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
"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
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
"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
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,
"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.
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
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
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.