Right now, if you go in the stadium, nobody really thinks we can play with anybody. There’s a negativity. There was a positivity to the stadium that "Hey, we can play with these guys" but everybody was wondering if that was just false hope. One of the things that I remember about that evening, and not to be negative toward our fanbase, but our fanbase has traditionally been a late-arriving crowd. Even in that day and age when passouts were allowed, there were people there early in the stadium. At halftime, people were so into the moment that the expectation was "Hey, we’re going to stick around for this." You could just feel that sensation that had carried over from the pregame and stayed around at halftime. You go from going into the game believing "Hey, I think we’ve got a chance to play with these guys." to "Well, we can play with these guys." to at halftime "Can we beat these guys?" That sort of fostered itself throughout the game. More and more people probably showed up and by the end, it was a large crowd. The atmosphere is unmatched the last few years in Charlottesville.
Punch: I’ve been to some big games in the South, to Texas/Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night, I’ve been to Nebraska/Oklahoma, Florida, Auburn/Alabama. But for an Atlantic Coast Conference crowd, I’d never seen anything like it. You think about Virginia being academically-oriented, fairly stoic, fairly reserved. From the get-go, the atmosphere was like you were at Auburn or Alabama. We never expected it to be difficult to hear. But everybody anticipated that the crowd was going to be a factor, and I think they were … Just a constant, constant barrage of noise. Some stadiums you can hear a pindrop, [that night] you literally couldn’t talk to anybody on the sideline unless you shouted because it was that loud. It reminded me of the noise we heard this year when Virginia played Notre Dame.
Nessler: It was really electric. If you're facing the field from our broadcast booth, there's that piece of lawn over there, and the kids over there were just absolutely crazy. Just one of those nights where from the very beginning, they got the lead and the fever pitch picked up and it was so loud. I would wager to say that if there's ever been a night before or since that was that good, I'd like to see it because it was really rocking. To say that, I'm used to 110,000 in a lot of the places we go. I don't know what it held at the time, and it was out of control for being that few people. They were acting like there were twice as many people there, it was great.
Ratcliffe: I've never seen Scott Stadium that electric, that alive. It was almost like there was 'something in the air,' that night. There were only 44,300 fans in the stadium, capacity in those days, but it sounded and felt like 100,000. I remember FSU coach Bobby Bowden told me the following summer on the ACC Football Tour that the atmosphere for that game was the best he had ever coached in. That says a lot because FSU had been almost everywhere. I don't do the tailgating scene before games but I'm sure it was a festive atmosphere. Carl Smith, who a few years later paid for the expansion of Scott Stadium, felt so good about the possibility of an upset, that he bought tons of fireworks to shoot off before the game to add to the spectacle.
Punch: I remember when we went to practice on Thursday and we watched them repping things. We went to meet with [Virginia defensive coordinator Rick Lantz] and Brad asked, "Rick, how do you handle Warrick Dunn?" Rick looked us square in the eye and said, "I’ve got my best man on it. I told Anthony Poindexter, 'Wherever [Dunn] goes, you go.’ Anthony looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Coach, what if he goes to the bathroom?’ I looked back at him and said ‘I want you to be there and lift the lid for him.’"
Ripley: We were driving toward the hill, and I think we got a pretty good seal block and Tiki got outside. One of the key parts of that run was near the end when Germane Crowell ran interference the last 15-20 yards and kept the defensive backs of Florida State off of Tiki.
Ratcliffe: I don't think I have ever seen Tiki run as fast as he did that night. He had a hell of a game, more than 300 yards of total offense, nearly 200 yards rushing against a pretty good FSU defense. It was probably the most complete game we had ever seen Tiki play.
Punch: [Virginia offensive coordinator Tom O’Brien] was never given enough credit for being so creative. He was conservative, but if there’s such a thing as a creative conservative, he was that. He knew what he had to do and he wanted to keep it simple, but he would find a way- it was like, how many different ways can you charge up a hill? He would find a way to run the football creatively, to pass the ball, and be conservative. Most people were afraid to try and match speed with Florida State because Florida State had so much speed. It was apparent early that Tom O’Brien believed his offensive line and Tiki Barber could do that.
