NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Virginia had a distracting December with
four coaches departing for new jobs. Marques Hagans and his fellow
Cavaliers got their focus back in the Music City Bowl.
Connor Hughes kicked a 39-yard field goal with 1:08 left, and
Hagans threw for a career-high 358 yards in helping Virginia
overcome a 14-point deficit to beat Minnesota 34-31 Friday.
Defensive coordinator Al Golden left to coach Temple, taking
special teams and linebackers coach Mark D'Onofrio with him as his
coordinator, leaving head coach Al Groh to lead the defense.
Offensive coordinator Ron Prince took over Kansas State and
associate head coach Danny Rocco went to Liberty.
"It's good those coaches got promoted to the jobs they did
...," Hagans said. "I think the team rallied together and
everyone assumed individual responsibility, and the win is good.
The Gophers (7-5) might have been distracted themselves in what
could be coach Glen Mason's final game at Minnesota. He has a year
left, but school officials want to make a decision by Saturday
night when they must either terminate his assistants' contracts or
see them roll over to 2006.
"I haven't been very emotional about this thing," Mason said.
"The emotional side of coaching is dealing with the kids. I've
been a college coach for 34 years. I understand the business side.
I might not like the decision that they make, but that is their
Minnesota had every opportunity to blow the Cavaliers out and
win this bowl for the third time in four years, but the nation's
fifth-best offense bogged down after taking a 31-24 lead early in
the fourth quarter.
The Gophers had one last chance to pull out their fourth
straight bowl victory, but Marcus Hamilton intercepted Bryan
Cupito's ill-advised pass into double coverage in the end zone with
36 seconds remaining to seal the game for Virginia. It was the
Cavaliers' first bowl win since the 2003 Continental Tire Bowl over
Virginia (7-5) already had forced the Gophers to punt twice, and
Hagans overcame an interception in the fourth quarter to rally the
Cavaliers with 10 straight points to end the game.
The Cavs outgained Minnesota 468-461 in total offense with its
best performance of the season.
Hagans moved the Cavaliers on drives of 77 and 75 yards in the
fourth, with the first capped by Wali Lundy's second TD run of the
game -- a 2-yarder that tied the score at 31 with 8:48 left. But the
senior quarterback, who turned 23 on Thursday, was at his best on
the Cavs' final drive.
"A couple of those plays were Marques Hagans' productions,"
Nearly tackled in the end zone for a safety on the opening play
from the Cavaliers 3, he escaped back to the line of scrimmage.
Then he connected with Deyon Williams on a 19-yarder for a little
room, and he later scrambled around before finding Emmanuel Byers
for 19 yards on third-and-6 to the Minnesota 25.
"I couldn't go back to the sideline with a safety on the board
facing coach Groh. So there was no way ... I would've thrown it in
the stands before they took me down," Hagans said.
Four plays later, Hughes kicked his second field goal to clinch
Minnesota led 21-7 and had a chance to pad its lead before
turning the ball over on downs when Cupito overthrew Logan Payne on
fourth-and-6 at the end of the first half. Hagans used the final 50
seconds to set up Hughes' 32-yarder as time expired to pull within
That was the first of four straight scoring possessions for the
Cavaliers, helping them tie the game at 31.
Cupito threw a career-high four TD passes for the Gophers, who
jumped out to a 14-0 lead. But the nation's second-best rushing
game that had been averaging 279.91 yards per game was held to 198
yards, including only 74 in the second half.
"It definitely was disappointing we didn't put them away
early," Cupito said.
Gophers running back Laurence Maroney finished with 26 carries
for 109 yards, giving him a school-record 1,464 for the season. The
junior immediately announced he would enter the NFL Draft.
"I talked to my mom a lot about it and she felt like it was the
right time and I felt like it is the right time," he said.