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November 10, 2010

Nov. 18, 1995 - TECH 36, UVA 29

By: Jimmy Robertson


By Chris Colston
(Reprinted from Vol. 13, No. 12 edition of the Hokie Huddler)

Tech quarterback Jim Druckenmiller was a key player in the Hokies’ 1995 rally past UVa, throwing a touchdown pass to Jermaine Holmes with 47 seconds left that turned out to be the game winner.

It was a game Virginia should have won. A game the Cavaliers HAD won. A game where they out-gained Virginia Tech 420-319, collected nine more first downs and intercepted three passes. A game played on the same field where they beat No. 2 Florida State. A game where they led 29-14 early in the second half and had shut down Tech’s rushing attack.

Things looked bad for the Hokies when, trailing 29-23, UVa’s Todd White intercepted a Jim Druckenmiller pass with 4:08 to play.

“That should have been the difference,” UVa head coach George Welsh said.

Tech needed to stop Virginia and get the ball back – quickly. But on third-and-5 from the Tech 49, UVa quarterback Mike Groh threw downfield to tight end Bobby Neely. Torrian Gray hit Neely before the ball arrived, giving the Cavaliers a first-and-10 at the Tech 34 with just 2:40 remaining.

It looked like the game was lost.

“I felt like that was our last chance,” junior outside linebacker Brandon Semones said. “I thought Virginia would run out the clock.”

The Cavaliers tried to do just that, but fortunately, the Hokies still had all three of their timeouts.

Tailback Kevin Brooks rushed the right side for four yards, forcing Tech to use its first timeout at 2:30. Hank Coleman then dropped Brooks for a four-yard loss, and Tech took its second timeout at 2:24. “That was a big play,” Tech co-defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “It knocked Virginia out of field-goal range.”

Tailback Tiki Barber got five yards back on the next play, bringing up fourth-and-5. The Hokies burned their last timeout at 2:17.

Virginia lined up for a field-goal attempt, but holder Tim Sherman was set eight feet back instead of the normal seven. Welsh saw that his team was disorganized and called timeout, a ploy ESPN thought “iced their own kicker.”

Rafael Garcia’s attempt, from 46 yards out, was wide left by three feet. Down six with 2:12 to play, the Hokies were still alive – albeit with no timeouts.

“They were rushing three linemen, so I knew I would have time to throw,” Druckenmiller said.

“When you have time to throw, which we did, you have a chance,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said.

Druckenmiller’s first three passes fell incomplete. Then, on fourth-and-10, he found Cornelius White across the middle for 14 yards. “I looked the middle linebacker off,” Druckenmiller said. “and Cornelius held on to the ball after a good hit.”

Druckenmiller completed his next two straight passes – to reserve tailback Ken Oxendine for seven yards to the Tech 43 and then six yards to Jermaine Holmes at midfield. After an incompletion, he found Bryan Still for six. An illegal motion penalty moved the Hokies back five yards, but Druckenmiller found reserve Michael Steuwe for 11 on third-and-9.

“Tech is a team that will fight, claw and scratch its way back into a game,” UVa defensive tackle Todd White said. “We should have expected it.”

Jermaine Holmes made one of the biggest plays in Tech history when he hauled in this touchdown catch in the final minute to help the Hokies rally past UVa.

Druckenmiller had been calling most of his own plays Saturday, but this time, offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle knew exactly what he wanted. It was a play Tech had run on the second play of the series, one it had put in just this week.

“I was going to call the play again myself,” Druckenmiller said. “When I saw Coach call it in, I said, ‘yeah.’”

The play – “call it a ‘pump and go,’” Druckenmiller said. – was designed to take advantage of Virginia’s aggressive secondary.

It worked to perfection. Holmes made a quick feint toward the outside. Druckenmiller pump-faked. Eager to make an interception, free safety Percy Ellsworth bit on it. All Holmes had to do was turn his route downfield and make the 32-yard catch in the end zone.

“I didn’t want to under-throw it,” Druckenmiller said. “So I heaved it.”

“I thought it was thrown kind of far,” Holmes said. “So I just put my head down and ran under it.”

Atle Larsen converted the all-important extra point, and Tech led 30-29 with 47 seconds left. Still plenty of time left for the Cavaliers to get in field-goal range.

“I’ll be damned if we let them score,” senior tackle Jim Baron said, ranting and pacing on the sideline.

Tech had good kick coverage, stopping Demetrius Allen at the UVa 18. Now it was up to the defense. “We just didn’t want to make any mistakes,” Semones said. “We didn’t want to give up the big play.”

Groh’s first two passes were incomplete, but he found Tiki Barber for 11 yards on third down. Then he hit Bryan Owen for 11 more and Barber for 20 to the Hokie 40-yard line.

“Every one of those plays down the stretch, my heart skipped a few beats,” Foster said. “Every play counted.”

Without another completion, the Cavaliers would have to convert a 57-yard field goal to win. “That’s a little bit long for me,” placekicker Rafael Garcia said, “especially with the wind gusting like it was.”

Groh found wide receiver Brian McCarthy over the middle, but Semones reached in and deflected the ball. “The way the officials had been calling things,” Semones said, “I thought they might throw a flag.”

Now there were six seconds left. Welsh pondered what to do: attempt the field goal, try a quick sideline pass to get Garcia a closer shot, or go for the end zone. He called timeout to think about it.

“I didn’t understand the philosophy of calling time,” Semones said. “But it helped us. We knew they either had to run an out-route or go deep.”

Virginia opted for the sideline pass. “If we had executed the play, I think we could’ve gotten out of bounds with one second to go,” Welsh said. “In hindsight, I think we should’ve thrown the ball into the end zone.”

Instead, Tech cornerback Antonio Banks darted in front of Groh’s pass intended for Owen and ran 65 yards for a score. He avoided the leg of Virginia head trainer Joe Gieck, who made a semi-attempt to trip him from the sideline, but couldn’t miss a mob of ecstatic Hokie students in the end zone.

Final score: Tech 36, Virginia 29.

“I never thought it was over,” senior middle linebacker George DelRicco said. “Their No. 56 [offensive tackle Chris Harrison] was talking. On the first run after the interference call, he said, ‘you guys lost this game.’ He was in my face going off.

“I said, ‘No way. We haven’t lost it yet.’ Then when Banks got the interception, I was talking his ear off the whole way down the field. And he didn’t have a word to say.”