Mattox: I remember taking pictures of the scoreboard [after the play] because I wanted to remember when we were actually leading FSU. I took several more of those photos (on a camera requiring film) throughout the game – thinking that would be the last chance to capture that memory.
Warrick Dunn catches a touchdown pass from Danny Kanell to give the Seminoles the lead back, and Barber follows up with one of his own from Mike Groh. An ensuing Florida State drive stalls early in the second quarter.
Ripley: Our special teams were exquisite. Not only with the blocked [punt], but Will Brice just coffin-cornered and pinned Florida State. That’s why the game was always there for us, they played on a long field almost all evening. Raphael Garcia could just knock the daylights out of the ball, too. [Florida State] just didn’t do a very good job [of blocking], and Farrior got in there and he just reached out and basically put his hand on the ball the time the guy put his foot on the ball. I want to say Brian Owen or Steven Phelan got the recovery, and of course that leads to more points.
Punch: I just think the fact that they were not intimidated [helped]. You see James Farrior come through and block a punt. It’s like, how many James Farriors are on the field that day? And he’s all over the field. They were swarming. [FSU] did a reverse in the backfield to Warrick Dunn and Warrick gets the football, looks up, and there’s four Cavaliers standing there to stop him on a critical third down in the second quarter. You can’t give enough credit to Rick Lantz.
Garcia kicks a field goal to give UVa their first lead, and in the late stages of the second quarter, the Cavaliers get a big break.
Ripley: Groh sort of stepped into it and gave it a good toss. Petey got the ball and the guy for Florida State slipped and fell but when he did, another Florida State defensive back came in to try and get him and the two of them collided. Allen sort of catches it and all of a sudden you’re like, "Holy cow, there’s nobody between him and the goal line." That’s when we sort of thought "Holy cow, this is gonna be a big night."
Punch: Bobby Bowden told his team at halftime – the visitors’ locker room there is small, and it’s like two rooms that are combined by a small hallway. Bobby climbed up on a couple of big duffel bags of towels and laundry so the players could see him. You know when Bobby Bowden really wants to make a point, he uses "dadgum." This was a three-dadgum halftime speech. He basically said "Dadgum it guys, this ain’t Florida from a year ago. We got lucky and we got breaks and we came back. These guys, dadgum it, if you don’t come out and play Seminole football, we’re gonna get beat tonight. We will get beat tonight. These guys are totally capable of beating us." He respected what Virginia was doing. When he walked out of the locker room and I interviewed him, he basically told me that if they don’t step up and play better in the second half that they will leave here with their first loss in the ACC.
Ratcliffe: Welsh had wisely given Lantz a lot of freedom to create and game plan for FSU. Lantz threw a 3-4 defense at the Seminoles, which I think grew stronger in the second half as the players became more comfortable with the concept. I think by halftime, UVa's confidence was off the charts and led by guys like Anthony Poindexter, who still is the hardest hitting defensive player I've ever seen in person in my entire career, there was plenty of leadership to keep the defense fired up. (I still insist that Poindexter should be in the College Football Hall of Fame). FSU still moved the ball in the second half, but UVa's defense never broke. I remember that at the time, FSU's seven second-half points was its fewest against an ACC opponent since it joined the league.
After a pair of UVa field goals and a Florida State touchdown in the second half, Scott Stadium is on pins and needles as Florida State drives for a go-ahead score.
Ripley: When you saw it in the stadium, you’re like "That was a pretty incredible play." Then you go back and watch the tape and you’re like "Holy cow." The pass by Kanell was a helluva pass. Ellsworth just reaches out and backhands an interception down, there’s not many guys that have played in Cavalier football history in my opinion that could have made that play because that was so athletic.
Nessler: I thought "Well, Florida State's not gonna get another shot. It's over now and there's no way they're gonna get the ball back ... They got it back one more time and it didn't take long for them to get down to the last play and everything."
Florida State does eventually get the ball back, and with 1:37 left, they had to go 80 yards to win the game.
Edds: I was nervous. It was hard to separate the fan in me with the job I had to do for ESPN. On the last FSU drive I thought we had a good chance to win the game. They were on the 34-yd line with 21 seconds left and needed a touchdown. I could see the fans lining up on the hill to rush the field. I whispered to the guy next to me in the production truck, "Do you think I'd get in trouble if I left the truck to rush the field?" I hoped for a turnover-on-downs so this other production assistant could take over for me for the last few plays. But then Warrick Dunn caught a pass and took it to the 12-yard line with 13 seconds left.
