Nov. 8, 1999
By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - David Rivers made it sound like his dream came true even before he made his debut as Virginia's starting quarterback against Georgia Tech, the team he grew up rooting for in Augusta, Ga.
The Yellow Jackets, after all, were ranked seventh in the country, thinking Bowl Championship Series and featuring Heisman Trophy contender Joe Hamilton.
But Rivers outplayed Hamilton, Thomas Jones rushed for 213 yards and two touchdowns, and Virginia's defense stood tall when it mattered most as the Cavaliers ruined the Yellow Jackets' plans with a stunning 45-38 victory Saturday night.
"It's what you dream of, just given the chance to come out and play against Georgia Tech," Rivers said after throwing three touchdown passes. "And it's icing on the cake that they were the seventh-ranked team in the country. It's amazing."
Rivers, unimpressive when pressed into his first significant action last week against top-ranked Florida State, started slowly again, then got untracked as Virginia (5-4, 4-3 ACC) closed a 17-0 deficit to 24-21 by halftime and never let up in the last 30 minutes.
"After (the first quarter), I said, `Look, it can't get much worse than this. Let's go out there and start having fun and just play football,"' Rivers said.
"The key might have been getting back into it before the half," Virginia coach George Welsh said. "The game could have gotten away from us, but it didn't."
When the clock finally struck zero and thousands of fans streamed onto the field, Hamilton was left to ponder what's left of the Yellow Jackets' (6-2, 4-2) season.
"We lost a game, a big game, and it dashed a lot of goals, but we've still got three games to play," the senior said. And it didn't seem to matter that his 282 yards of total offense made him the career leader in the ACC, passing Shawn Moore's 9,296 yards.
After Virginia went ahead to stay 38-31 with 12:15 left, Hamilton couldn't get his team into the end zone again until the Cavaliers made it 45-31.
"I think we found a rhythm offensively running the ball, but passing the ball the rhythm wasn't really there," Hamilton said. "But there's no excuse. No excuse."
Rivers, replaced as the long snapper on punts this week when he was picked to play instead of the injured Dan Ellis, completed 18-of-30 passes for 228 yards with one interception.
"The poise and the way he was moving the ball and moving his team, I thought he was a starter," said Hamilton, who was 18-for-26 for 233 yards with one interception and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 49 yards on 14 carries.
With the game tied at 31, the Cavaliers opened the fourth quarter by converting a fourth-and-1 from their 45 on Jones' 1-yard run. Rivers then caught a break when Marvious Hester dropped a potential interception on a deep ball to Billy McMullen, and Rivers and Jones combined to punch in the go-ahead score.
The points came on Rivers' 42-yard pass to McMullen, one play after Jamara Clark foiled a double reverse by tackling Kevin Coffey for a 13-yard loss.
The Yellow Jackets later drove to Virginia's 33, but on fourth-and-3, Hamilton dropped back, tried to run and was sacked for a yard loss by Ljubomir Stamenich.
Jones' runs of 3, 14 and 11 yards drove the ball to the Yellow Jackets' 37, and Tyree Foreman took it the rest of way on five consecutive carries.
Hamilton capped the scoring on an 8-yard TD throw to Kerry Watkins with 1:45 left, as Virginia ran out the clock after covering an onside kick.
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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