NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Virginia coach Tony Elliott is aware of what the ultimate field rating says: Tennessee 49, Virginia 13.
However he additionally is aware of attending to Saturday was a triumph in itself for his crew. Virginia performed a sport Saturday for the primary time in 294 days, following the deaths of Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry, shot and killed final November on a constitution bus after returning residence from a category discipline journey.
Vowing to play of their honor, Elliott stated that simply earlier than the sport started, “I used to be at peace realizing that the victory had already been received.
“You have to keep in mind — each day they stroll out on that discipline, they’re reminded,” Elliott continued. “Day by day they stroll off that discipline, they’re reminded. Day by day they go to class on Grounds, they’re reminded. Day by day they’re reminded of what occurred, and never all people is finished grieving or therapeutic. The great factor was we have been capable of get so far and though the result did not go the best way that we wished it to go, the blokes can believe realizing that, ‘ what? I can do it.'”
There have been bodily reminders pregame. Kicker Will Bettridge, who’s sporting Perry’s No. 41 this season, wore custom-painted footwear honoring Perry as he walked from the bus into the stadium. Tennessee positioned decals by itself helmets with the numbers Chandler, Davis and Perry wore: 1, 15 and 41.
There was additionally a second of silence after each groups cleared the sphere following pregame warmups. Cheerleaders from Tennessee and Virginia walked onto the sphere and positioned flowers on the 1, 15 and 41 yard-lines because the sold-out and Tennessee-heavy crowd watched in silence, a photograph of the three gamers proven up on the videoboard.
Then, as Virginia emerged from the locker room, operating again Mike Hollins got here out in entrance, holding the varsity flag.
Hollins survived the taking pictures, and made his return to the sphere on Virginia’s third play of the sport. Elliott described Hollins as a “strolling miracle.”
“Again in November, we had no concept what his life was going to seem like, a lot much less that he was going to have the ability to run out with the flag as we speak and be capable to play and be a major a part of our sport plan,” Elliott stated. “You are very lucky in life if you happen to’re capable of witness a miracle. For us, we have all been blessed as a result of he’s a strolling miracle.”
The crew walked in silence down the tunnel, their eyes centered forward. As they gathered collectively earlier than taking the sphere, they began leaping up and down. The second had come.
“I believed the blokes did a fantastic job each day to get so far,” Elliott stated. “It is onerous to quantify and put into phrases simply every thing that they’ve needed to undergo, and I believed the man confirmed up and had I had a very good spirit about them, nice vitality and I believed they performed extraordinarily onerous. They fought they usually battled, and that is all you possibly can ask of those guys.
“Simply to see them get an opportunity to play soccer was the victory for me. I do know in the end we might be judged by what the scoreboard says however internally as a program, I could not be extra proud. What we needed to endure is unprecedented, and nonetheless it is onerous to place into phrases and wrap your head round it. For these guys to have the ability to make the choice to come back again to the College of Virginia, that is that was a troublesome choice, to come back again and battle.”
Virginia had its fingers full with a Tennessee crew that had the benefit on each the offensive and defensive strains. The Cavaliers struggled on offense within the first half, with simply two first downs and 48 complete yards however solely trailed 14-3 at halftime.
“We got here out with plenty of vitality. There have been plenty of challenges, however we got here out onerous, we confirmed plenty of effort as we speak, so in that facet I feel we got here out the appropriate method,” security Jonas Sanker stated.
Their lack of ability to maintain drives within the third quarter wore out the protection, and allowed Tennessee to place the sport out of attain earlier than Virginia scored its lone landing of the sport late within the third quarter.
Early within the fourth quarter, beginning quarterback Tony Muskett injured his shoulder on a sack and didn’t return. True freshman Anthony Colandrea changed him. Elliott stated Muskett would endure additional analysis in Charlottesville.
Virginia reserve defensive sort out Olasunkonmi Agunloye injured each his knees celebrating a fumble restoration on the sideline. Although Elliott didn’t have the complete extent of the accidents, he described them as “vital.”
Having endured every thing they did each on and off the sphere Saturday, all the Virginia soccer crew gathered collectively, arm and arm, in entrance of the part stuffed with dad and mom and buddies, and sung the alma mater shortly after the sport ended.
The crew hosts James Madison subsequent week in what might be one other emotional sport, because the athletic division plans to honor the households of Chandler, Davis and Perry. Elliott particularly talked about what he noticed from the gamers within the locker room after the loss as one thing to take with them headed into subsequent week.
“to see their resilience and to see them in a locker room after this sport, nonetheless standing collectively, nonetheless believing in one of the best for the season, one of the best for the longer term, as a result of they consider in one another and that is what it took,” Elliott stated. “I am simply extraordinarily happy with the gamers, the workers, the administration and all these which can be which can be near this system that help us by this time.”