Eller: My girlfriend at the time had worked part-time at a Comedy Club when she was in school at South Carolina and had gotten to know a lot of the comics who came through there ... Anyway, she found out Carrot Top was going to be performing in Hagerstown, Maryland, which is like 30 minutes from where we were living at the time, and bought tickets for us as a surprise. We go to the show, and it’s not terrible. But then I made the mistake of checking my watch and realized the game was in the second half, and I immediately stopped having fun and was ready go to, but frigging Carrot Top kept pulling more and more props out of his stupid trunk for what seemed like hours. So the show finally ends and I jump up, turn to my companions and say "follow me," and start clearing a path out of the theater, basically bowling over everyone in sight. We get to the car and I spend the 30-minute ride home trying to find the game on the radio, to no avail. Finally, my buddy pulls up to my house and my girlfriend and I sprint inside and turn on the TV. There was less than a minute to play, so I only got to see the very end of the game.
Mattox: By this point I was alternating between sitting down and covering my eyes and standing and going nuts. I remember freaking out at my fellow students afraid the premature storming of the field was about to cost us. For the final play, sadly to say, I couldn’t watch. I was sitting in the student section covering my eyes.
Punch: I was standing right on the goal line. They had told me that if Virginia pulls off the upset, that I need to be down on the Virginia sideline where the players come out of the tunnel because that’s where security would be, and they would get George Welsh to me and surround us with security because the fans are just going to be all over the field.
Nessler: I was going, "They're gonna do it again. It's Florida State. They're gonna find a way."
Ripley: When they got the ball back that final time, you could cut the tension in the stadium with a knife. On the next to last play, there was a little bit of crowd that came on the field because everybody had shuffled down the hill and was waiting for pandemonium to break out. There was an out-of-body experience for every person going "This can’t happen again, this can’t happen again."
Edds: It was 1st-and-10 from the 12 but UVa was called for 12 men on the field when Kannel spiked the ball. So half the distance to the goal would be six yards, meaning 1st-and-4. At least according to the stats guys in my ear. But the call on the field was that the penalty gave FSU a 1st-&-Goal at the six. I remember the director for ESPN was livid. He was screaming at me to change the graphic from "1st-and-4" to "1st-and-Goal." FSU snaps the ball and Danny Kannell throws an incomplete pass and the students rush the field, but there's still time on the clock. It's absolute pandemonium inside the production truck. I'm trying to change the graphic to "2nd-&-Goal" but "2nd-and-4" pops up on screen. As Warrick Dunn takes the direct snap on the last play of the game the director leaps across wires that are obstructing his path, ripping them out of the socket. He slams his fist down on the keyboard I'm working at which removes the incorrect graphic from the screen right before Adrian Burnim and Anthony Poindexter stop Dunn an inch short of the goal line.
Punch: So I’m standing on the sideline right at the goal line and I’m watching right as they hand the ball off to Warrick Dunn and I’m listening to Brad Nessler’s great call. He’s one of the best in the business. You see Warrick cut and turn, you see him reach the ball out. Nessler first calls "Touchdown!" And then he said, "No, no!" The ball hits the ground, there’s Poindexter, and I’m literally 20 feet from where he falls. And then, it erupts.
Ratcliffe: Many fans told me they couldn't watch, they had to turn their heads or leave the room where the TV was on. It was one of the most intense settings I have ever witnessed. When the Seminoles made it to the UVa six-yard line with time for only one more play (four seconds on the clock), everyone's heart skipped a beat as the ball was snapped. It was a direct snap to Warrick Dunn, who darted toward the end zone. From the press box, we all thought Dunn had scored, because it was that close. Even George Welsh thought Dunn had scored. Then we saw the official pointing that Dunn was down and did not get in and pandemonium broke out.
