In a rush

In four years, four unforgettable days of Virginia sports

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For columnist Kerry Mitchell, rushing the court after Virginia’s win against Syracuse was a moment to remember.


Some years ago, my high school football team beat a ranked rival on a cold, muddy Friday night. I was never the most school-spirited, but when a group of students hustled down the bleachers and onto the field, I couldn’t help joining in. It was my first experience with rushing the field, and it was great.

Then I got to U.Va.

By some combination of luck, good timing, inspired athletic performances, and help from the UVA Shots system, I’ve managed to rush something ­— the court, the field — each of my four years here. Each experience put my high school celebration to shame.

On Oct. 30, 2010, Virginia defensive tackle John-Kevin Dolce leveled Miami quarterback Jacory Harris early in the game, removing the Hurricanes’ best offensive weapon and opening up an opportunity for the Cavaliers to actually win the game.

Of course, I didn’t see any of that. As a newly minted first year, I spent too much time on Rugby Road — I mean studying — the night before, and couldn’t be bothered to wake up for the noon kickoff. However, I managed to scramble over to Scott Stadium to see the Hoos fend off a comeback and beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 2008. And, of course, we rushed the field. I lost track of the two friends I’d dragged to the game, but it didn’t matter because suddenly everyone around me was my best friend. Welcome to college!

I fondly remember my second year as the year Mike London actually had a winning record. The 2011 Cavaliers’ most exciting win, of course, was the Oct. 15 upset of then-No. 12 Georgia Tech. Behind a 149-yard performance from running back Perry Jones and a stellar defensive effort against one of the nation’s best offenses, the Cavaliers surprised the nation and, oh yeah, former coach and Yellow Jacket defensive coordinator Al Groh.

Once again, students scrambled down the treacherous, muddy hill — many sundresses and khakis were destroyed that day — to dance on the field and imagine the possibilities for the rest of the season. That season, of course, ended with a disappointing loss to Auburn in the Chik-fil-A Bowl. But beating Georgia Tech and rushing the field meant that we just might get somewhere.

Third year introduced me to a new arena for rushing: the basketball court at John Paul Jones. I doubt that anyone at this school needs reminding of the most magical of upsets against the biggest villains in college basketball: Virginia upset of No. 3 Duke, 73-68. When the clock finally expired, we flooded out of the student section and onto the floor. Jontel Evans was lifted up onto somebody’s shoulders and, for the third time, the only thing that mattered to me was Cavalier triumph. I had an exam at 9 a.m. the next day, but all I could do when I got home that night was watch the highlight reel — then watch it again.

Which brings us to 2014.

This year’s basketball team entered the year with lofty expectations, hit a rough patch, and recovered in style. The season, of course, is not over, but the past few months of Virginia hoops reached the perfect conclusion with Saturday’s win against Syracuse. Tickets sold out, the seniors were honored in a pre-game ceremony, Thomas Rogers hit that three-pointer, the nets were cut down, and the Cavaliers won the conference title — you really couldn’t have scripted it better than that. And, you guessed it, we rushed the court!

Prior to the Syracuse showdown, some debate surfaced about whether to rush. Given that Virginia was a ranked team playing in a very favorable home environment, the win wasn’t exactly a surprise, but rushing the court wasn’t about beating the then-No. 4 team in the nation. It was about an entire season of excitement, three seniors’ final game at home, a long-awaited ACC crown, and, for me, the last four years.

U.Va. sports have given me considerable disappointment since 2010, but they have also provided a specific elation that only die-hard sports fans understand. For every deflating defeat, Cavalier fans are treated to an eclipsing, joyful victory that briefly transcends everything else. Luckily for us, the 2014 season is not yet over, and many other Virginia teams — baseball, tennis, lacrosse, and so on — promise more of the same moments.

Do they let you rush the diamond at Davenport? How about the courts at Snyder?

If so, I’ll be leading the charge.


Published March 4, 2014 in Sports





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