CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Idaho hung around and hung around against heavily favored Virginia and nearly pulled the upset.
And although Brian Reader’s two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, allowing Virginia to escape with a 21-20 overtime victory, Vandals coach Robb Akey was proud of how his team responded to the adversity of an early 14-0 deficit.
“We’ve talked about that an awful lot and we needed to battle tonight and throughout the course of the game,” Akey said. “Our players did. In all three phases of the game, we did good things.
“My only disappointment was that we didn’t make the play at the end of the game.”
The fact that they made enough plays to be in a position to win, however, was something not many people expected out of the Vandals.
“We were behind and we weren’t supposed to come down here in ACC country anyway and be able to do anything,” Akey said.
With that in mind, after the teams traded touchdowns in overtime, Akey decided to go for the win on the road rather than kick a point-after and force a second overtime. Akey had no second thoughts about the decision.
“It’s a done deal. No doubt about it,” he said.
On the decisive play, Reader dropped back and was flushed from the pocket before lofting a pass toward a well-covered receiver.
“It just really wasn’t open, and I was trying to make something out of nothing,” Reader said.
Idaho (1-4) got plenty of help from Virginia (3-2) to keep it close. The Cavaliers gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown, an interception, two fumbles and made a slew of mental errors to win a game they desperately needed before they head into the meat of their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
Virginia’s Perry Jones scored on a 10-yard run and a 6-yard pass reception from Michael Rocco before Idaho’s Trey Farquhar kicked field goals of 19 and 42 yards to make it 14-6.
The Cavaliers passed up a chance for a 37-yard field goal with 6 seconds left in the half, and Rocco was tackled inside the 10 as time expired.
“Instead of going down, I guess he thought he might have had the opportunity to get into the end zone,” Virginia coach Mike London said of his starting quarterback, who shared time with freshman David Watford.
Not much happened in the second half until Idaho blocked a Virginia punt, and Daniel Micheletti scooped and scored from 4 yards out. Reader hit Marsel Posey for the two-point conversion to tie it 14 with 3:11 left in the game.
That set up the overtime drama.
Virginia got the first possession and appeared to shoot itself in the foot again when a facemask penalty pushed the Cavaliers back to the 27. From there, Watford connected with fellow freshman Dominque Terrell in the right flat, and Terrell broke a tackle and outran the secondary for the go-ahead score.
The Vandals responded with a 23-yard pass to a diving Armauni Johnson in the back of the end zone.
“You hope your receiver will make a great play – that’s what he’s there for – and that’s what happened,” Reader said.
Then came the failed two-point conversion, and the Cavaliers stormed onto the field in celebration.
The Cavaliers finished with 496 yards of total offense to 296 for Idaho. Virginia wideout Kris Burd had a career-high 123 yards receiving on eight catches.
Princeton McCarty had 90 yards on 14 carries for Idaho. Reader was 17 of 41 for 193 yards and two interceptions.