Virginia had a distracting month, with four coaches departing for new jobs. Marques Hagans and his fellow Cavaliers kept their concentration...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Virginia had a distracting month, with four coaches departing for new jobs. Marques Hagans and his fellow Cavaliers kept their concentration in the Music City Bowl.
Connor Hughes kicked a 39-yard field goal with 1:08 left, and Hagans passed 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 linebackers coach Mark D’Onofrio with him as his coordinator, leaving Virginia 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 … I think the team rallied together and everyone assumed individual responsibility, and the win is good,” Hagans said. “It’s gratifying.”
The Golden 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 tonight, 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 prerogative.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney was clear about his future plans.
The junior rushed 26 times for 109 yards, giving him a school-record 1,464 for the season, and 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,” Maroney said.
Minnesota had every opportunity to blow out the Cavaliers (7-5) and win this bowl for the third time in four years, but the nation’s fifth-best offense bogged down after building a 31-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Gophers had a 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 left to seal the game for Virginia.
The Cavaliers outgained Minnesota, 468 yards to 461, with their best performance of the season.
Hagans moved the Cavaliers on drives of 77 and 75 yards in the fourth quarter, 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.
Lundy gained 59 of Virginia’s 103 rushing yards.