Nessler: The funny thing is, Warrick Dunn and I are friends and we recently did a charity thing together. Somebody said, "Did you ever have a play that you called that you wish you had done differently?" And I looked at Warrick and I just cracked up. He knew exactly what I was gonna say - I said, "Yeah, I screwed up ... I said 'touchdown' on Warrick's last run." At that time, when they got down to the five or six or wherever it was, not many people did that direct snap, that wildcat thing we see now. When they got down there, I'm like "After Danny Kanell has thrown this many passes, we're gonna do this?"
So anyway, we kidded around about this thing and I said "Hey Warrick, if we had replay back in the day, were you in?" And he said, "Sure I was!" So, we've kidded around about that every time we've run into each other. It's the one play that I've wanted back and the one play in college he wanted back.
Doug Doughty '74 (Then and now a sports columnist at the Roanoke Times): One of my abiding memories of game was that the officials got it right. Florida State was driving for the winning score and it looked like Warrick Dunn had scored but officials correctly ruled it a fumble. Replays wouldn't go in for another 10 years and, if the officials had gotten it wrong, we'd still be talking about it.
Ripley: They snap the ball to Dunn and thankfully, the Virginia defense stayed home enough and they smelled that play out.
Edds: I look at the assistant next to me and said, "You think now's a good time for me to go rush the field?" To this day whenever I see that Warrick Dunn run I focus on the incorrect down-and-distance graphic in the corner of the screen that is my fault. Yes, it was a great tackle by Burnim and Poindexter, but the graphics are wrong!
Mattox: There were a lot of hugs. And things flying. Then I ran down and jumped the wall onto the field. By this point the cops had abandoned hope. I ran toward the end zone where we had stopped Dunn and was right under the goalposts when they came down. I helped carry them up the Hill.
Nessler: I'm just trying to soak it in. When that happens, there's not much you can say. Ironically enough, the director of the game that night is my director still, Scott Johnson. I bust his chops, "If you would have had a better angle on the goal line with the camera, we could have seen if Warrick was in or not."
Eller: [Missing most of the game] didn’t stop me from running around the house screaming like a maniac for 20 minutes after the game ended.
Punch: They brought George Welsh down to me and fans are jumping all over. [Security is] trying to protect us, [but] they couldn’t protect me and Coach. We backed up against the wall there, and people were jumping out of the stands over us in the air. I thought "Oh my gosh, someone’s gonna land on our head and we’re gonna get hurt." The fans were just celebrating like crazy.
I was trying to find Rick Lantz in all that bedlam down there until our producer said "Get off the field because it’s just going to get even wilder." I wanted to find Rick and shake his hand and tell him what an incredible job he did that week when he told Anthony Poindexter that he was going to shadow Warrick Dunn.
Ratcliffe: I've never seen Scott Stadium explode into the chaos that occurred that night (although the first win over Clemson in '90 was close). Most of us in the press box were scrambling to figure out who made the tackle, how close was he. We didn't have TVs in the press box then, if I recall, so we found a couple of local TV guys who had the play on their video cameras and we kept watching the play over and over, trying to see how it played out. We found out later that Skeet Jones recognized that FSU was going to direct snap it and began telling it to his teammates, shouting it out, and Poindexter and Adrian Burnim hit Dunn and stopped him inches short. For years, Dunn claimed he scored and before he retired, said that was the most disheartening moment of his entire college football career. Replays clearly showed that Dunn was inches short. Welsh looked like he had been through a war when we interviewed him after the game. The locker room, as you might expect, was chaotic.
Ripley: First it was like "Oh my god we did it," then it was a sense of relief, then it was euphoria. The only thing to me that has ever been reminiscent of that was the night we beat Clemson. It was a similar monkey off the back, except Clemson was one of those longtime pains in the ass. I don’t think there’s ever been a ton of animosity toward Florida State, they were just the big, bad team that they were.
The smiles on people’s faces were priceless, for lack of a better description. This is pre-cell phones, people were popping out cameras and taking pictures, people were hugging. The only time I can say I’ve experienced that, obviously on a much smaller scale, was the day we came back and beat Cal-Irvine in baseball. You didn’t even give a [expletive] who they were, you were just hugging people to be hugging people. Tears were streaming down people’s faces. It was euphoria. That atmosphere, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it replicated in Scott Stadium. It probably would have been if we’d beaten Georgia Tech in ’90.
