Wednesday, November 28, 2007
November 27, 2007
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Virginia started the year with a performance that only fueled speculation on Al Groh's future at his alma mater. The Cavaliers spent the rest of the season making their coach look pretty good.
Groh's team bounced back from a humbling loss to Wyoming to win seven straight games, carrying the Cavaliers to the brink of a division championship. Now, with his team heading to a bowl game for the fifth time in six seasons, Groh was named the Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year Tuesday.
"Our team has been built on we, us and ours. When we won, we all did it," Groh said. "When a coach is cited, it's because the team had a great season. So this is our team trophy."
Groh earned 38 of 71 votes in voting from members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association to win the honor for the second time. Boston College's Jeff Jagodzinski, whose team won the Atlantic Division title and reached as high as No. 2 nationally in his first season, finished second with 22 votes.
For winning the coaching award, Groh will collect a $25,000 bonus under terms of the six-year contract he signed with Virginia in 2005. The school also has exercised an option to add a year onto his contract.
Virginia (9-3, 6-2 ACC) fell just short of winning the league's Coastal Division title, falling to Virginia Tech to close the regular season and send the Hokies to the league championship game. It was Virginia's best season since the Cavaliers went 9-5 with six league wins in 2002, a performance that netted Groh's other ACC top-coach honor.
Groh's past two teams had gone 12-12, and got off to a rough start this year by managing just 100 yards in a 23-3 loss at Wyoming. But Virginia beat Duke 24-13 the following week, starting a seven-game run that showed a remarkable knack for winning the close ones.
"Most teams have a tough moment during the season. Ours just came right away," Groh said. "I guess maybe the players evaluated things and after that first performance they saw they better pick up the slack for the head coach."
Along the way, Virginia beat Middle Tennessee 23-21 on a field goal with 8 seconds left. Then came a 17-16 win over Connecticut on a field goal with about 3 minutes left. The following week, reserve running back Mikell Simpson -- who had just six offensive touches coming in -- ran for the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left in an 18-17 win at Maryland.
The Cavaliers also beat Wake Forest 17-16 when Simpson scored a touchdown with 2:18 left and the Demon Deacons' Sam Swank missed a field goal in the final seconds.
It's added up to a memorable run for Groh, who arrived at Virginia before the 2001 season and remains steadfast in crediting his players and assistant coaches for the team's success.
"The greatest thing about the players was their sense of resolve and how we really just turned inward and depended upon our resolve to try to make our goals happen," he said. "We realized it was all up to us.
"We certainly got the results we were looking for as far as being everything as a team that we could be."