1. 1998 — Miraculous 22-point comeback
Everyone knows that anything can happen in a rivalry game, but no one was prepared for what would take place Nov. 28, 1998. Leading up to the showdown, Virginia seemed ready and prepared to come out guns blazing.
“Aw, it’s just Tech, man,” said Ahmad Hawkins, former Virginia star wide receiver, about the leadup to the game. “When you know you’re playing Tech, I don’t care what the record is ... you can’t send me anything that’s gonna motivate me more to beat Tech.”
However, nobody could have expected what happened in the first half. Virginia Tech scored two touchdowns and a field goal to take a commanding 17-0 lead in the first quarter. By halftime, the Cavaliers were trailing the Hokies 7-29, and it seemed like hope was fading.
However, an inspiring halftime speech by safety Anthony Poindexter seemed to light a fire under the Virginia players, and the Cavaliers came back with renewed energy. Within the first two minutes of the second half, Virginia wide receiver Kevin Coffey caught an important touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Brooks — who threw for 355 yards that game — and the Cavaliers were back in action.
The Virginia defense, which logged six sacks and two interceptions, held Virginia Tech to only one field goal in the second half. With just over two minutes left in the game, Virginia Tech led by three points, and Virginia had the ball on a must-score possession. Brooks faced a blitz and threw up a desperate 47-yard Hail Mary to Hawkins for one of the most memorable plays in school history. Hawkins’ iconic catch completed the largest comeback in the history of the rivalry and sealed a 36-32 win for the Cavaliers.
2. 2019 — First victory in 15 years
The day after Thanksgiving 2019, the Hokies and Cavaliers met for the 101st time at Scott Stadium. Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins dominated the Virginia Tech defense early. On Virginia’s first two possessions, the current NFL player rushed for 39- and 67-yard touchdowns, putting Virginia up 13-3 after 12 minutes of play. Perkins would finish the game with a staggering 475 yards of total offense. After that, though, the Cavaliers’ offense stalled and Virginia Tech rallied to tie the game 13-13 just after halftime.
The teams combined for three touchdowns in the last five minutes of the thrilling third quarter, and each scored on their opening drives of the fourth. Down three points with 11 minutes to play, Perkins orchestrated a 67-yard drive to set up kicker Brian Delaney for a short field goal. On the ensuing drive, Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker threw a beautiful pass — from a Virginia fan’s perspective — into the open arms of linebacker Noah Taylor, and the Cavaliers capitalized on the turnover with another kick by Delaney.
Virginia Tech received the ball with 1:23 on the clock and a chance to extend its winning streak. However, the Virginia defense promptly sacked Hooker on three consecutive plays, forcing a fumble on the final hit that was recovered for a score. The 39-30 victory earned Virginia the ACC Coastal crown, a spot in the ACC Championship and most importantly its first win over Virginia Tech since 2003.
3. 2003 — Lundy’s four-touchdown game
The 2003 edition of the rivalry was played in Charlottesville and was the last Virginia win before a long 15-year drought. Running back Wali Lundy — who scored four touchdowns — and quarterback Matt Schaub — who passed for 358 yards — led the team to an impressive victory.
Lundy opened the scoring in the first quarter with a one-yard run, which Virginia Tech managed to answer with just 16 seconds left in the quarter. The second quarter was all Virginia Tech, though, and the Hokies led 14-7 at the half.
Virginia came alive in the third quarter as Schaub shoveled a one-yard pass to Lundy in the endzone to even the score and, four minutes later, completed a 49-yard touchdown pass to running back Alvin Pearman to give the Cavaliers the lead.
Virginia started the fourth quarter in the red zone and Lundy’s strength allowed him to take another one-yard rush into the endzone for his third touchdown of the game. Just as Virginia seemed to be pulling away, though, Virginia Tech scored with seven minutes left in the game to cut Virginia’s lead to 28-21. Soon after, Lundy decided to put all doubt to rest with a beautiful 19-yard run, completing his stellar four-touchdown performance and securing a 35-21 win for the Cavaliers.
In front of a nearly at-capacity crowd at Scott Stadium, Virginia outscored Virginia Tech by 21 points in the second half and pulled off a dramatic come-from-behind victory. Moreover, the win was Virginia’s last against the Hokies before the longest win streak in the rivalry’s history.
4. 1994 — Highest-ranked matchup in rivalry history
Normally, No. 16 Virginia visiting No. 14 Virginia Tech would be a recipe for a clean, close game — this contest was neither. As The Cavalier Daily stated in its summary of the game, “the Hokies won the coin toss and that was about it.” The Cavaliers pulled ahead 19-13 on a plunge by tailback Charles Way with twelve minutes to play in the first half and never looked back.
The defense forced a stunning eight turnovers — including five interceptions — and kicker Rafael Garcia buried five field goals. The ground-heavy offense spent most of the afternoon burning the clock, and the Cavaliers attempted 60 runs.
Way alongside fellow running backs Kevin Brooks and future New York Giant Tiki Barber each ran for at least 70 yards and a touchdown. In the end, Virginia Tech never really stood a chance as Coach George Welsh’s old school running-and-defense philosophy proved too much for the Hokies.
The Cavaliers’ 42-23 in 1994 was arguably Virginia’s last true rout of Virginia Tech. Since 1994, the Cavaliers have won the rivalry game just four more times — all by a margin of 14 points or less.
5. 1987 — A defensive masterpiece
In recent years, the Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry has often resulted in high-scoring showdowns. In 1987, though, each team’s defense clamped down hard, with both teams totaling fewer than 340 yards of offense.
The winless Cavaliers started the game well, leading 14-0 after 17 minutes thanks to rushing and passing touchdowns from quarterback Scott Secules. Virginia would not score in the remaining 43 minutes.
The Hokies solidified their defense, and the Cavaliers averaged an anemic 3.7 yards per play and punted five times after their last touchdown. Virginia Tech got on the board on a prolonged 16-play drive that lasted over eight minutes and ended with a touchdown by running back Earnie Jones just before half. It would be almost another half before anyone scored again.
With 3:53 left in the contest, quarterback Erik Chapman drove Virginia Tech down the field and found the end zone after two long connections with wide receiver Steve Johnson. Down one with 1:24 to play, legendary Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer kept the offense on the field for a go-ahead two point conversion attempt. He drew up a tailback sweep to Malcolm Blacken as the Hokies hoped to take their first lead of the game.
However, Virginia had different plans. According to The Cavalier Daily, “lineman Elton Toliver read the play and allowed linebacker Jeff Lageman to make the tackle.” While Virginia turned the ball over on downs on its ensuing possession, Virginia Tech’s late Hail Mary attempt was broken up — the same play that shocked the Hokies in 1998 couldn’t save them 11 years earlier. The Cavaliers survived the defensive-minded game 14-13.