8. 1990 Citrus Bowl vs. Illinois, L 31-21
This game looked close at the end, but it was never in doubt that the Illini were going to win this one. I call this one the Spurrier Bowl. The Hoos had their best season ever, going 10-2, only losing to 12-1 Notre Dame and 10-2 Clemson. Virginia ended up sharing the ACC crown with Duke that year, if you can believe it. Well Virginia beat Duke head to head 49-28, and it was that close because Welsh took the pedal off the gas in the fourth…and told the media he did that as well. Good ‘ole Duke and Steve Spurrier, 8-4 mind you, stated that they deserved to go to the main ACC bowl (which they were) because they were a better team than UVa. To this date, my dad still can’t stand him. So Virginia ends up in the Citrus Bowl verses Jeff George and Illinois. And while it started off about even, got out of control in the second and saw the Hoos go down 24-7. The closest the Hoos would get was 10, as Illinois just ended up toying with them after that, but that season showed that the Hoos were someone to contend with next year, and they were (mostly) right.
7. 2004 MPC Computers Bowl vs. Fresno State, L 37-34 OT
2004 was much like 1994 in that the Hoos went 8-3, but lost all three games in conference and ended up in Boise this time to play giant killers Fresno State. The Hoos were slated to go to the Champs Sports Bowl, but the game would have conflicted with exams and passed on the bowl, which lead to a lot of unrest with the students and alums. Well the Hoos started off strong and headed to halftime with a 21-10 lead, and even after a sloppy 3rd, were still up 24-17. But the Hoos could not contain QB Paul Pinegar, who had 5 TDs on the day and went into OT tied 31-31. In the OT, UVa had the ball first and had to settle with a FG. Fresno State moved down the field with a questionable penalty and then scored a touchdown, which to most watching the game, wasn’t and the Hoos went down 37-34.
6. 2003 Continental Tire Bowl vs. Pitt, W 23-16
What was looking like an average season in Groh’s second year, turned into a great down the stretch run. The Hoos, staring at a 5-5 season, needed a strong outing against either Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech to become bowl eligible, and won both comfortably. But with the other bowls filled up, the Hoos returned to the Continental Tire Bowl for a 2nd straight year to face Pittsburgh and all world receiver Larry Fitzgerald. In the 2003 season, Fitzgerald had caught a TD pass in EVERY GAME heading into the bowl in Charlotte. But the Hoos changed that, and while the game was close throughout, the Hoos never trailed and Connor Hughes & the Hoos won the late field goal battle 23-16.
5. 2002 Continental Tire Bowl vs. WVU, W 48-22
From a game where no one thought we belonged, to a game of utter domination. The first two games of Al Groh’s career did not go as scripted. Two losses to Colorado State and Florida State smelled of rebuilding year. But the Hoos finished the year winning 8 of 11 and found themselves in the Continental Tire Bowl against a very good West Virginia team. But the Hoos used this game as their coming out party for Marques Hagans and Wali Lundy and threw up 31 straight points before the Mountaineers knew what hit them, even though they were out-gained on the day 459-391. Wali Lundy was the MVP of the game with 203 total yards and 4 touchdowns and Hagans both passed for a touchdown and returned a punt for a touchdown en route to a 48-22 victory. The Hoos went on to win 2 of the next 3 bowl games and looked like a team that could have competed for ACC titles down the road.