Nessler: I have no idea what I did after the game [laughs]. I don't know where we stayed, I don't know what we did. I think it was pretty late so there probably weren't any restaurants or bars or anything open. I probably had an early flight back to Atlanta the next morning or whatever. I was probably exhausted.
Punch: I was just emotionally drained. The hotel was right down where this little shopping district downtown [is]. It was like Mardi Gras. It was wall-to-wall people chanting "Wahoos, Wahoos." It’s a phenomenal atmosphere. I just put on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and walked out of the hotel just down a few yards to people-watch.
Ratcliffe: Well, because it was a night game, and such a huge upset, our newspaper held for all our stories (yeah, newspapers used to do that). So, after all the interviews, I had to return to the press box and write my column. Because it was such a historic win, you felt a little extra pressure to try to make it special because people would scrapbook it or look back on it for years to come. Heck, I even have that column framed along with a special hand-drawn painting of the final play, signed by Poindexter, in my man cave. I think the town celebrated all night long. I specifically remember that former UVa player David Sloan, who owned his own restaurant, a big UVa hangout in the day, appropriately named "Sloan's," told me that he was closing at midnight, but re-opening for special guests a little later. After I filed my story, I invited Tallahassee Democrat beat writer Steve Ellis (who has since deceased) and a couple of other UVa beat writers to go with me to Sloan's, where the partying never stopped. It was quite a scene there, and I can imagine the entire city was somewhat caught up in the celebration. I also remember the next morning that the pastor at the church I was attending at the time, Rev. Joel Jenkins, apologized to the congregation if his voice would crack from time to time because he was still hoarse from screaming at the game the night before, and imagined most of those in the audience had lost their voice as well.
Ripley: Anybody that needed a beverage [that night] got one. It was one of those evenings where the tailgate lasted forever. I had gone to the Corner and had seen part of the goalpost go up and down University Avenue, and then I ended up over at my Zeta Psi fraternity house and [one of the players] walks in at 2:30 in the morning and he’s got a full keg on his shoulder.
There was no way, traffic wise, to get up and down Rugby Road. It was a full-scale walking road. The goalpost was being carried around and I think ultimately the goalpost ended up on the Lawn by the next morning. Probably there was about 45,000 people in the stadium, but if you ask how many people were there, you’d have 90,000 people tell you they were there. I would suspect that the attendance at UVa classes on that Friday were 10 percent, I’m not joking. I’m sure there were plenty of professors that had enjoyed the moment and weren’t worried about it themselves.
I recall getting home 3:30 or 4 in the morning and went back out around 7:30 or 8 in the morning, so I was running on pure adrenaline but I don’t think that was unusual. I needed to get new tires on my car and I’d gone out to a tire shop here in town, and CNN’s on the TV and all they show is the ending play and Bowden’s being interviewed and there’s fans everywhere. It felt like the way it felt when we were No. 1 in the country. It had that feeling like we were a big-time program, and we were.
Nessler: I think I followed most of their careers, the kids that played in that game because it was such a big night and a big moment. And I thought I was part of it whether I made the play call wrong or not, it was a great night. When I would see them subsequently after that when I was doing NFL games, I would always reminisce with them about that night. Whether they were Virginia kids or Florida State kids, everyone remembered it.
Mattox: It certainly gave real credibility to the football program. There were some close losses to Michigan and Texas that year, too. Without the FSU win, though, that year is ultimately a failed opportunity. With the FSU win, that entire season looks different. We knocked off the best and almost knocked off multiple blue blood football programs in the same year. That’s legitimate.
At the time, and as I left UVa I thought that win was the building block of something great – that UVa had earned its place as a legit perennial top 25 football program with that win and the several years that preceded and followed that season. But now it just feels like we’ve let all that slip away. Had UVa had a team on par with that 95 team over the last decade we would have competed for conference titles as the ACC slipped (especially prior to FSU’s recent stretch). And we would have owned VT instead of losing 11 straight. Instead, in a falling conference we managed to fall further and erase all those gains. That’s a disappointment.
Edds: That win proved once and for all that UVa could compete with the college football powerhouses if everything came together (good coaching, solid recruiting, a passionate fan base, and a little luck). What saddens me is that it has been so long since we've had a season like that. Our fanbase is starting to forget that we were once a team to be feared. It can happen again though. And I'm confident that it will eventually.